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 CNS Story:

METHODIST-AGREEMENT Jul-24-2006 (620 words) xxxi

Methodists adopt Catholic-Lutheran declaration on justification

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Methodist, Roman Catholic and Lutheran leaders said their communities will be able to work more closely in proclaiming the Gospel message of salvation after the World Methodist Conference adopted the Catholic-Lutheran joint declaration on justification.

"This is a historic day. This is a gift of God. We can be grateful for it," Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said at the July 23 signing ceremony in Seoul, South Korea.

The agreement on justification -- how people are made just in the eyes of God and saved by Jesus Christ -- "provides a basis for a more profound common witness before the world," said the cardinal.

Delegates to the World Methodist Conference voted unanimously July 18 to adopt the declaration, which was approved in 1999 by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation.

Cardinal Kasper's office at the Vatican released his statement and other texts from the signing ceremony.

The Methodists' resolution said the 1999 agreement "expresses a far-reaching consensus in regard to the theological controversy which was a major cause of the split in Western churches in the 16th century" over salvation by grace alone or by grace and good works.

The 1999 declaration said, "By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to good works."

The Methodists said the declaration "corresponds to Methodist doctrine," especially its explanation of how each person of the Trinity is involved in salvation.

"The Methodist Movement," which grew out of the Anglican Church, "has always understood itself as deeply indebted to the biblical teaching on justification as it was understood by (Martin) Luther and the other reformers," the resolution said. "But it has also always embraced elements of the doctrine of justification which belong to the Catholic tradition of the early church."

In the Methodist understanding, it said, human beings cannot cure the effects of original sin and corruption. It said the fact "that people are able to respond to God's call is due only to God's prior work" of grace that helps people accept salvation in Jesus.

Accepting salvation leads to healing and love, the Methodist statement said.

"'Faith working through love' is seen as the root of all good which results from the lives of those who believe in Jesus Christ. Works of piety and works of mercy are fruits of the Spirit in the lives of those who follow Jesus," it said.

The Rev. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, also participated in the signing ceremony in Seoul.

He called the Methodist resolution "a new ecumenical landmark for which we must thank and praise God together."

The 1999 agreement, he said, "was an event which lifted up our shared biblical faith in God's justifying grace, a faith which paradoxically became an area of division in the Western church."

By joining together in expressing a common faith, Rev. Noko said, Lutherans, Catholics and Methodists "should not see justification merely as a piece of theological doctrine, but as an expression of the living Gospel itself."

A shared witness to how God saves people, he said, "transforms us into a community of hope in a world where hope is in short supply."

At the signing ceremony, Cardinal Kasper expressed his hope that the joint agreement would be translated into "a joint commitment to deepen our common prayer; may it encourage us to continue our theological dialogue, and building on our common foundations, may it lead to an increase in joint witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."


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