CHICAGO – Representatives of the Methodist, Lutheran, and Catholic traditions gathered in Chicago on October 1 to mark the tenth anniversary of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, the most significant agreement between the Protestant groups and the Catholic Church since the Reformation. The declaration outlines how sinful human beings are forgiven and brought into a right relationship with God.
"For hundreds of years, the issue of justification by faith divided Catholics and Protestants," said Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of The United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops. "This agreement celebrates consensus on the basic truths of the doctrine of justification."
Signed in October 1999 by the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican, the declaration says, "Together we confess: 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 and calling us to good works."
The World Methodist Council, of which The United Methodist Church is a member, affirmed the agreement in 2006.
A service of celebration took place on October 1 at Old St. Patrick's Church, Chicago. Cardinal Francis George, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America led the service. Bishop Palmer and Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader were among the representatives of The United Methodist Church. Geoffrey Wainwright of the British Methodist Church represented the World Methodist Council.
A second celebration will take place on October 31 in Germany.