Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Catholic World News News Feature

Methodists join Catholic-Lutheran statement on justification July 27, 2006

The World Methodist Council has given its approval to a theological statement on the doctrine of justification-- a statement already agreed upon by Catholic and Lutheran leaders.

At a general assembly in Seoul, South Korea, the World Methodist Council added its approval to a statement produced in 1999 by the Vatican and the World Lutheran Federation. The Methodist general assembly, drawing together representatives of 76 different Methodist communities worldwide, is held every 5 years.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who attended the Methodists' meeting, characterized the agreement on justification as "historic." The president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity noted that debates about justification had been among the most important theological disputes of the Reformation. The resolution of those disputes, he said, must be recognized as "a gift from God," and "one of the principal successes of ecumenical dialogue."

George Freeman, the secretary general of the World Methodist Council, agreed that the joint statement is a major step forward, and "opens the door to new ecumenical ties." Ishmael Noko, secretary general of the World Lutheran Federation-- who had already signed the document-- said that with the Methodists having joined in the statement, other Christian communities of the Reformed tradition should also consider their participation. Speaking to a Vatican Radio audience, Cardinal Kasper observed that the agreement is the fruit of "four decades of gradual steps" since Vatican II. At the close of the Council, Pope Paul VI had addressed ecumenical observers, saying that the differences among Christians should be resolved "slowly, gradually, loyally, generously."

The Methodist movement, begun in the 18th century by John Wesley as a reform effort within the Anglican communion, today claims 30 million believers. The World Methodist Council was established in 1881, and opened official dialogue with the Catholic Church in 1967.