…and the Methodists Get in on the Action!

Posted on Posted in Theology

It was amazing enough that Lutherans and Catholics together for the first time in their history made a mutual doctrinal statement together in the Joint Declaration. But nobody expected the amazing follow-up: the world’s Methodist churches signing on as well!

The Methodist movement emerged in 18th century England under the leadership of John Wesley; in other words, it wasn’t on the scene during the turbulent Reformation of the 16th century. But is has never been indifferent to Lutherans and Catholics either. John Wesley’s famous experience of having his heart “strangely warmed” occurred while reading Luther’s Preface to Romans, though later he became critical of how he thought Luther neglected the doctrine of sanctification. This latter emphasis caused Methodist feelings of kinship with Catholic teaching too.

So the year 2006 saw the signing of “The World Methodist Council Statement of Association with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” during a WMC assembly in Seoul, North Korea. Speaking of the JD, the statement says:

“We, the Churches joined together in the World Methodist Council, welcome this agreement with great joy. We declare that the common understanding of justification as it is outlined in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ 15-17) corresponds to Methodist doctrine” (§2) and “we do not consider these diverse emphases sufficient cause for division between either party and Methodists” (§3).

The rest of the statement goes on to spell out Methodist teaching on justification, demonstrating how it is in harmony with the views set out in the JD. One paragraph summarizes the consensus nicely:

“Salvation ‘depends on faith in order that the promise may rest on grace’ (Romans 4:16)—this Pauline phrase could well be the motto of the Methodist movement. It started as a missionary movement after the Wesley brothers and their friends experienced the liberating Gospel of salvation by faith alone. It is only through God’s grace that human beings are saved by faith alone. By faith we commit ourselves to the saving, redeeming, healing and renewing work of God’s grace and love in our lives. Therefore genuine Christian faith is always ‘faith working through love’ (Galatians 5:6). Neither faith nor love are the achievement of human efforts, but by God’s call to faith and by the outpouring of God’s love we as human beings are included in the reality of God’s salvation” (§4.3).

Well? Who’s next?

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