On the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous nailing of the 95 theses on the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, Germany, the Archbishop of Canterbury will present an Anglican Consultative Council resolution to representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church. The October 31 presentation will be part of a special service at Westminster Abbey.
The ACC resolution is an affirmation of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification which was the result of extensive dialogue between the Lutherans and Roman Catholics that was agreed in 1999. This declaration marks an important step forward in ecumenical relations as it addresses the substance of the dispute at the center of the Protestant reformation.
The Declaration was adopted by the World Methodist Council in July 2006 and by the World Communion of Reformed Churches in July this year and led to Pope Francis’ participation in a service in Malmö, Sweden, last year at the start of a year of activities to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
The ACC approved the resolution welcoming and affirming the Joint Declaration in its meeting in April of 2016 in Zambia. In the resolution, the ACC stated;
“recognises that Anglicans and Lutherans share a common understanding of God’s justifying grace . . . that we are accounted righteous and are made righteous before God only by grace through faith because of the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and not on account of our works or merits.”
The resolution went on to recognise “that in 1986 the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) produced a statement Salvation and the Church, which observed that our two Communions are agreed on the essential aspects of the doctrine of salvation and on the Church’s role within it.”
The Anglican Communion’s director of unity, faith and order, Canon Dr John Gibaut, said: “In our separate bilateral dialogues with both the Catholic Church and the communion of churches in the Lutheran World Federation, Anglicans have explored the questions of justification, and are agreed on the essential aspects of our salvation in Christ.
During the historic 2017 anniversary, Anglicans rejoice in the extraordinary achievement that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification represents as a sign of healing after 500 years of division.”
Archbishop Justin will preach the sermon at next week’s service, which will be led by the Dean of Westminster, Dr John Hall. A new anthem, commissioned for the occasion from Danish composer Bent Sørensen, will be performed by the Westminster Abbey Special Service Choir.
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