Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson of the ELCA and Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb said the Lutheran and Catholic churches are nearing a historic moment that will mark the end of 450 years of misunderstandings and animosity.
The two leaders told nearly 600 people gathered Feb. 20 at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, that they're confident the final language in a common statement on justification by faith will soon be resolved. They were referring to a statement by the Catholic Church and churches of the Lutheran World Federation (see March, page 52).
The declaration says that both churches' Reformation-era condemnations of each other don't apply to the present churches. Parts of the document's wording have been questioned and are being studied now by the LWF's 122 member churches. The agreement is expected to be ready for approval in late 1998.
"Out of this common statement, we can now come together and move forward," Anderson said. "We can lay down arms, join hands and work together in the many tasks God has for us to do."
Lipscomb and Anderson pointed out that this declaration comes after more than 15 years of cooperative work. In the paper both churches say, "Our entire hope of justification and salvation rests on Christ Jesus and on the gospel whereby the good news of God's merciful action in Christ is made known; we do not place our ultimate trust in anything other than God's promise and saving work in Christ."
Anderson is a longtime leader in the Lutheran/Catholic dialogue, and Lipscomb is recent chair of the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
The draft statement will be on the agenda for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August.
The forum was part of the college's ecumenical series.
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