Reformation 500: Archbishop of Canterbury to mark Protestant and Catholic unity on justification

The Archbishop of Canterbury will mark a key point of agreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation in a service at Westminster Abbey for the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will mark the agreement between Protestants and Catholics on justification by faith at a service in Westminster Abbey.Wiklmedia Commons

The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was agreed by the two bodies in 1999 after years of study and resolves the most contentious issue between them, dating back to the Reformation – how is someone saved?

The Declaration says that 'on the basis of their dialogue the subscribing Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church are now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification by God's grace through faith in Christ'.

It encompasses 'a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification and shows that the remaining differences in its explication are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations'.

The Declaration has also been affirmed by the World Methodist Council and the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) passed a resolution in 2016 that 'welcomes and affirms the substance of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification'. The resolution was noted in a motion approved by the General Synod of the Church of England earlier this year as it welcomed 'signs of convergence between the Churches on the doctrine of salvation'.

During the service Justin Welby will present copies of the ACC's text to Roman Catholic and Lutheran representatives.

The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, said: 'The Joint Declaration was a historic breakthrough in overcoming the divisions that emerged from the Reformation through a fresh statement of its key concern, how sinners can be put right with God and empowered to live in a new way. The good news of forgiveness and freedom through Jesus Christ is what unites us as Christians. It's the word of grace and hope that – together – we want to share with all the world.'

The service will take place on October 31, the anniversary of the Reformation.