WCRC Affirms Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
In a step toward healing a centuries-old rift, the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) signed an association agreement to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) on July 5. The RCA is a member of the WCRC, an international communion of churches working for unity.
Originally signed by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church in 1999, the JDDJ describes the agreement between the LWF and the Catholic Church on what was a church dividing issue at the time of the Reformation: justification, or how we are made righteous before God. The Reformers (including Martin Luther and John Calvin) believed that people were saved by grace through faith alone. The Catholic Church maintained that works were also an essential piece of salvation.
In the JDDJ, the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church acknowledge their common ground with regard to the doctrine of justification and affirm “that the remaining differences … are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations.” The association agreement signed by the WCRC affirms the JDDJ and identifies distinctive Reformed contributions to the understanding of justification.
“We’ve seen that what brings us together greatly outweighs what keeps us apart,” says Monica Schaap Pierce, ecumenical associate for the RCA.
The association agreement was signed in Wittenberg, Germany, during the WCRC’s 2017 General Council, which convenes every seven years. This year’s council coincided with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and the agreement was signed in Town Church, where Martin Luther preached for many years. Nine RCA members were in attendance, including Schaap Pierce and three other delegates.
“We will have a deeper relationship with Catholics moving forward,” says Schaap Pierce. “We’ve been able to make huge strides in understanding a central doctrine of the Christian faith, where can we cooperate and work together in a global context.”
WCRC General Secretary Christopher Ferguson signed the association agreement on behalf of the Reformed communion. Prior to being signed, the agreement was circulated to member churches, including the RCA, for input. By signing, the WCRC and its member churches joined Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists in a commitment “to strive together for the deepening of their common understanding of justification in theological study, teaching, and preaching,” according to the agreement.
Photo by WCRC staff.