Methodists and Catholics resolve differences

The World Methodist Council has joined the 1999 agreement between the Lutheran and the Catholic churches ending the main theological dispute of the Reformation.

Reuters reports that the World Methodist Council - which represents about 70 million believers - signed on to the agreement on Sunday resolving the main theological dispute that led to the 16th-century Protestant Reformation and the splitting of western Christianity.

The move will have little practical effect for church-going Methodists, a denomination that split from Anglicanism.

Benedict XVI is also seeking more cooperation with the Orthodox churches, the eastern Christians who split from Rome in the 11th century, and will visit their Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul in November.

"We welcome this agreement with great joy ... It is our deep hope that in the near future we shall also be able to enter into closer relationships with Lutherans and the Roman Catholic Church," the World Methodist Council said in a statement.

"Today is one of the most significant dates in the history of our churches," Walter Kasper, the Cardinal in charge of the Church's relations with other Christian churches, said in Seoul before a signing event on Sunday.

Methodist leaders unanimously passed the resolution to join the Catholic-Lutheran agreement last week during a global conference in Seoul.

"The three parties commit themselves to strive together for the deepening of their common understanding of justification in theological study, teaching and preaching," the statement said.

The issue of "justification" - what Christians must do to get to Heaven - was the central dispute in the Reformation that split western Christianity and plunged Europe into the Thirty Years' War.

The 1999 statement satisfied both Lutherans and Catholics, saying that salvation is achieved through God's grace and this is reflected in the good works a person does.

Meanwhile, Zenit reports that the Ordinary Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, presided over by the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II, ruled in favour of continuing dialogue with the Vatican at a meeting last week.

The key topic of the synod was dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, and in particular the common ground shared between the two churches.

According to reports of the Russian news agency RIA, the synod considered "productive the continuation of the dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics on the topics discussed in the conference, such as the influence of Christian ethics on politics, dialogue with other religions and with the humanism of secularised cultures, the challenges of globalisation, and the economy and mass media, among others."

In regard to the escalation of violence between Israel and Lebanon, the Synod, like Benedict XVI, declared itself in favour of establishing "an equitable order in the Middle East" and the use of international justice as means to restore peace.

"The healing of the conflict in the Middle East, as of any other, will not be possible until all governments and political forces resist terrorism, which attempts against peaceful persons and takes hostages," states the meeting's document.

The Synod appealed "to the forces in conflict to abstain from any action and words that engender more violence and increase discord."

Methodists and Catholics mend a historical rift (Swissinfo 23/7/06)
Russian Orthodox Ready to Talk (Zenit 21/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Methodist Council
19th World Methodist Conference Blog

Cardinal Kasper joins landmark interfaith summit (CathNews 4/7/06)
Catholic presence felt at WCC assembly in Brazil (CathNews 22/2/06)
Townsville bishop predicts Christian unity surprise (CathNews 16/3/04)

World Methodist Council to Affirm Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (Lutheran World News 20/7/06)

24 Jul 2006