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    Catholics and evangelical leaders issue unprecedented statement on salvation


    For the first time in more than 450 years, evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics have publicly agreed to a common understanding of salvation.

    Since the Reformation, the meaning of salvation has been the crucial issue dividing Protestants and Roman Catholics. At the heart of that disagreement has been the issue of “justification by faith alone.”

    In November, a distinguished group of evangelicals and Catholics led by Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson and First Things editor Father Richard John Neuhaus released a statement, “The Gift of Salvation,” in which they say together, “We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone.”

    Colson said the new document “will surprise those who believe that the gap created by the Reformation is insurmountable. Luther himself would have been proud to sign it.”

    The statement says, “We agree that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own it is entirely God’s gift, conferred through the Father’s sheer graciousness, out of the love that He bears us in His Son, who suffered on our behalf and rose from the dead for our justification.”

    The signers of the statement carefully say that they are “speaking not for, but from and to, our several communities,” but it is hoped this agreement will make it possible for evangelicals and Catholics to work with one another rather than against one another in this country, in Latin America, and elsewhere in the world where there has been frequent, and sometimes violent, conflict between the two communities.

    “The Gift of Salvation” emerges from an initiative known as “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) launched in 1994. That earlier statement noted a growing “convergence and cooperation” between evangelicals and Catholics in many public tasks, and affirmed agreement in basic articles of Christian faith, while also underscoring the continuing existence of important differences.

    The new statement also indicates important differences that require further discussion, including “the meaning of baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist … diverse understandings of merit, reward, purgatory, and indulgences Marian devotion and the assistance of the saints in the lives of salvation…”

    — E.P. News

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