A 28-member commission representing the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches says it has resolved a disagreement over the meaning of salvation—one of the major disputes that brought about the Protestant Reformation.

The Second Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission says Anglicans and Catholics no longer have any substantial disagreement on the question of how personal salvation is achieved. “We believe that our two communions are agreed on the essential aspects of the doctrine of salvation and on the church’s role within it,” the commission stated in a document titled “Salvation and the Church.”

The commission produced the 28-page document after three years of study and dialogue. It is not an authoritative declaration of either the Roman Catholic church or the Anglican communion, but it will be presented to the two churches for study and evaluation.

The document “represents a very important watershed of ecumenical agreement between two major branches of Western Christianity,” said Kortright Davis, associate professor of theology at Howard University Divinity School and a member of the Anglican delegation. Davis said the historic doctrinal disagreement found Catholics holding that salvation was brought about through cooperation between God and humanity. Protestant Reformers took the opposite view—that salvation was by God’s grace alone through faith.

The recent Anglican-Catholic agreement makes clear that “salvation is from beginning to end God’s activity,” Davis explained. “… The notion of [human] merit has been transformed so that it is no longer merit that is at issue, but the response of faith. The response of faith is the greatest point [of agreement reached in the document].”

Jeffrey Gros, a leading Catholic ecumenist, said the document “will help Catholics to recognize the deep faith of the Anglican communion relative to the grace of God, and [will] help Anglicans understand the evangelical character of the Catholic faith at its best.”

The Anglican-Catholic dialogue is aimed at eventually bringing each church to the point of fully accepting the other’s sacraments and ministries. As a result of the dialogue, Davis said, people in local churches can realize “the faith they are confessing in their liturgies and the creeds which guide them in their own spirituality are seen to be in no way different from the creeds and other confessions of faith which are used in their counterpart churches.” Added Gros: “[The document on salvation] confirms what we’ve begun to learn about each other’s faith in the gospel and how similar it is.”

The Anglican-Catholic commission was set up in 1982 by Pope John Paul II and Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie. The next phase of the international dialogue, to begin in September, will take up a more divisive question for the two church traditions: the role of women in the ordained ministry.

By Religious News Service.

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