The World Methodist Council (WMC) was present to witness the fourth world Christian body to adopt the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) on 5 July at the 26th General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) in Wittenberg, Germany. Looking on during the signing were WMC’s President, Rev. Dr. Jong Chun Park and General Secretary Ivan Abrahams. Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, WMC’s Geneva Secretary, was also present in the congregation. The WCRC signed the document, joining Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists in confirming our shared witness to the Gospel. During the ceremony, the WCRC also signed a “Wittenberg Witness” with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) which aims to strengthen cooperation and joint action between the two bodies.
General Secretary of the WCRC, Rev. Dr. Chris Ferguson, stated during the historical event:
As we say in the Witness itself, as world communions, we commit to explore new forms of life together that will more fully express the communion we already have in Christ. We call on our member churches to find ways to more fully live out these commitments together in their local contexts, making our unity more visible.
World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams noted the significance of the signing taking place during the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in the church where Martin Luther preached:
Building on our shared affirmation of the basic truths of the doctrine of justification, Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists and Reformed commit ourselves to deepen our common understanding of justification in theological study, teaching, and preaching and work towards full communion and common witness to the world.
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner shared that from the World Methodist Council’s perspective it is important that “…now also the World Communion of Reformed Churches associated itself to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), like the World Methodist Council did in 2006. The WCRC used the model of the “differentiated concerns” not only to declare that they affirm the JDDS, but they also added what’s specifically important for them, like we did when we associated with the JDDJ.”
The World Methodist Council celebrates the WCRC’s association with the JDDJ, and looks forward to further strengthening relationships and our common witness in Christ.
The Vatican and World Council of Churches Respond
The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity stated in a press release Tuesday, prior to the signing, that “the full, visible unity of Christians is not yet the end of the road but a significant stage on the way.” Following the signing, Pope Francis hailed the signing in a statement read by Cardinal Brian Farrell Wednesday, saying “Together with great joy, today’s formal act bring new challenges and responsibilities in our pursuit of fidelity to the Gospel and unity in truth. May it mark a new stage of fellowship and cooperation in the service of justice and peace in our human family”
Similarly, the World Council of Churches welcomed the signing in a story released Wednesday, seeing it as an important step in overcoming divisions of the past and working with other Christian communions for unity and common witness.