Evangelicals and Catholics Together: A New Initiative
The Gift of Salvation," published here for the first time, was adopted by a group of Catholic and evangelical theologians, of which I was a part, meeting in New York City on October 7, 1997. Unlike the Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification issued earlier this year, this statement is not the result of an officially sponsored dialogue, but the collaborative work of individuals who speak from and to, but not for, our several communities. This statement is being translated into various languages and will be distributed to pastors and church leaders around the world. We invite all Christians to consider what we have been able to say together about the gift of salvation.
We come together by the common recognition that all who truly believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord are indeed, by God's grace, brothers and sisters in Christ. We sense that urgency of our Lord's high priestly prayer for all his disciples—"that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21). True Christian unity, we believe, is not so much a goal to be achieved as a gift to be received. To this end, we have tried to speak with both clarity and charity, rejoicing in the remarkable convergence we have discovered, while ever mindful of the persistent and serious differences that remain.
We reject the kind of ecumenical euphoria that assumes the way to peace in the church is to downplay doctrine and theology. We are committed to an ecumenism of conviction, not an ecumenism of accommodation. In his encyclical Ut Unum Sint (That All May Be One), Pope John Paul II has reiterated this same theme: "In matters of faith, compromise ...