This month Lutherans and Catholics will state their areas of agreement on one of the key issues that has divided Protestants and Catholics since Luther posted his 95 theses in Wittenberg in 1517.

The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification will be signed in Augsburg, Germany, by the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican on October 31.

"By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works," reads the Joint Declaration.

This declaration is the first of its kind between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, and it took 30 years of theological dialogue to achieve.

Beside affirming that salvation is a gift through faith in Christ alone, and not earned by personal works or merit, the declaration also says that many of the condemnations concerning justification that Lutherans and Catholics issued against each other during the Reformation no longer apply.

Though Catholics and Lutherans still do not agree on the theology of "good works," the Roman Catholic church is now declaring that section of the justification doctrine as "not church dividing."

George H. Anderson, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, told the denomination's news service that the Joint Declaration is a "significant milestone" in reconciling the two churches' traditions in "agreement on this crucial article of the Christian faith."

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