The 4 Corners Festival continues in Belfast tonight with a seminar on the Agreement Statement on Justification from 7.30-9.00 pm at St Patrick’s Church, Donegall Street. If you are like many Christians, you are probably unaware that an agreed statement on justification even exists, or what its significance could be for Christian Unity. It’s described on the 4 Corners website this way:
On Reformation Day, 31 October 1999, an agreed statement on the doctrine of Justification was signed in Augsburg by the World Federation of Lutheran Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. A few years later the statement was endorsed by the Worldwide Methodist Church. Justification (how we are put in a right relationship with God) was the central point of dispute at the time of the Reformation, yet few Christians, Catholic or Protestant, are aware of this historic step of agreement. The speakers will address the subject from the perspective of their church background. The twenty minute talks will be followed by a time of Questions and Answers. The aim of the seminar is to foster mutual understanding and mutual respect.
Probably my first major point of introduction to the commonalities on justification among the Christian traditions was in a 2005 book by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism.
One of their main arguments is that no real substantial issues around the issue of justification (and, they say, evangelicals can rest assured that faith is involved here!) continue to exist.
So I’m curious to hear what the speakers lined up for tonight in Belfast will have to say. They include:
- Mrs Gillian Kingston (Methodist)
- Rev Tony Davidson (Presbyterian)
- Sister Geraldine Smyth OP (Roman Catholic)
- Very Reverend John Mann, Dean of St Anne’s Cathedral
It’s symbolic that the event is being held in St Patrick’s Church, which was the site of so much division this summer during the marching season.
Here’s to hoping that the lessons tonight from St Patrick’s can help us to think about what unites us, rather than what keeps us apart.