The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1999) constitutes a major achievement in the search for Christian unity, effectively resolving one of the key theological conflicts of the Reformation. Initially an agreement signed by Lutherans and Catholics, it has since been joined and affirmed by three other Christian World Communions, namely the Methodist, Reformed churches and Anglicans.
In 2019, a first consultation between the five Communions on how the Joint Declaration affects their relationship was held in Notre Dame University (USA). The consultation gave rise to the Notre Dame Consultation Statement, a document affirming the substance of the Joint Declaration and recommending ways to deepen institutional relationships between the five Christian Communions. A Steering Committee composed of senior leadership of the five Christian Communions was set up to further promote the Joint Declaration in the life of the communions.
On 5 March 2021, the Steering Committee gathered virtually to discuss various items, including how best to bring more attention to the Joint Declaration agreement and association statements, which have recently been published in five languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian). The Committee also agreed to go forward with plans to produce an ecumenical Study Guide for the Joint Declaration that will help the process of reception and that will emphasize the unique theological contribution of each of the five Christian traditions. Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and Reverend Avelino Gonzalez-Ferrer, official of the Pontifical Council, represented the Catholic Church.
It is anticipated that the Study Guide will also provide an opportunity to highlight the great strides from conflict to communion that the Christian community has achieved over the last six decades of bilateral dialogues and the healing of memories that led up to the Notre Dame Consultation Statement which stated: “We believe that the Holy Spirit has brought us together following our agreement on the doctrine of justification, expressed in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) which states that: ‘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 out hearts while equipping and calling us to good works’ (JDDJ §15).”