As the Second Millennium draws to a close, the Christian mission
in world history faces a moment of daunting opportunity and responsibility.
If in the merciful and mysterious ways of God the Second Coming is delayed,
we enter upon a Third Millennium that could be, in the words of John Paul
II, "a springtime of world missions." (Redemptoris Missio)
As Christ is one, so the Christian mission is one. That one mission
can be and should be advanced in diverse ways. Legitimate diversity, however,
should not be confused with existing divisions between Christians that
obscure the one Christ and hinder the one mission. There
is a necessary connection between the visible unity of Christians and
the mission of the one Christ. We together pray for the fulfillment of
the prayer of Our Lord: "May they all be one; as you, Father, are in me,
and I in you, so also may they be in us, that the world may believe that
you sent me." (John 17) We together, Evangelicals and Catholics, confess
our sins against the unity that Christ intends for all his disciples.
The one Christ and one mission includes many other Christians, notably
the Eastern Orthodox and those Protestants not commonly identified as Evangelical.
All Christians are encompassed in the prayer, "May they all be one." Our
present statement attends to the specific problems and
opportunities in the relationship between Roman Catholics and Evangelical
As we near the Third Millennium, there are approximately 1.7 billion
Christians in the world. About a billion of these are Catholics and more
than 300 million are Evangelical Protestants. The century now drawing to
a close has been the greatest century of missionary expansion in
Christian history. We pray and we believe that this expansion has prepared
the way for yet greater missionary endeavor in the first century of the
The two communities in world Christianity that are most evangelistically
assertive and most rapidly growing are Evangelicals and Catholics. In many
parts of the world, the relationship between these communities is marked
more by conflict than by cooperation, more by animosity than by love, more
by suspicion than by trust, more by propaganda and ignorance than by respect
for the truth. This is alarmingly the case in Latin America, increasingly
the case in Eastern Europe, and too often the case in our own country.
Without ignoring conflicts between and within other Christian communities,
we address ourselves to the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics,
who constitute the growing edge of
missionary expansion at present and, most likely, in the century ahead.
In doing so, we hope that what we have discovered and resolved may be of
help in other situations of conflict, such as that among Orthodox, Evangelicals,
and Catholics in Eastern Europe. While we are gratefully aware of ongoing
efforts to address tensions among these communities, the shameful reality
is that, in many places around the world, the scandal of conflict between
Christians obscures the scandal of the cross, thus crippling the one mission
of the one Christ.
As in times past, so also today and in the future, the Christian mission,
which is directed to the entire human community, must be advanced against
formidable opposition. In some cultures, that mission encounters resurgent
spiritualities and religions that are explicitly hostile to the claims
of the Christ. Islam, which in many instances denies the freedom to witness
to the Gospel, must be of increasing concern to those who care about religious
freedom and the Christian mission. Mutually respectful conversation between
Muslims and Christians should be encouraged in the hope that more of the
world will, in the oft-repeated words of John Paul II, "open the door to
Christ." At the same time, in our so-called developed societies, a widespread
secularization increasingly descends into a moral, intellectual, and spiritual
nihilism that denies not only the One who is the Truth but the very idea
of truth itself.
We enter the twenty-first century without illusions. With Paul and the
Christians of the first century, we know that "we are not contending against
flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against
the world rulers of this present darkness, against the
spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6)
As Evangelicals and Catholics, we dare not by needless and loveless conflict
between ourselves give aid and comfort to the enemies of the cause of Christ.
The love of Christ compels us and we are therefore resolved to avoid
such conflict between our communities and, where such conflict exists,
to do what we can to reduce and eliminate it. Beyond that, we are called
and we are therefore resolved to explore patterns of working and
witnessing together in order to advance the one mission of Christ.
Our common resolve is not based merely on a desire for harmony. We reject
any appearance of harmony that is purchased at the price of truth. Our
common resolve is made imperative by obedience to the truth of God
revealed in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, and by trust in the
promise of the Holy Spirit's guidance until Our Lord returns in glory to
judge the living and the dead.
The mission that we embrace together is the necessary consequence of
the faith that we affirm together.
We Affirm Together
Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final affirmation that Christians
make about all of reality. He is the One sent by God to be Lord and Savior
of all: "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name
under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4) Christians
are people ahead of time, those who proclaim now what will one day be acknowledged
by all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2)
We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because
of Christ. Living faith is active in love that is nothing less than the
love of Christ, for we together say with Paul: "I have been crucified with
Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the
life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved
me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2)
All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in
Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.
We have not chosen one another, just as we have not chosen Christ. He has
chosen us, and he has chosen us to be his together. (John 15)
However imperfect our communion with one another, however deep our
disagreements with one another, we recognize that there is but one church
of Christ. There is one church because there is one Christ and the church
is his body. However difficult the way, we recognize that we are called
by God to a fuller realization of our unity in the body of Christ. The
only unity to which we would give expression is unity in the truth, and
the truth is this: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were
called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith,
one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through
all and in all." (Ephesians 4)
We affirm together that Christians are to teach and live in obedience
to the divinely inspired Scriptures, which are the infallible Word of God.
We further affirm together that Christ has promised to his church the gift
of the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth in discerning
and declaring the teaching of Scripture. (John 16) We recognize together
that the Holy Spirit has so guided his church in the past. In, for instance,
the formation of the canon of the Scriptures, and in the orthodox response
to the great Christological and Trinitarian controversies of the early
centuries, we confidently acknowledge the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In faithful response to the Spirit's leading, the church formulated the
Apostles Creed, which we can and hereby do affirm together as an accurate
statement of scriptural truth:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator
We Hope Together
of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our
Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and
born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and
is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come
again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic
Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
We hope together that all people will come to faith in Jesus Christ
as Lord and Savior. This hope makes necessary the church's missionary zeal.
"But how are they to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And
how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are
they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are
sent?" (Romans 10) The church is by nature, in all places and at all times,
in mission. Our missionary hope is inspired by the revealed desire of God
that "all should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy
The church lives by and for the Great Commission: "Go therefore and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that
I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the
age." (Matthew 28)
Unity and love among Christians is an integral part of our missionary
witness to the Lord whom we serve. "A new commandment I give to you, that
you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one
another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you
have love for one another." (John 13) If we do not love one another,
we disobey his command and contradict the Gospel we declare.
As Evangelicals and Catholics, we pray that our unity in the love of
Christ will become ever more evident as a sign to the world of God's reconciling
power. Our communal and ecclesial separations are deep and long standing.
We acknowledge that we do not know the schedule nor do we know the way
to the greater visible unity for which we hope. We do know that existing
patterns of distrustful polemic and conflict are not the way. We do know
that God who has brought us into communion with himself through Christ
intends that we also be in communion with one another. We do know that
Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14) and as
we are drawn closer to him-walking in that way, obeying that truth,
living that life-we are drawn closer to one another.
Whatever may be the future form of the relationship between our communities,
we can, we must, and we will begin now the work required to remedy what
we know to be wrong in that relationship. Such work requires trust and
understanding, and trust and understanding require an
assiduous attention to truth. We do not deny but clearly assert that
there are disagreements between us. Misunderstandings, misrepresentations,
and caricatures of one another, however, are not disagreements. These distortions
must be cleared away if we are to search through our honest differences
in a manner consistent with what we affirm and hope together on the basis
of God's Word.
We Search Together
Together we search for a fuller and clearer understanding of God's revelation
in Christ and his will for his disciples. Because of the limitations of
human reason and language, which limitations are compounded by sin, we
cannot understand completely the transcendent reality of God and his ways.
Only in the End Time will we see face to face and know as we are known.
(1 Corinthians 13) We now search together in confident reliance upon God's
self-revelation in Jesus Christ, the sure testimony of Holy Scripture,
and the promise of the Spirit to his church. In this search to understand
the truth more fully and clearly, we need one another. We are both informed
and limited by the histories of our communities and by our own experiences.
Across the divides of communities and experiences, we need to challenge
one another, always
speaking the truth in love building up the Body. (Ephesians 4)
We do not presume to suggest that we can resolve the deep and long-standing
differences between Evangelicals and Catholics. Indeed these differences
may never be resolved short of the Kingdom Come. Nonetheless, we are not
permitted simply to resign ourselves to differences that divide us from
one another. Not all differences are authentic disagreements, nor need
all disagreements divide. Differences and disagreements must be tested
in disciplined and sustained
conversation. In this connection we warmly commend and encourage the
formal theological dialogues of recent years between Roman Catholics and
We note some of the differences and disagreements that must be addressed
more fully and candidly in order to strengthen between us a relationship
of trust in obedience to truth. Among points of difference in doctrine,
worship, practice, and piety that are frequently thought to divide us are
This account of differences is by no means complete. Nor is the disparity
between positions always so sharp as to warrant the "or" in the above formulations.
Moreover, among those recognized as Evangelical Protestants there are significant
differences between, for example,
The church as an integral part of the Gospel or the church as a communal
consequence of the Gospel.
The church as visible communion or invisible fellowship of true believers.
The sole authority of Scripture (sola scriptura) or Scripture as authoritatively
interpreted in the church.
The "soul freedom" of the individual Christian or the Magisterium (teaching
authority) of the community.
The church as local congregation or universal communion.
Ministry ordered in apostolic succession or the priesthood of all believers.
Sacraments and ordinances as symbols of grace or means of grace.
The Lord's Supper as eucharistic sacrifice or memorial meal.
Remembrance of Mary and the saints or devotion to Mary and the saints.
Baptism as sacrament of regeneration or testimony to regeneration.
Baptists, Pentecostals, and Calvinists on these questions. But the
differences mentioned above reflect disputes that are deep and long standing.
In at least some instances, they reflect authentic
disagreements that have been in the past and are at present barriers
to full communion between Christians.
On these questions, and other questions implied by them, Evangelicals
hold that the Catholic Church has gone beyond Scripture, adding teachings
and practices that detract from or compromise the Gospel of God's saving
grace in Christ. Catholics, in turn, hold that such
teachings and practices are grounded in Scripture and belong to the
fullness of God's revelation. Their rejection, Catholics say, results in
a truncated and reduced understanding of the Christian reality.
Again, we cannot resolve these disputes here. We can and do affirm together
that the entirety of Christian faith, life, and mission finds its source,
center, and end in the crucified and risen Lord. We can and do pledge that
we will continue to search together-through study, discussion, and prayer-for
a better understanding of one another's convictions and a more adequate
comprehension of the truth of God in Christ. We can testify now that in
our searching together we have discovered what we can affirm together and
what we can hope together and, therefore, how we can contend together.
We Contend Together
As we are bound together by Christ and his cause, so we are bound together
in contending against all that opposes Christ and his cause. We are emboldened
not by illusions of easy triumph but by faith in his certain triumph. Our
Lord wept over Jerusalem, and he now weeps over a world that does not know
the time of its visitation. The raging of the principalities and powers
may increase as the End Time nears, but the outcome of the contest is assured.
The cause of Christ is the cause and mission of the church, which is,
first of all, to proclaim the Good News that "God was in Christ reconciling
the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting
to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5) To proclaim this
Gospel and to sustain the community of faith, worship, and discipleship
that is gathered by this Gospel is the first and chief responsibility of
the church. All other tasks and
responsibilities of the church are derived from and directed toward
the mission of the Gospel.
Christians individually and the church corporately also have a responsibility
for the right ordering of civil society. We embrace this task soberly;
knowing the consequences of human sinfulness, we resist the utopian conceit
that it is within our powers to build the Kingdom of God on earth. We embrace
this task hopefully; knowing that God has called us to love our neighbor,
we seek to secure for all a greater measure of civil righteousness and
justice, confident that he will crown
our efforts when he rightly orders all things in the coming of his
In the exercise of these public responsibilities there has been in recent
years a growing convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics.
We thank God for the discovery of one another in contending for a common
cause. Much more important, we thank God for the discovery of one another
as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our cooperation as citizens is animated
by our convergence as Christians. We promise one another that we will work
to deepen, build upon, and expand this pattern of convergence and cooperation.
Together we contend for the truth that politics, law, and culture must
be secured by moral truth. With the Founders of the American experiment,
we declare, "We hold these truths." With them, we hold that this constitutional
order is composed not just of rules and procedures but is most essentially
a moral experiment. With them, we hold that only a virtuous people can
be free and just, and that virtue is secured by religion. To propose that
securing civil virtue is the purpose of
religion is blasphemous. To deny that securing civil virtue is a benefit
of religion is blindness.
Americans are drifting away from, are often explicitly defying, the
constituting truths of this experiment in ordered liberty. Influential
sectors of the culture are laid waste by relativism, anti-
intellectualism, and nihilism that deny the very idea of truth. Against
such influences in both the elite and popular culture, we appeal to reason
and religion in contending for the foundational truths of our constitutional
More specifically, we contend together for religious freedom. We do
so for the sake of religion, but also because religious freedom is the
first freedom, the source and shield of all human freedoms. In their relationship
to God, persons have a dignity and responsibility that transcends, and
thereby limits, the authority of the state and of every other merely human
Religious freedom is itself grounded in and is a product of religious
faith, as is evident in the history of Baptists and others in this country.
Today we rejoice together that the Roman Catholic Church-as affirmed by
the Second Vatican Council and boldly exemplified in the ministry of John
Paul II-is strongly committed to religious freedom and, consequently, to
the defense of all human rights. Where Evangelicals and Catholics are in
severe and sometimes violent conflict, such as parts of Latin America,
we urge Christians to embrace and act upon the imperative of religious
freedom. Religious freedom will not be respected by the state if it is
not respected by Christians or, even worse, if Christiansattempt to recruit
the state in repressing religious freedom.
In this country, too, freedom of religion cannot be taken for granted
but requires constant attention. We strongly affirm the separation of church
and state, and just as strongly protest the distortion of that principle
to mean the separation of religion from public life. We are deeply concerned
by the courts' narrowing of the protections provided by the "free exercise"
provision of the First Amendment and by an obsession with "no establishment"
that stifles the necessary role of religion in American life. As a consequence
of such distortions, it is increasingly the case that wherever government
goes religion must retreat, and government increasingly goes almost everywhere.
Religion, which was privileged and foundational in our legal order, has
in recent years been penalized and made marginal. We contend together for
a renewal of the
constituting vision of the place of religion in the American experiment.
Religion and religiously grounded moral conviction is not an alien or
threatening force in our public life. For the great majority of Americans,
morality is derived, however variously and confusedly, from religion. The
argument, increasingly voiced in sectors of our political culture, that
religion should be excluded from the public square must be recognized as
an assault upon the most elementary principles of democratic governance.
That argument needs to be exposed and countered by leaders, religious and
other, who care about the integrity of our constitutional order.
The pattern of convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and
Catholics is, in large part, a result of common effort to protect human
life, especially the lives of the most vulnerable among us. With the Founders,
we hold that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with the right
to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The statement that the
unborn child is a human life that-barring natural misfortune or lethal
intervention-will become what everyone recognizes as a human baby is not
a religious assertion. It is a statement of simple biological fact. That
the unborn child has a right to protection, including the protection of
law, is a moral statement supported by moral reason and biblical truth.
We, therefore, will persist in contending-we will not be discouraged
but will multiply every effort-in order to secure the legal protection
of the unborn. Our goals are: to secure due process of law for the unborn,
to enact the most protective laws and public policies that are politically
possible, and to reduce dramatically the incidence of abortion. We warmly
commend those who have established thousands of crisis pregnancy and postnatal
care centers across the country, and urge that such efforts be multiplied.
As the unborn must be protected, so also must women be protected from their
current rampant exploitation by the abortion industry and by fathers who
refuse to accept responsibility for mothers and children. Abortion on demand,
which is the current rule in America, must be recognized as a massive attack
on the dignity, rights, and needs of women.
Abortion is the leading edge of an encroaching culture of death. The
helpless old, the radically handicapped, and others who cannot effectively
assert their rights are increasingly treated as though they have no rights.
These are the powerless who are exposed to the will and whim of those who
have power over them. We will do all in our power to resist proposals for
euthanasia, eugenics, and population control that exploit the vulnerable,
corrupt the integrity of medicine, deprave our culture, and betray the
moral truths of our constitutional order.
In public education, we contend together for schools that transmit to
coming generations our cultural heritage, which is inseparable from the
formative influence of religion, especially Judaism and Christianity. Education
for responsible citizenship and social behavior is inescapably moral education.
Every effort must be made to cultivate the morality of honesty, law observance,
work, caring, chastity, mutual respect between the sexes, and readiness
for marriage, parenthood, and family. We reject the claim that, in any
or all of these areas, "tolerance" requires the promotion of moral equivalence
between the normative and the deviant. In a democratic society that recognizes
that parents have the primary responsibility for the formation of their
children, schools are to assist and support, not oppose and undermine,
parents in the exercise of their responsibility.
We contend together for a comprehensive policy of parental choice in
education. This is a moral question of simple justice. Parents are the
primary educators of their children; the state and other institutions should
be supportive of their exercise of that responsibility. We affirm policies
that enable parents to effectively exercise their right and responsibility
to choose the schooling that they consider best for their children.
We contend together against the widespread pornography in our society,
along with the celebration of violence, sexual depravity, and antireligious
bigotry in the entertainment media. In resisting such cultural and moral
debasement, we recognize the legitimacy of boycotts and other consumer
actions, and urge the enforcement of existing laws against obscenity. We
reject the self-serving claim of the peddlers of depravity that this constitutes
illegitimate censorship. We reject the assertion of the unimaginative that
artistic creativity is to be measured by the capacity to shock or outrage.
A people incapable of defending decency invites the rule of viciousness,
both public and personal.
We contend for a renewed spirit of acceptance, understanding, and cooperation
across lines of religion, race, ethnicity, sex, and class. We are all created
in the image of God and are accountable to him. That truth is the basis
of individual responsibility and equality before the
law. The abandonment of that truth has resulted in a society at war
with itself, pitting citizens against one another in bitter conflicts of
group grievances and claims to entitlement. Justice and social amity require
a redirection of public attitudes and policies so that rights are joined
to duties and people are rewarded according to their character and competence.
We contend for a free society, including a vibrant market economy. A
free society requires a careful balancing between economics, politics,
and culture. Christianity is not an ideology and therefore does not prescribe
precisely how that balance is to be achieved in every circumstance. We
affirm the importance of a free economy not only because it is more efficient
but because it accords with a Christian understanding of human freedom.
Economic freedom, while subject to grave abuse, makes possible the patterns
of creativity, cooperation, and accountability that contribute to the common
We contend together for a renewed appreciation of Western culture. In
its history and missionary reach, Christianity engages all cultures while
being captive to none. We are keenly aware of, and grateful for, the role
of Christianity in shaping and sustaining the Western culture
of which we are part. As with all of history, that culture is marred
by human sinfulness. Alone among world cultures, however, the West has
cultivated an attitude of self-criticism and of eagerness to learn from
other cultures. What is called multiculturalism can mean respectful
attention to human differences. More commonly today, however, multiculturalism
means affirming all cultures but our own. Welcoming the contributions of
other cultures and being ever alert to the limitations of our own, we receive
Western culture as our legacy and embrace it as
our task in order to transmit it as a gift to future generations.
We contend for public policies that demonstrate renewed respect for
the irreplaceable role of mediating structures in society-notably the family,
churches, and myriad voluntary associations. The state is not the society,
and many of the most important functions of society are best addressed
in independence from the state. The role of churches in responding to a
wide variety of human needs, especially among the poor and marginal, needs
to be protected and strengthened. Moreover, society is not the aggregate
of isolated individuals bearing rights but is
composed of communities that inculcate responsibility, sustain shared
memory, provide mutual aid, and nurture the habits that contribute to both
personal well-being and the common good. Most basic among such communities
is the community of the family. Laws and social policies
should be designed with particular care for the stability and flourishing
of families. While the crisis of the family in America is by no means limited
to the poor or to the underclass, heightened attention must be paid those
who have become, as a result of well-intended but misguided statist policies,
virtual wards of the government.
Finally, we contend for a realistic and responsible understanding of
America's part in world affairs. Realism and responsibility require that
we avoid both the illusions of unlimited power and righteousness, on the
one hand, and the timidity and selfishness of isolationism, on the other.
U.S. foreign policy should reflect a concern for the defense of democracy
and, wherever prudent and possible, the protection and advancement of human
rights, including religious freedom.
The above is a partial list of public responsibilities on which we believe
there is a pattern of convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals
and Catholics. We reject the notion that this constitutes a partisan "religious
agenda" in American politics. Rather, this is a set of directions oriented
to the common good and discussable on the basis of public reason. While
our sense of civic responsibility is informed and motivated by Christian
faith, our intention is to elevate the level of political and moral discourse
in a manner that excludes no one and invites the participation of all people
of good will. To that end, Evangelicals and Catholics have made an inestimable
contribution in the past and, it is our hope, will contribute even more
effectively in the future.
We are profoundly aware that the American experiment has been, all in
all, a blessing to the world and a blessing to us as Evangelical and Catholic
Christians. We are determined to assume our full share of responsibility
for this "one nation under God," believing it to be a nation under the
judgment, mercy, and providential care of the Lord of the nations to whom
alone we render unqualified allegiance.
We Witness Together
The question of Christian witness unavoidably returns us to points of
serious tension between Evangelicals and Catholics. Bearing witness to
the saving power of Jesus Christ and his will for our lives is an integral
part of Christian discipleship. The achievement of good will and cooperation
between Evangelicals and Catholics must not be at the price of the urgency
and clarity of Christian witness to the Gospel. At the same time, and as
noted earlier, Our Lord has made clear that the evidence of love among
his disciples is an integral part of that Christian witness.
Today, in this country and elsewhere, Evangelicals and Catholics attempt
to win "converts" from one another's folds. In some ways, this is perfectly
understandable and perhaps inevitable. In many instances, however, such
efforts at recruitment undermine the Christian mission by which we are
bound by God's Word and to which we have recommitted ourselves in this
statement. It should be clearly understood between Catholics and Evangelicals
that Christian witness is of necessity aimed at conversion. Authentic conversion
is-in its beginning, in its end, and all along the way-conversion to God
in Christ by the power of the Spirit. In this connection, we embrace as
our own the explanation of the Baptist-Roman Catholic International Conversation
Conversion is turning away from all that is opposed to God,
contrary to Christ's teaching, and turning to God, to Christ, the Son,
through the work of the Holy
By preaching, teaching, and life example, Christians witness to Christians
and non-Christians alike. We seek and pray for the conversion of others,
even as we recognize our own continuing need to be fully converted. As
we strive to make Christian faith and life-our own and that of others-ever
more intentional rather than nominal, ever more committed rather than apathetic,
we also recognize the different forms that authentic discipleship can take.
As is evident in the two thousand year history of the church, and in our
contemporary experience, there are different ways of being Christian, and
some of these ways are distinctively marked by communal patterns of worship,
piety, and catechesis. That we are all to be one does not mean that we
are all to
Spirit. It entails a turning from the self-centeredness of sin to faith
in Christ as Lord and Savior. Conversion is a passing from one way of life
to another new one, marked with the newness of Christ. It is a continuing
process so that the whole life of a Christian should be a passage from
death to life, from error to truth, from sin to grace. Our life in Christ
demands continual growth in God's grace. Conversion
is personal but not private. Individuals respond in faith to God's
call but faith comes from hearing the proclamation of the word of God and
is to be expressed in the life together in Christ that is the Church.
be identical in our way of following the one Christ. Such distinctive
patterns of discipleship, it should be noted, are amply evident within
the communion of the Catholic Church as well as within the many worlds
of Evangelical Protestantism.
It is understandable that Christians who bear witness to the Gospel
try to persuade others that their communities and traditions are more fully
in accord with the Gospel. There is a necessary distinction between evangelizing
and what is today commonly called proselytizing or "sheep
stealing." We condemn the practice of recruiting people from another
community for purposes of denominational or institutional aggrandizement.
At the same time, our commitment to full religious freedom compels us to
defend the legal freedom to proselytize even as we call upon Christians
to refrain from such activity.
Three observations are in order in connection with proselytizing. First,
as much as we might believe one community is more fully in accord with
the Gospel than another, we as Evangelicals and Catholics affirm that opportunity
and means for growth in Christian discipleship are available in our several
communities. Second, the decision of the committed Christian with respect
to his communal allegiance and participation must be assiduously respected.
Third, in view of the large number of non-Christians in the world and the
enormous challenge of our common evangelistic task, it is neither theologically
legitimate nor a prudent use of resources for one Christian community to
proselytize among active adherents of another Christian community.
Christian witness must always be made in a spirit of love and humility.
It must not deny but must readily accord to everyone the full freedom to
discern and decide what is God's will for his life. Witness that is in
service to the truth is in service to such freedom. Any form of coercion
- physical, psychological, legal, economic-corrupts Christian witness and
is to be unqualifiedly rejected. Similarly, bearing false witness against
other persons and communities, or casting unjust and uncharitable suspicions
upon them, is incompatible with the Gospel. Also to be rejected is the
practice of comparing the strengths and ideals of one community with the
weaknesses and failures of another. In describing the teaching and practices
of other Christians, we must strive to do so in a way that they would recognize
as fair and accurate.
In considering the many corruptions of Christian witness, we, Evangelicals
and Catholics, confess that we have sinned against one another and against
God. We most earnestly ask the forgiveness of God and one another, and
pray for the grace to amend our own lives and that
of our communities.
Repentance and amendment of life do not dissolve remaining differences
between us. In the context of evangelization and "reevangelization," we
encounter a major difference in our understanding of the relationship between
baptism and the new birth in Christ. For Catholics, all who are validly
baptized are born again and are truly, however imperfectly, in communion
with Christ. That baptismal grace is to be continuingly reawakened and
revivified through conversion. For most Evangelicals, but not all, the
experience of conversion is to be followed by baptism as a sign of new
birth. For Catholics, all the baptized are already members of the church,
however dormant their faith and life; for many Evangelicals, the new birth
requires baptismal initiation into the community of the born again. These
differing beliefs about the relationship between baptism, new birth, and
membership in the church should be honestly presented to the Christian
who has undergone conversion. But again, his decision regarding communal
allegiance and participation must be assiduously respected.
There are, then, differences between us that cannot be resolved here.
But on this we are resolved: All authentic witness must be aimed at conversion
to God in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Those converted-whether understood
as having received the new birth for the first time or as having experienced
the reawakening of the new birth originally bestowed in the sacrament of
baptism-must be given full freedom and respect as they discern and decide
the community in which they will live their new life in Christ. In such
discernment and decision, they are
ultimately responsible to God, and we dare not interfere with the exercise
of that responsibility. Also in our differences and disagreements, we Evangelicals
and Catholics commend one another to God "who by the power at work within
us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think." (Ephesians
In this discussion of witnessing together we have touched on difficult
and long-standing problems. The difficulties must not be permitted to overshadow
the truths on which we are, by the grace of God, in firm agreement. As
we grow in mutual understanding and trust, it is our hope that our efforts
to evangelize will not jeopardize but will reinforce our devotion to the
common tasks to which we have pledged ourselves in this statement.
Nearly two thousand years after it began, and nearly five hundred years
after the divisions of the Reformation era, the Christian mission to the
world is vibrantly alive and assertive. We do not know, we cannot know,
what the Lord of history has in store for the Third Millennium. It may
be the springtime of world missions and great Christian expansion.
It may be the way of the cross marked by persecution and apparent marginalization.
In different places and times, it will likely be both. Or it may be that
Our Lord will return tomorrow.
We do know that his promise is sure, that we are enlisted for the duration,
and that we are in this together. We do know that we must affirm and hope
and search and contend and witness together, for we belong not to ourselves
but to him who has purchased us by the blood of the cross. We do know that
this is a time of opportunity-and, if of opportunity, then of responsibility-for
Evangelicals and Catholics to be Christians together in a way that helps
prepare the world for the coming of him to whom belongs the kingdom, the
power, and the glory forever. Amen.
PARTICIPANTS: Mr. Charles Colson Prison Fellowship Fr. Juan
Diaz-Vilar, S.J. Catholic Hispanic Ministries Fr. Avery Dulles, S.J. Fordham
University Bishop Francis George, OMI Diocese of Yakima (Washington) Dr.
Kent Hill Eastern Nazarene College Dr. Richard Land Christian Life Commission
of the Southern Baptist Convention Dr. Larry Lewis Home Mission Board of
the Southern Baptist Convention Dr. Jesse Miranda Assemblies of God Msgr.
Murphy Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Boston Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
Institute on Religion and Public Life Mr. Brian O'Connell World Evangelical
Fellowship Mr. Herbert Schlossberg Fieldstead Foundation Archbishop Francis
Stafford Archdiocese of Denver
Mr. George Weigel Ethics and Public Policy Center Dr. John White Geneva
College and the National Association of Evangelicals
ENDORSED BY: Dr. William Abraham Perkins School of Theology Dr.
Elizabeth Achtemeier Union Theological Seminary (Virginia) Mr. William
Bentley Ball Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Dr. Bill Bright Campus Crusade for
Christ Professor Robert Destro Catholic University of America Fr. Augustine
DiNoia, O.P. Dominican House of Studies Fr. Joseph P. Fitzpatrick, S.J.
Fordham University Mr. Keith Fournier American Center for Law and Justice
Bishop William Frey Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry Professor Mary
Ann Glendon Harvard Law School
Dr. Os Guinness Trinity Forum Dr. Nathan Hatch University of Notre
Dame Dr. James
Hitchcock St. Louis University Professor Peter Kreeft Boston College
Fr. Matthew Lamb
Boston College Mr. Ralph Martin Renewal Ministries Dr. Richard Mouw
Fuller Theological Seminary Dr. Mark Noll Wheaton College Mr. Michael Novak
American Enterprise Institute John Cardinal O'Connor Archdiocese of New
York Dr. Thomas Oden Drew University
Dr. James J. I. Packer Regent College (British Columbia) The Rev. Pat
Robertson Regent University Dr. John Rodgers Trinity Episcopal School for
Ministry Bishop Carlos A. Sevilla, S.J. Archiocese of San Francisco
"Copyright May, 1994, FIRST THINGS. Reprinted with permission. This
statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together originally appeared in
the May, 1994 issue of FIRST THINGS. The latest statement of Evangelicals
and Catholics Together, "Do Whatever He Tells You: The Blessed Virgin Mary
in Christian Faith and Life," appears in the November 2009 issue of FIRST