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The following statement is the product of consultation, beginning in September
1992, between Evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians. Appended to the text
is a list of participants in the consultation and of others who have given their support
to this declaration.
1. We are Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who have been led
through prayer, study, and discussion to common convictions about Christian faith and
mission. This statement cannot speak officially for our communities. It does intend to
speak responsibly from our communities and to our communities. In this statement we
address what we have discovered both about our unity and about our differences. We are
aware that our experience reflects the distinctive circumstances and opportunities of
Evangelicals and Catholics living together in North America. At the same time, we believe
that what we have discovered and resolved is pertinent to the relationship between
Evangelicals and Catholics in other parts of the world. We therefore commend this
statement to their prayerful consideration.
2. 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)
3. 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
4. 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 Protestants.
5. 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 Third Millennium.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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
10. 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.
11. The mission that we embrace together is the necessary consequence of
the faith that we affirm together.
We Affirm Together
12. 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)
13. 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)
14. 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)
15. 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 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. Amen.
We Hope Together
16. 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
17. 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)
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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
21. 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)
22. 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 Evangelicals.
23. 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 these:
- The church as an integral part of the Gospel or the church as a communal consequence of
- 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.
24. 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, 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.
25. 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.
26. 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
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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 Kingdom.
30. 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.
31. 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.
32. 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
33. 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 institution.
34. 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 Christians attempt to recruit the state in repressing religious freedom.
35. 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.
36. 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.
37. 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.
38. 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
39. 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.
40. 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.
41. 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
42. 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.
43. 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.
44. 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 good.
45. 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.
46. 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.
47. 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.
48. 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 discussible 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.
49. 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
50. 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.
51. 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 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
52. 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
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.
53. 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
54. 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.
55. 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.
56. 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.
57. 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.
58. 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 3)
59. 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
60. 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.
61. 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.
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. William 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
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., Archdiocese of San Francisco