UK evangelicals affirm centrality of Reformation in their communities

1790 Carey Bible Credit Photo Phiend via Flickr CC BY NC ND 20 CNA Photo Phiend via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

An umbrella grouping of evangelical Christians in the United Kingdom has issued a statement marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which reaffirms that movement's "enduring importance" for them.

"It is clear that many of the core distinctions that developed between Luther's understanding and that of the Roman Catholic Church remain between modern-day evangelicals and Catholics," Evangelical Alliance's statement said. "In certain areas, however, there have been significant attempts to foster deeper understanding of the theological and ecclesiastical differences that distinguish each tradition, and to develop this understanding in a less conflictual way."

The evangelicals also noted that particularly with regard to "evangelism and social and medical ethics" there has been "genuine collaboration and co-operation towards agreed ends."

The Evangelical Alliance works with 81 denominations and 600 organizations in the United Kingdom which identify themselves as evangelical Christians, and aims to help them listen to and be heard by government, media, and society.

Their statement called the Reformation "not so much an innovation as a recovery." After discussing the primacy of Scripture and Martin Luther's understanding of justification, the alliance noted "the plurality of religious expression to which the Reformation gave rise," which it said "can be seen in both positive and negative terms, and is a reminder that for all its necessity and for all its phenomenal achievements, the Reformation had consequences which were at times more complex, and in certain cases, less positive."

Evangelical Alliance then noted that much progress has been made in reconciliation between the Catholic Church and ecclesial communities, especially in the last 100 years of the ecumenical movement.

Enumerating the main points of divergence between evangelicals and Catholics, the group listed the nature and authority of the Church; the papacy and papal infallibility; the sacraments; and Mariology.

Turning to points of convergence and co-operation, Evangelical Alliance noted creeds, evangelism and renewal, and the ethical issues of abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage.

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, stated that "It has been in the area of public policy especially that evangelicals and Catholics have come together over the last 40 years to put pressure on the government and work for the common good. In protecting the beginning and end of life this work has been particularly evident, as well as in many other areas that contribute to our wellbeing as a society."

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