BY LUKE COPPEN THE LUTHERAN Church voted to end a major 400 year doctrinal controversy with Rome last week.
The 124 member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) voted overwhelmingly in favour of withdrawing its condemnation of the Catholic doctrine ofjustification by faith.
The dispute, which inspired the Reformation, began in 15??, when Martin Luther criticised the Catholic Church for teaching "salvation by works". Luther argued that Scripture taught salvation by faith alone (soIa fide).
Over the next four centuries the Lutheran and Catholic Churches exchanged condemnations of their respective doctrines. But in 1993, the LWF began to cooperate with the Vatican to produce a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.
The declaration, finished in February 1997, stated that a consensus on the doctrine of justification had been reached. It said: "The Lutheran and Catholic explications ofjustification are, in their difference, open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding basic truths."
The document was then sent out to all LWF member churches for approval. Their responses were considered at a meeting of the LWF Council in Geneva on 16 June. Ninety churches, representing 95% of Lutherans, approved the declaration.
"This is what we've been praying for and hoping for after 30 years of dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church," said Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of LWF. "It should be celebrated as a historic moment for our two churches."
The official Catholic response is expected to be made soon. Fr Michael Seed, Ecumenical Officer for Archbishop's House, said: "It would be hoped that the response will be a most positive one to this healing of wounds."