“The new statement of faith, crafted by a team of Protestant theologians and church leaders, aims to show that Protestants are actually more catholic (meaning ‘universal’) than Roman Catholics, who demand allegiance to the Roman pontiff, or than Orthodox Christians, who reject the claims of Rome but still rely heavily on apostolic succession to guarantee faithful Christianity.”
The most obvious effect of the Reformation—which celebrates its 500th anniversary this year—is division.
It is estimated that more than 33,000 different Christian denominations now exist throughout the world, and much of this is blamed on the Reformation. While some are making the case that difference does not necessarily constitute division in Protestantism and the global church, the plethora of denominations is a source of concern for Protestants, who are the heirs of Martin Luther’s movement that has tended to create new churches rather than reform existing ones.
The “Reforming Catholic Confession,” released today, aims to demonstrate that—despite “denominationalism”—Protestants are remarkably unified.
Additionally, the new statement of faith, crafted by a team of Protestant theologians and church leaders, aims to show that Protestants are actually more catholic (meaning “universal”) than Roman Catholics, who demand allegiance to the Roman pontiff, or than Orthodox Christians, who reject the claims of Rome but still rely heavily on apostolic succession to guarantee faithful Christianity.
So far, the confession has garnered more than 250 signatories, with a wide swath of Protestant denominations and traditions represented by initial signatories such as Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore, philosopher William Lane Craig, biblical scholar Tremper Longman III, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Samuel Rodriguez (a CT board member), and Billy Graham Center for Evangelism director Ed Stetzer (a CT blogger).
The list is primarily scholars and academic leaders, but nearly 20 percent are denominational leaders, pastors, or ministry leaders. Signatories hail from 25 different countries and more than 110 institutions (80 from the US, and 30 international). The list is currently dominated by men, with women making up only 10 percent of the signatories thus far. The number of signatories is expected to grow now that the confession has been released to the public, with hopes that more female and international signatories will join.
The group behind the confession is an unlikely alliance of Protestant thinkers who were brought together by the idea of producing positive proof of Protestant unity to honor the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
The idea originated with Jerry Walls, professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University. While researching for an upcoming book on Reformation catholicity, Walls noted that “a number of Protestant theologians were calling for a recovery and renewal of catholicity.” In particular, Walls was struck by recently published books by Peter Leithart, Michael Allen and Scott Swain, and Kevin J. Vanhoozer, all arguing for a broad Protestant consensus under such names as “Reformational Catholicism,” “Reformed Catholicity,” and “Mere Protestant Christianity.”