Mange katolikker har merka at konservative protestanter (i USA ofte kalt ‘evangelikale’) de siste år har blitt mer og mer vennlige mot oss katolikker. Det kommer bl.a. av at de ser at vi katolikker står fast på tradisjonelle kristne standpunkter på mange områder, men også fordi noen har jobba aktivt for ei tilnærming mellom disse to gruppene. En person som gjorde akkurat dette, var Richard John Neuhaus, som døde 8. januar i år. First Things (som han var redaktør for siden starten i 1990) brukte mesteparten av aprilnummeret til å ‘skrive hans pris’. Der skriver bl.a. Charles Colson om Neuhaus’ arbeid for ‘Catholics and Evangelicals Together’ – som jeg også har skrevet om HER.
… it was his decision to enter the priesthood—combined with his Lutheran past—that prepared him for founding Evangelicals and Catholics Together. As my friend Timothy George wrote about Fr. Richard recently in Christianity Today: “Only a thinker so well grounded in the Reformation traditions could be an honest broker in bringing faithful evangelicals and believing Catholics to recognize the common source of their life together in Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures, and the great tradition of living faith through the centuries.”
Indeed, without Richard’s influence and leadership, we never could have pulled together Catholic and evangelical leaders to openly acknowledge our theological differences, affirm the things we held in common, and confidently assert the Christian worldview we shared. Here was true ecumenism: not ecumenism in the usual sense of reducing things to the lowest common denominator, but rather an open, frank, discussion about our differences and commonalities. All, as Fr. Richard so often insisted, in pursuit of the truth.
It was also an ecumenism that wasn’t warmly received by some in both evangelical and Catholic circles. In 1994, Fr. Richard and I held a press conference in New York during Holy Week to announce a joint statement of the truth we could affirm together. To our surprise, we made headlines: “Evangelicals and Catholics to Unite.”
There was a backlash in the evangelical ranks like nothing I had seen before. Some donors to Prison Fellowship withdrew their support. Some of my best friends in the evangelical movement, respected theologians, chastised me for holding anything in common with Rome. It was the evangelical equivalent of an Inquisition. But I couldn’t back down. I believed deeply in God’s leading of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. And I knew Fr. Richard would stand with me and stand by his convictions.
In 1997, after two years of discussions in which Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy from the Vatican participated, Evangelicals and Catholics Together issued its most important paper: “The Gift of Salvation.” And in it, as evangelicals and Catholics together, we agreed to the following statement. “We agree that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own; it is entirely God’s gift . . . Faith is not merely intellectual assent but an act of the whole person, involving the mind, the will, and the affections, issuing in a changed life. We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone ( sola fide).” It was a remarkable moment. Cardinal Cassidy said that even though ours was an informal group, not having official Church recognition, the “The Gift of Salvation” was so thoughtfully written that he would use it as a teaching paper in Rome.