Protestant leaders sign 'Reforming Catholic Confession' marking 500th anniversary of Reformation

A statue of Protestant reformer Marin Luther in in front of the Frauenkirche in Dresden, Germany. | Wikimedia Commons/Jorge Royan

In anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on Oct. 31, more than 250 pastors and theologians have signed a document called "Reforming Catholic Confession" on Tuesday with the aim of demonstrating unity among different Protestant denominations.

The document, produced by a drafting committee composed almost entirely of US-based scholars, outlines the main theological commitments held by a wide variety of Protestant Christians, including evangelicals, since the Reformation.

Jerry Walls, an author and professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University, said that the purpose of the confession is to demonstrate the remarkable togetherness among Protestants worldwide on the core elements of Christianity.

The confession contains 12 articles outlining the beliefs of Protestants in basic tenets of Christianity, such as "The Triune God," "The Atoning Work of Christ," "The Gospel," and "The Church," as well as 25 explanations that capture key cornerstones and dimensions of the Christian faith.

Walls came up with the idea for the confession while researching for an upcoming book on Reformation catholicity.

"I just got the idea that one of the best ways we could actually commemorate the Reformation, and remind people of what really lay behind it and what motivated the Reformers was to come up with a confession of faith that represented the substantial unity among the heirs of the Reformation," he told The Christian Post.

He reached out to several biblical scholars and theologians, including Kevin Vanhoozer, a professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, to help him in drafting the confession.

Walls and Vanhoozer went on to form a group of 18 interested theologians and church leaders who agreed to serve on the drafting committee to write and edit the confession.

The first draft of the confession was completed in April by a drafting committee made up of 16 men and two women from five different nations, who fine-tuned the statement for four months before approving a final draft in July.

Initial signatories of the confession include 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, and Billy Graham Center for Evangelism director Ed Stetzer.

Wall said that he decided to call it a "catholic" confession because he felt that it was important to reclaim the word "catholic."

"The Church of Rome simply calls itself, 'The Catholic Church.' It is not the catholic church. It is one part of the holy catholic church," he stressed.

"We want to make clear that 'catholic' is a much more expansive reality than the church of Rome. And we want Protestants to understand that when they are true to their own heritage, and their own roots, they are 'catholic' also," he added.

The signatories of the document are mostly scholars and academic leaders, but almost 20 percent are denominational leaders, pastors, or ministry leaders, according to Christianity Today.

The full text of the confession has been published online and it has already been translated into French, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish.