Catholic-evangelical signers address areas of controversy

By Martin King

ATLANTA (BP)--Three Southern Baptists who signed the controversial document "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" (ECT) have endorsed a statement intended to "resolve misunderstanding and be more explicit." Those three are Richard Land, president of the SBC Christian Life Commission; Larry Lewis, president of the Home Mission Board; and Charles Colson, who was instrumental in drafting ECT as well as efforts to clarify it. The 25-page original document was issued last year by 40 evangelical and Catholic leaders. It called for Catholic and evangelical cooperation on social and cultural issues such as fighting abortion, pornography and attacks on the traditional family. Some conservative Protestants have criticized ECT for what they perceive as theological compromises. The 250-word clarifying statement listed five areas of concern.

Lewis, in a March 9 statement, said the clarification should "alleviate the fears of those who understand the theological questions involved and the gravity of the social issues addressed" in ECT.

The clarifying document commits signers to "the historic Protestant understanding of salvation by faith alone" and states that "evangelism and church planting are always legitimate, whatever forms of church life are present."

"I must again emphasize that ECT was not and is not primarily a theological document," Lewis said. "It is an attempt to consolidate the influence of Catholics and evangelicals on the most serious moral and social concerns of our day."

The clarifying statement also has been signed by Bill Bright, Campus Crusade for Christ founder; theologian J.I. Packer; TV evangelist Pat Robertson; Ralph Reed, executive director, Christian Coalition; and Richard Mouw, president, Fuller Theological Seminary in California. The new statement also notes that cooperation with Catholics "for the pursuit of agreed objectives does not imply acceptance of Roman Catholic doctrinal distinctives or endorsement of the Roman Catholic church system." Land was quoted in the Indiana Baptist newsjournal as commenting, "I'm delighted at the efforts of Dr. Colson and others which have resulted in clarifying any possible misunderstandings concerning the commitment of evangelical signers of Evangelicals and Catholics Together to justification by grace alone by faith alone."

Land described the original document as one which seeks to focus on common evangelical and Catholic moral concerns and enunciates far more areas of remaining disagreement between Catholics and evangelicals than it does areas of agreement." The clarifying document emphasizes that, he added. He reiterated that the ECT acknowledges that people should witness "in any context to their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior."

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