The midday service, led by the Dean of Westminster, Dr John Hall, featured a new anthem, commissioned for the occasion by Danish composer, Bent Sørensen.
It also included the official presentation by the Archbishop of Canterbury of a resolution from the worldwide Anglican Communion which welcomes and affirms the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation.
Last year the World Communion of Reformed Churches also signed up to the declaration, while the World Methodist Council did the same in 2006.
The service in Westminster Abbey was followed by a symposium, entitled ‘Liberated by God’s Grace’, bringing together leading academics to discuss the ongoing impact of the Reformation and its effect on the Church and on society.
Canon Jean Gibaut is director of the Anglican Communion’s office for Unity, Faith and Order. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the significance of Tuesday’s events.
He says celebrations were organized by Lutheran Council of Great Britain as their final 2017 event. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was invited to preach and he also presented to the LWF and the Catholic Church a copy of the Anglican Consultative Council resolution from 2016 in which the Anglican Communion welcomes and affirms the substance of the JDDJ.
Gibaut notes that the Anglican Communion was able to make this gesture to the Catholic and Lutheran Churches on the basis of “what we were able to say about salvation” through the work of both bilateral dialogues.
Gibaut explains that the Anglican Communion is not a signatory to the text in the way that World Communion of Reformed Churches or the World Methodist Council is. He points out that Anglicans and Catholics came to agreement in a 1986 document called ‘Salvation and the Church’, while a similar agreement with Lutherans was reached in the 1990s.
He says the Anglican Communion resolution last year demonstrates that we are “entirely supportive in extending our welcome to the JDDJ and affirming the substance of it, which is a theological assessment as well”.
Anglicans have been invited to join Lutherans and Catholics around the world in marking 2017, including Tuesday’s celebration at Westminster Abbey. Gibaut says the passing of the resolution, together with its formal handing over, are part of a much larger picture of Anglican participation in the events of this Reformation year.