Palmer told me the draft Declaration has three elements: the Nicean-Constantinople Creed, which Catholics and evangelicals share; the core of the Catholic-Lutheran declaration of 1999 making clear there is no disagreement over justification by faith; as well as a final section asserting that Catholics and evangelicals are now “united in mission because we are declaring the same Gospel.”
Last Wednesday, in Bath, Palmer’s funeral was a Catholic Requiem Mass at which most of the congregation were evangelicals. He was buried in a Catholic cemetery, united at last with the Church he felt at home in.
Pope Francis sent a message, which was tearfully read out by Emiliana Palmer. In it he said he and Palmer were close friends, and like father and son, “Many times we prayed in the same Spirit.” He praised Palmer as a brave, passionate and pure-hearted man in love with Jesus, who left a precious legacy in his passion for Christian unity.
Francis created the strong impression that the work he and Palmer had begun would continue.
“We must be encouraged by his zeal,” the pope said.
The Nicean-Constantinople Creed, which Catholics and evangelicals share.
However, do they?
The big, big problem is ecclesiology and how the Catholic Church understands herself. Do evangelicals mean one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church the way Catholics understand it? I don’t think so. To borrow from a popular meme: “Church” doesn’t mean what you think it means; “Apostolic” doesn’t mean what you think it means.
Are these secondary issues? Should the Catholic Church change its teaching on Holy Orders? On Apostolic Succession?