Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wood, Susan

Second Advisor

Carey, Patrick

Third Advisor

Dabney, Lyle


Receptive Ecumenism is a reassessment of the ecumenical process, in light of the remaining challenges and difficulties faced by ecumenists. It recognizes that ecumenism might need to adjust to the complex diversity of the Christian church today, especially amidst a culture that no longer sees diversity as a negative thing. The goal of traditional ecumenism, visible unity through theological and ecclesiological convergence, is put aside in favor of an ecumenism of mutual enrichment and self-examination. The Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is an example of traditional ecumenism. This dissertation examines some strengths and weaknesses of the Joint Declaration, and argue for a more Receptive approach to justification in future ecumenical work.

The doctrine of justification is a particularly fruitful subject for Receptive Ecumenism because the differences in its articulation reflect deeper foundational differences between Catholics and Protestants. In particular, Catholic soteriology has an ontological setting that emphasizes process and increase of Christ's applied grace. In contrast, Reformed soteriology is situated in a much different forensic setting that emphasizes the declaration of Christ's accomplished grace. These are significant differences that say something about the identity and perspective of these traditions, and they require greater definition at the ecumenical table.

Receptive Ecumenism takes a much more modest approach to remaining areas of theological and ecclesial difference like justification. It more candidly affirms and appreciates those differences, with the hopeful expectation that because of them, each church may have something to learn from another church. Furthermore, Receptive Ecumenism identifies distinct gifts that each tradition brings to the ecumenical table. This dissertation suggests ways that Catholic and Reformed Christians can helpfully discuss justification in today's ecumenical milieu.