Appealing to what Richard Baxter and C.S. Lewis famously called “mere Christianity,” the 6,500 word document drew primarily from New Testament precepts and the Trinitarian doctrine of the Nicene Creed. Affirming a common Christ as Lord and Saviour, ECT declared that “Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.” Recognising the saving power of the cross and the authority of a divinely-inspired Bible, ECT affirmed “together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ,” and that “Christians are to teach and live in obedience to the divinely inspired Scriptures, which are the infallible Word of God.”
At the same time as affirming a common Christianity, ECT did not seek to paper over the real and ongoing differences existing between the two traditions — most notably in their ecclesiology, doctrines of the sacraments and scriptural authority vis-à-vis church tradition. Realistic about its scope and ambition, the agreement made it clear that it could not, in itself, resolve these doctrinal disputes stemming from the Reformation.
Shifting to the Christian church’s engagement with society, the ECT recognised the enormous degree of overlap between the Catholic social teaching of the papal encyclicals and Evangelical social ethics, articulated in books such as John Stott’s Issues Facing Christians Today. As such, it called for Evangelicals and Catholics to cooperate in contending for the importance of marriage and family, the sanctity of human life at all stages of development and a free society based on a market economy with humane safeguards to protect the poor and weak from poverty or exploitation.
Prominent Evangelical signatories to ECT included: the Reformed Anglican theologian, J.I. Packer; the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Bill Bright; the Evangelical historian, Mark Noll; and the author and cultural commentator, Os Guinness. Meanwhile, from within the Catholic fold, ECT attracted the endorsements of Michael Novak from the Institute on Religion and Democracy; George Weigel, the acclaimed biographer of Pope John Paul II and Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre; Cardinal John O’Connor of New York; and Archbishop Francis Stafford of Denver.