The Lutheran World Federation - the world's major grouping of Lutheran churches - has received significant support from its member churches for a major ecumenical initiative with the Roman Catholic Church which is intended to resolve a doctrinal dispute that has lasted more than 400 years.

Next month, the LWF's Council (the organization's governing body) will decide whether sufficient consensus exists within its member churches for the LWF to sign with the Vatican a joint declaration on the doctrine of justification, a key difference between the two traditions since Martin Luther broke with Rome in the 16th century.The LWF had asked its 124 member churches to indicate by May 1 whether they accepted that a consensus existed between Catholics and Lutherans on the "basic truths" of the doctrine of justification and whether they agreed that Lutheran condemnations, dating from the Reformation, of the Catholic doctrine of justification no longer applied to the Roman Catholic Church.