Text affirms Catholic-Lutheran common ground
#1
From Our Sunday Visitor:

Quote:Historians disagree on whether Martin Luther really posted his famous “95 Theses” on a church door. But whether he did or didn’t, those 95 theological propositions unquestionably helped to usher in the Protestant Reformation and the splintering of Christendom flowing from it.

With the 500th anniversary of these momentous events less than two years away, ecumenically minded Lutherans and Catholics are looking for ways to narrow the gap between them.

A recent product of that effort is the Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist composed by a dialogue group representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, Catholic co-chairman of the group, said the document points to “an opportunity for Lutherans and Catholics to join together now in a unifying manner on a way finally to full communion.”

[Image: banging-head-on-keyboard-smiley-emoticon.gif]

Quote:Elizabeth A. Eaton, the ELCA’s presiding bishop,

Of course she is...

Quote:called Declaration on the Way “exciting” for identifying areas where “already we can say there are not church-dividing issues between us.”
History of dialogue

The document synthesizes and summarizes points of agreement and disagreement identified by Lutheran-Catholic dialogues at the international and national levels over the last half-century. It calls on the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to identify a process and timetable for addressing the issues that still separate the two bodies.

Among the notable achievements of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in recent years was a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed in 1999 in Augsburg, Germany. The understanding of “justification” — the mode of God’s redemptive action in the souls of sinful human beings — was a key point in dispute in the 16th century theological conflict between Luther and his followers and their Catholic opponents.

But despite the agreement on justification and other issues noted in Declaration on the Way, Lutheran-Catholic differences that remain include many that are, in the document’s words, “church-dividing.”

From that perspective, the declaration illustrates not just how far Lutherans and Catholics have come but how far they still have to go.

The disagreements include sensitive matters like ordination, including the ordination of women, and the role of the pope. Furthermore, the new document deliberately leaves unexamined abortion and other “moral issues that are often deemed to be church-dividing” concerning which Catholics and Lutherans hold conflicting doctrinal views.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the largest of three main Lutheran bodies in the United States, the others being the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The ELCA, with a little under 4 million members, is generally regarded as a mainstream Protestant church. Missouri Synod Lutherans number about 2.6 million and are more conservative, while the Wisconsin Synod, with 400,000 members, is the most conservative of the three. The ELCA was formed in 1988 by the merger of three Lutheran bodies. It has lost hundreds of congregations since 2009, when its decision-making Churchwide Assembly voted to let gays and lesbians in monogamous same-sex relationships serve as clergy. The denomination also allows the blessing of same-sex unions.
Theological differences

Not surprisingly, however, Declaration on the Way stresses the positive. From this point of view, its heart is found in 32 “statements of agreement” concerning the document’s three central themes: church, ministry and Eucharist.

For the most part, the agreements are affirmations declaring shared belief on various doctrinal and pastoral matters and couched in general terms.

So, for example, the document says the “normative origin and abiding foundation” of the church on earth is “the Gospel, proclaimed in the Holy Spirit by the Apostles.” But what is this Gospel, and where can it be found? Here, the declaration acknowledges an unresolved difference between Catholics and Lutherans, with Catholics recognizing the teaching authority of the pope and bishops and Lutherans fearing a hierarchical “monopoly.”

Serious difficulties also surface under the heading of ministry.

For one thing, the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize Lutheran ministers as ordained priests. They may be fine people, but looked at with Catholic eyes, Lutheran ordination lacks “apostolicity” — a quality requiring transmission of ordination by the laying on of hands administered by persons with episcopal authority from generation to generation in an unbroken line extending from Jesus’ apostles up to now.

The ordination of women is another sticking point. As Declaration on the Way expresses it: “Many Lutheran churches ordain women, while the Catholic Church considers itself not authorized to ordain women.” This, the document observes in a notable understatement, “has complicated issues of mutual recognition of ministry.”

Up to now, it adds, “it has not been determined how church-dividing these differences might be or how the questions for further discussion might best be articulated.”

As for the pope and his teaching and governing authority, the document acknowledges these issues to be “among the most long-standing and obvious differences between Lutherans and Catholics,” with “no promise of imminent resolution.”
Going forward

According to its sponsors, the list of 32 agreements in Declaration on the Way has been “received and unanimously affirmed” by ELCA’s Conference of Bishops and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Lutheran bishops in turn have asked that the ELCA Church Council accept the agreements and forward the document to the ELCA’s 2016 Church Assembly, the denomination’s highest legislative body. “Reception” also is being sought from the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, accompanied by a request for expanded opportunities for Lutherans and Catholics to receive Communion together.

“The expansion of opportunities for Catholics and Lutherans to receive Holy Communion together would be a significant sign of the path toward unity already traveled and a pledge to continue together on the journey toward full communion,” the document says.

And now? The British historian Christopher Dawson called the Reformation and events flowing from it a “religious cataclysm.” And as even well-intentioned projects like Declaration on the Way make clear, along with real progress in bringing Lutherans and Catholics back together, the aftereffects of that cataclysm still litter the landscape even after half a millennium.
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#2
In my view, these ecumenical agreements are misguided. It should be clear by now that the Protestant denominations are not going to convert en masse and enter the Catholic Church. Even if they did, whatever agreement was made with the Protestant denomination is meaningless at that point since some will convert and some will not. What happens, then, is always an individual conversion.

Individual conversions are not brought about by joint agreements with so-called theologians. The only result of such agreements, to the extent anyone cares at all, is for (1) the theologians to have a false sense of accomplishment toward "unity," and (2) the laypeople to get the impression that there is no need to convert.

While I am sure that these discussions are interesting to the so-called theologians who engage in them, they are a waste of time at best and a destroyer of souls at worst.
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#3
(12-17-2015, 03:22 PM)ermy_law Wrote: In my view, these ecumenical agreements are misguided. It should be clear by now that the Protestant denominations are not going to convert en masse and enter the Catholic Church. Even if they did, whatever agreement was made with the Protestant denomination is meaningless at that point since some will convert and some will not. What happens, then, is always an individual conversion.

Individual conversions are not brought about by joint agreements with so-called theologians. The only result of such agreements, to the extent anyone cares at all, is for (1) the theologians to have a false sense of accomplishment toward "unity," and (2) the laypeople to get the impression that there is no need to convert.

While I am sure that these discussions are interesting to the so-called theologians who engage in them, they are a waste of time at best and a destroyer of souls at worst.

This is basically my take.  There's nothing per se wrong with first affirming our commonalities while working toward unity.  But ultimately we just keep saying the same things over and over again and no real progress is made. I remember some prelate, maybe even Pope Benedict, not too long ago said that bridges are built to be crossed.  But bridges are treated to often simply as something to be admired. Either way, as you mention, corporate reunion, barring a miracle, is like herding cats.

As an aside, no one ever refers to the Catholic Church's formal response to the Joint Declaration on Justification, which pointed out where the Joint Statement was problematic and where points of disagreement regarding justification still exist.  :shrug:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontif...ic_en.html

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#4
(12-17-2015, 03:22 PM)ermy_law Wrote: In my view, these ecumenical agreements are misguided. It should be clear by now that the Protestant denominations are not going to convert en masse and enter the Catholic Church. Even if they did, whatever agreement was made with the Protestant denomination is meaningless at that point since some will convert and some will not. What happens, then, is always an individual conversion.

Individual conversions are not brought about by joint agreements with so-called theologians. The only result of such agreements, to the extent anyone cares at all, is for (1) the theologians to have a false sense of accomplishment toward "unity," and (2) the laypeople to get the impression that there is no need to convert.

While I am sure that these discussions are interesting to the so-called theologians who engage in them, they are a waste of time at best and a destroyer of souls at worst.

Ratzinger,in his book Theological Highlights of Vatican II seemed to say that the ideas floating around at the time was that corporate reunion between ecclesial bodies and Rome is no longer the goal, and that these various dialogue sessions and agreements are eventually maybe leading to the point where both sides can simply agree that none of the issues of the past were really issues at all. In short, after a bunch of meetings and joint agreements Lutherans don't need to convert because they basically believe the same thing as we do only with different emphases.

I admit I'm a bit uncouth and uneducated but this is what I've gotten from reading the book and following this stuff closely over the years.

As far as Lutherans go I'm not sure what to say,other than I imagine some of the things he said could possibly be seen in a Catholic manner. I'm quite partial to some of what he says as long as I read it critically.

I will agree that ultimately armchair theologians and other academic types are not going to solve the problems of heresy and schism that easily if ever, although I suppose one can gain some fresh insights from time to time. 
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#5
Given the strong divisions within Lutheranism over issues like women bishops and homosexual marriages, maybe it's time to establish a Lutheran Ordinariate within the Church in order to accommodate converts with an affinity for the patrimony of Lutheran worship and spirituality. Full communion is probably not going to happen, so instead, such talks should be used as a pretext to identify evangelical strategies and cultivate relationships for use in establishing something on the uniate model.
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#6
(12-18-2015, 04:16 AM)Cyriacus Wrote: Given the strong divisions within Lutheranism over issues like women bishops and homosexual marriages, maybe it's time to establish a Lutheran Ordinariate within the Church in order to accommodate converts with an affinity for the patrimony of Lutheran worship and spirituality. Full communion is probably not going to happen, so instead, such talks should be used as a pretext to identify evangelical strategies and cultivate relationships for use in establishing something on the uniate model.
I understand that there are some small Lutheran groups that have petitioned the Vatican for a corporate entry into full communion with the Catholic Church.
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#7
(12-18-2015, 04:16 AM)Cyriacus Wrote: Given the strong divisions within Lutheranism over issues like women bishops and homosexual marriages, maybe it's time to establish a Lutheran Ordinariate within the Church in order to accommodate converts with an affinity for the patrimony of Lutheran worship and spirituality. Full communion is probably not going to happen, so instead, such talks should be used as a pretext to identify evangelical strategies and cultivate relationships for use in establishing something on the uniate model.

This sounds like a good idea actually. There have been some interesting movements within Lutheranism over the years that are pretty interesting and that might work in this Ordinariate sort of thing. I can recall once being pleasantly surprised to see that the traditional high church Lutheran Liturgy and calendar were more traditional in more ways than one than the modern Roman Rite!

Perhaps from a pragmatic point of view we can no longer discount Lutherans altogether. They have been a part of the Western Christian landscape for close to 500 years and have developed their own patrimony.  I imagine only a handful would come into " full communion" anyway, or you'd have breakaway groups like the ACC crowd within traditionalist Anglicanism who wanted the patrimony but wanted nothing to do with full communion with Rome.

Some of the Nordic Lutherans are actually quite interesting. Not your average Lutherans. I've been reading about them lately.
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