Blog
Page 1 2 3 4 5 6   Entries 1-5 of 30
November 4, 2016, 8:26 AM

From Conflict to Communion - Together in Hope


As a follow up to my article from October, I wanted to ask the very Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” with regard to the Joint Lutheran and Catholic commemoration of the Reformation in Lund, Sweden.  Gathering under the theme "Together in Hope" and building upon a document prepared by Lutheran and Roman Catholic theologians titled "From Conflict to Communion", this gathering of Lutherans and Roman Catholics from around the world was historic.  Still, some will say, “not much” in response to the question, "What does this mean?"  And in some respects, they are correct.  There was no doctrinal shift, no surprising announcement that Lutherans are now welcome to commune in the Roman Catholic Church.  However, there were some significant developments from an ecumenical perspective. 

First, Lutherans and Roman Catholics agreed to approach their dialogue out of those things that we hold in common instead of what divides us.  As Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President, Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land said in his opening remarks, "With joy we have come to recognize that what unites us is far greater than what divides us."  This approach led to an important announcement at the event in Malmo following the service—more on that below.  It also led to statements of repentance from both communions:

Quoting “From Conflict to Communion” LWF General Secretary Martin Junge said, “In the sixteenth century, Catholics and Lutherans frequently not only misunderstood but also exaggerated and caricatured their opponents in order to make them look ridiculous. They repeatedly violated the eighth commandment, which prohibits bearing false witness against one’s neighbor.”  Representing the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Koch then acknowledged, “Lutherans and Catholics often focused on what separated them from each other rather than looking for what united them. They accepted that the gospel was mixed with the political and economic interests of those in power. Their failures resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. We deeply regret the evil things that Catholics and Lutherans have mutually done to each other.”  This act of repentance is significant because it acknowledged the ways in which both sides failed to live out of the unity we are working toward.

Third, as part of the joint statement signed at the service, Lutherans and Roman Catholics committed to sharing in Holy Communion as an end goal of these dialogues.  This is important because those who are unfamiliar with ecumenical dialogues often assume that unification into one church is the goal.  IT IS NOT.  Lutherans and Roman Catholics value the diversity within the Body of Christ, and that does not mean we all have to agree on every theological point in order to share Holy Communion with each other.  For example, it means that Lutherans can lift up the role of women in ministry and Roman Catholics can abide by their dogma around an all-male priesthood.  It means that Lutherans don’t have to accept the teaching authority of the Pope as the final authority.  We do need to have serious discussions about these and other issues that divide us, but unification into one denomination is not the goal.  Rather, a shared Eucharistic Table is what we see as the culmination of our ecumenical efforts.

Finally, at Malmo, the Vatican and LWF signed a “Declaration of Intent” between Caritas Internationalis and LWF World Service.  Building upon our common calling to serve others in Christ’s name, the international aid arms of each denomination are committing to “actively look for opportunities to work together increasingly in countries affected by conflict and war, and where large numbers of refugees are on the move.”  LWF World Service Director Maria Immonen continued by saying, “The poor are expecting this of us. The world is expecting us to work more closely together. We need to bring hope, inspiration and faith in humanity through our work together.”  The churches named as a first priority responding to the crisis in Syria. (For more, see:  https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/new-beginning-lutheran-and-catholic-aid-agencies and http://www.caritas.org/2016/10/concrete-action-lutherans-catholics-service-worlds-poor/ )

These developments may seem small or slow for some, but in the world of ecumenism, they are giant leaps forward—especially when one considers where Lutherans and Catholics were fifty years ago.  And ultimately, it is up to us to move the dialogue forward.  The joint statement is not simply a document for theologians.  In fact, it ends with a call to all of us: "We call upon all Lutheran and Catholic parishes and communities to be bold and creative, joyful and hopeful in their commitment to continue the great journey ahead of us. Rather than conflicts of the past, God’s gift of unity among us shall guide cooperation and deepen our solidarity. By drawing close in faith to Christ, by praying together, by listening to one another, by living Christ’s love in our relationships, we, Catholics and Lutherans, open ourselves to the power of the Triune God. Rooted in Christ and witnessing to him, we renew our determination to be faithful heralds of God’s boundless love for all humanity."  May it be so, and may we be called to serve as disciples of Christ—together in hope.

(For the full text of the joint statement from the service in Lund, click here.)

(For the full text of "From Conflict to Communion" click here; it is a PDF download on the right of that page.  This resource is the theological foundation for the joint commemoration.)  


Page 1 2 3 4 5 6   Entries 1-5 of 30