Dear friends at St. James Episcopal Church in Conroe. Thank you for your hospitality this morning. Here are some of the notes and links from our conversation this morning. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
— John 17
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Words of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen
— Martin Luther, at the Diet of Worms
Lutherans and Reformed Churches
A Formula of Agreement – 1997
As churches of the Reformation, the ELCA, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ entered into full communion in 1997. After 32 years of dialogue – and in light of identified doctrinal differences and consensus – these churches worked together to form a foundational document titled, “A Formula of Agreement.” The work of reception is carried forward by the Lutheran-Reformed Coordinating Committee.
Among other things, the agreement means that the four churches:
- fully accept each other as rightly preaching the gospel
- encourage the mutual sharing of the Lord’s Supper among members
- recognize each other’s ordained ministers and ministries, and
- commit themselves to the ongoing process of further understanding in a common expression of evangelism, witness and service.
In our synod, Presbyterian Pastor C. O. McGee serves Trinity Lutheran Church in LaMarque, Texas. We also have a Presbyterian pastor serving our congregation in Texas City.
Lutherans and Episcopal Churches
Called to Common Mission – 1999
In 1999, the ELCA entered into full communion with The Episcopal Church. “Called to Common Mission: A Lutheran Proposal for a Revision of the Concordat of Agreement” is the document that describes that relationship. The Episcopal Church took its final action on this relationship at its 2000 General Convention in Denver. The work of reception is carried forward by the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee.
In the introduction to “Called to Common Mission” there is an important statement about the spirit of this agreement. “Our churches have discovered afresh our unity in the gospel and our commitment to the mission to which God calls the church of Jesus Christ in every generation. … Our search for a fuller expression of visible unity is for the sake of living and sharing the gospel. Unity and mission are at the heart of the church’s life, reflecting an obedient response to the call of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As a guide for understanding the full communion agreement, a commentary was developed. It provides helpful information on the text and agreement for “Called to Common Mission.”
Episcopal priest Rich Nelson served Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Greenvine, Texas for seven years. He is now associate pastor at Salem Lutheran Church in Brenham. ELCA Pastor George Bement works for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas in Houston. ELCA Pastor Robin McCullough-Bade served as interim pastor at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge.
Following Our Shepherd to Full Communion
Lutherans and Moravians – 1999
In 1999, the ELCA entered into full communion with the Moravian Church as it was described in the document, “Following Our Shepherd to Full Communion.” The Southern and Northern Provinces of the Moravian Church in America also approved this document. In 2007, the ELCA extended a full communion invitation to the Alaska Province of the Moravian Church in America. The invitation was not accepted by this Province. The work of reception is carried forward by the Lutheran-Moravian Coordinating Committee.
Lutheran churches and Moravian Provinces worldwide have for decades been in virtual full communion, including the interchangeability of ordained clergy and Eucharistic hospitality. Moravians and Lutherans regard themselves as distinct members of a single flock who are following their Shepherd in mission and ministry. Themes of “the Good Shepherd,” of following Jesus, and of fellowship through discipleship were at the forefront of the Lutheran–Moravian Dialogue leading up to the full communion agreement.
Confessing Our Faith Together
Lutherans and Methodists – 2009
In 2009, the ELCA entered into full communion with the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church General Conference had approved the agreement in 2008. “Confessing Our Faith Together” is the full communion agreement with the United Methodist Church. This marked the first time that the ELCA had moved into a full communion relationship with a church that had a membership larger than that of the ELCA. The work of reception is carried forward by the ELCA-United Methodist Church Coordinating Committee.
U.S. Lutherans and United Methodists began official dialogue in 1977. About four years later, this first round of dialogues had produced a common statement between the denominations on the Christian sacrament of Baptism, which affirmed the validity of baptism administered in accord with Scripture in our churches. From 1985 to 1987, a second round of dialogues concluded with a common statement on the role of bishops in both church bodies. A third round of dialogues began in 2001, resulting in a proposal for Interim Eucharistic Sharing between the two churches at a 2004 meeting – the final step before the adoption of the full communion agreement by both churches.
We have a Methodist pastor currently serving Lutheran Church of the Galilean in La Place.
We are currently in bilateral dialogs with six church bodies.
A “bilateral dialogue” involves two parties coming together in order to seek awareness, heal wounds and deepen a relationship. Contemporary bilateral dialogues between churches in the world received new enthusiasm from the entry of the Roman Catholic Church into the ecumenical movement in 1965, an event marked and ratified by the Second Vatican Council. Since then, many of these dialogues have allowed churches to establish relationships that permit greater sharing of pastors, witness, mission and ministries.
- Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Roman Catholic
- Orthodox – Trinity. A common date for Easter.
Lutherans and Catholics
This year is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, but it is also the 50th anniversary of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogs.
The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue has been in ongoing discussions since 1965. Each “round,” or set of discussions, covers a specific topic important for the life and vitality of both communions. There have been four phases:
- Phase I (1967-1972)
- Phase II (1973-1984)
- Phase III (1986-1993)
- Phase IV (1995-2006)
Recent rounds have had focused discussions on
- “The Church as Koinonia of Salvation”
- “The Hope for Eternal Life” and
- Ministries of Teaching: Sources, Shapes and Essential Contents (for discerning the truth coming to us in God’s Word and communicating this truth in normative teaching for today).
The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) – 1999
In 1999, we reached a milestone in our dialogs. A common statement on Justification by Grace Through Faith was signed by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation.
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ)
Declaración Conjunta Sobre la Doctrina de la Justificación
This document recognized that the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches of the 16th century are not the Lutheran and Catholic church bodies of today. The anathemas do not apply to today’s churches.
Declaration on the Way
In order to harvest the fruits of these bilateral dialogues, Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist was published, highlighting 32 essential areas of agreement as a foundation for unity. This document does not pretend that we agree on everything. It simply highlights the great many things on which we already agree, rather than continue hammering on the things where we disagree.
What unites us is much greater than what divides us.
— Pope John XXIII
From Conflict to Communion
As we approached 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Lutheran-Catholic dialog team began to imagine what it might be like to commemorate this anniversary together. This would be the first Reformation centenary to be held during the era of ecumenism, and the era of globalization. What if we commemorated this anniversary with an eye to proclaiming the gospel, rather than rehashing a 16th century argument?
From Conflict to Communion is a report of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity, prepared by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). Chapters:
- Commemoration of the Reformation in an Ecumenical and Global Age
- New Perspectives on Martin Luther and the Reformation
- A Historical Sketch of the lutheran Reformation and the Catholic Response
- Basic Themes of Martin Luther’s Theology in Light of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogues
- Called to Common Commemoration
- Five Ecumenical Imperatives
- The first imperative: Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.
- The second imperative: Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves contin- uously be transformed by the encounter with the other and by the mutual witness of faith.
- The third imperative: Catholics and Lutherans should again commit them- selves to seek visible unity, to elaborate together what this means in concrete steps, and to strive repeatedly toward this goal.
- The fourth imperative: Lutherans and Catholics should jointly rediscover the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time.
- The fifth imperative: Catholics and Lutherans should witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.
Created by the Liturgical Task Force of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, Common Prayer provided a liturgy for the common commemoration of the Reformation that was approved by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation.
The Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church held Common Prayer together on October 31 last year (2016) at the Lutheran Cathedral in Lund, Sweden.
Cardinal DiNardo and I will lead Common Prayer at the Cathedral on Wednesday, October 25, ten days from today. 7:30 p.m.
Various congregations in the Houston area will also be holding Common Prayer together, such as Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic and Lord of Life Lutheran in The Woodlands.
Salvadoran artist Christian Chavarria has created a vibrant 2m-high cross for the joint Reformation commemoration, replete with meaning for both Catholics and Lutherans. Dirk Lange says the significance of the design lies in its depiction of God’s creative and sanctifying work.