Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue: Accomplishments and Challenges

By | September 13, 2019

(bell dinging) – Our next session,
Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, Accomplishments and Challenges. So let me introduce myself. I am Christopher Bellitto and
I am a professor of history at Kean University in New Jersey. But I’m here today wearing my hat as academic editor at large of Paulist Press. And in that capacity, I have been, I was honored to edit a particular book, and one of the speakers
here today is the co-author. You may know that Paulist Press is one of the co-sponsors of this event, and on behalf of Paulist
Father Mark-David Janus, our president and publisher, I want to thank you for being here and for Georgetown for its hospitality. I think that John Berelli and
I dreamed this up at an AAR, maybe three years ago. And of course the immediate
thing is, maybe it was 2014. 2017? And all we could think
of was, we’re behind. And of course we can’t
possibly do this in October because everyone’s gonna be in Germany. Hence, that’s why we’re
doing this here in September. We do have, since I’m from New Jersey, I can get away with shameless shilling, we do have in the back a book
exhibit with a number of books concerning not just
Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, but more broadly, on Christian unity, a new book by Russ Murray
on Anglicans and Catholics, primarily talking about papal primacy, which of course is an
issue that was raised in yesterday’s presentations by
John O’Malley and Ken Appold. And so in the back there
are some of these books. I want to point out two specifically since two of our authors are here. One is Phil Krey. Phil, where are you? There’s Phil. Phil Krey, who, with his brother, introduced and edited The Catholic Luther, His Early Writings, with an image that I think
Christine would be pleased with. Because it does put Luther
back as a medieval monk. And the second is by one of
our presenters this morning, a book co-written by Susan
Wood and Timothy Wengert by a foreword by Martin Marty called a Shared Spiritual Journey: Lutherans and Catholics
Traveling Toward Unity. And the very action of
writing this book was itself a shared journey because there
were three people involved. Tim Wengert and Susan
Wood and myself as editor. Susan was really the straw
that stirred that drink. And most of this was done via
email and through the magic of Microsoft Word’s track changes. I have not deleted those files and someday might put them in an archive. Because they themselves bear testimony to a shared effort to get it right. As an editor I always
envision myself as a midwife. And I was very pleased to be a midwife to this particular book. So I’m sure that Susan and
Phil would be willing to sign their books and
I’m going to get a book out of Kathryn before we leave today. Our two presentations
this morning are really two halves of a whole. Kathryn will go first
and Susan will go second. And we’ll have questions at the end. This is a shared Powerpoint,
a shared presentation. So let me introduce both of
them before the presentations. Kathryn Johnson has been
director for ecumenical and interreligious relations
for the ELCA sinc 2015. And she is a member of
the current US Lutheran- Roman Catholic dialogue and
participated in the task force which produced the Declaration on The Way: Church Ministry and Eucharist. She’s also worked at the
Luthern World Federation office in Geneva as assistant general secretary for ecumenical affairs
and is professor emerita of historical theology at
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary where
she was on the faculty for 30 years. And isn’t it delightful
to be in an audience where you can say emerita and
they know what that means? (audience laughing) Her education is from Saint
Olaf, Cambridge and Yale. And highlights of her
ecumenical experience have been the Lutheran World Federation’s Act of Repentance and
Reconciliation with churches of the Mennonite Anabaptist
tradition in 2010, and of course, this year’s
remarkable commemoration. Susan Wood is a sister of
charity of Leavenworth, Kansas, and professor of systematic theology in the department of
theology at Marquette. Are you still chair? – I’m chair again. – I’m sorry. (audience members laughing) And past president of the
Catholic Theological Society of America. She too has been very
active in ecumenical work, serving again, on the US
Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue for over 20 years. And the North American
Roman Catholic Orthodox Theological Consultation. The conversation between
the Roman Catholic church and the Baptist World Alliance and the International
Lutheran-Catholic dialogue. And she participates in
consultations primarily on baptism, theological anthropology
and ecumenical dialogue. She has edited pro
ecclesia and ecclesiology and is the author or
editor of One Baptism: Ecumenical Dimensions of
the Doctrine of Baptism, Spiritual Exegesis and
the Church in the Theology of Henri de Lubac, Sacramental Orders, and Critical Issues in Ecclesiology, Essays in Honor of Carl Braaten. We look forward to this presentation. (audience applauding) – Susan and I are delighted to be with you and delighted to be able
to do this together. As we talked at breakfast
about what we hoped for this, we hope that you will
see in our presentation, both the history of collaboration
that lies between us and among many in this room, as well as the content
of what we will both say. For it is the development
and intensification of relationships, of
friendship and learning and listening together that has helped to advance the ecumenical movement. We have not interpreted our topic to be a survey overview of the last 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogues, listing the topics and
reports from international and national accomplishments. Instead, we will be focusing in particular on the document you have heard already, the Declaration on the Way:
Church Ministry and Eucharist. But coming at it as I begin
with some contextualization of what brought us to this point. We want to say that we
are focused at this point on doing something that
we hope is substantive and responsible but is
also an unabashed witness to the hopefulness and the
urgency of the ecumenical task at this moment. So we’re not balancing our
challenges and opportunities. We’re leaning on the opportunities. For some reason, discussion
of the ecumenical movement in the last couple of
decades has fallen into a meteorological frame of mind. And you often hear this described
as an ecumenical winter. That is not language
that we are going to use. That it was developed
as an image, I think, by those who had remembered
and been excited by the first decades after
the second Vatican Council, when agreement and structural
change in the light of those agreements seemed
very near around the corner. And when these changes
proved more difficult, more intractable, more further along, for a wide variety of
socio-cultural as well as theological reasons, the language of its being a
cold season of sharp winds started to develop. The current general secretary of the World Council of Churches
who is a Norwegian Lutheran tried to give a positive
spin to this language by saying that as a Norwegian he knew how essential winter was, there
was so much good stuff going on under all that snow. But even he has come now
to abandon this language because of the signs of
change that we’re seeing around us. Those who were trying to be
more hopeful than winter, used the language of autumn. It’s a time to pause and
harvest what has been accomplished in our ecumenical
relationships over 50 years. The most substantive witness to this was the book that Cardinal Kasper edited, Harvesting the Fruits, which
looked at four relationships and lifted up the agreements reached. But even that image of
gathering and putting into barns with the hope that sometime
we can do something with those crops, I think is
not the most helpful image for the opportunities of this time. There are very vulnerable things going on. We’ve heard in many of the presentations indications of things that can go wrong in ecumenical relations. For reasons we will be talking about, this is a moment we think
that things also are opening up again, particularly in this
Lutheran-Catholic relationship. To seizing possibilities
that have been prepared for over many hard seasons of work. So I would go along with those ecumenists from the global south who
questioned from the beginning the language of ecumenical winter. And pointed out what a
northern image that is, when really, if we think globally, it is always winter someplace,
but also a place of growth and a season of opportunity in others. The image that Susan and
I would hold before you as the defining image for this talk is the image that you’ll
find on the cover of the Declaration on the Way, about
which we’ll be speaking. This is a portrayal by a
Chinese-American artist of the story in Luke’s
gospel of the road to Emmaus. It was not a text that
we dealt with or exegeted during the process of
producing the Declaration, but at the end when we
came upon this possibility, the image became for us a defining picture of what we were trying to accomplish. It is a picture of disciples who begin in some discouragement, are in the presence of Christ
in ways they cannot yet fully identify or claim for themselves. And yet it is in walking
along and talking together, examining the scriptures,
that they find themselves moving closer to the end to their journey, which we know is the meal
that they will share, in which the risen Christ is encountered. So this image of being
on the way together, which captures both the incompleteness and the intensity of the call, became the image for our process. You will hear book
ending what we say today a plea for a hermeneutic of generosity surrounding and transforming
the hermeneutics of suspicion that have so often characterized
the way we deal with us. You heard in the first
presentation this morning calls for dealing with
the deep misunderstandings we have of each other’s traditions still. And we find this continuing
in the way in which we construct unreachable goals. We are hoping that with a
hermeneutic of generosity that comes very close to
what Bishop Madden discussed last night, we can move further. Bishop Madden, the Catholic
co-chair of this process, and of our current US
Catholic-Lutheran dialogue, pled last night at our dinner for a kind of reverence as a way of knowing that takes seriously our
conversation partners and the tenets that they hold most dear. Not as a way of shying
away from difference but as a way of offering
generosity that responds to the call for love that must always be held together with truth. As we have been saying
throughout this conference, 2017 is the first of the
centenary anniversaries in the ecumenical age. This is an anniversary
that invites us to claim the unity that we know we
are called to live into. On the Lutheran side, there
was a deliberate determination that this would not be an
ecumenically triumphalist or destructive year, but would be, first of all,
a year that was ecumenically engaged and accountable. And those modest adjectives
showed the determination first to do no harm. They did not adequately
capture what we experienced as we went through the year, which was that this year
has indeed been a time not only of doing no harm
in ecumenical relationships, particularly between
Lutherans and Catholics. It has been a time of
reconciliation and movements toward healing. When else would you see the
pope with a playful statue of Luther like that? And more to the point, how
would we ever have imagined that it would be Pope
Francis who co-hosted the inauguration of the observance
of the 500th anniversary? That was a carefully chosen verb. Pope Francis did not visit
the service that Lutherans organized and held to
begin this commemoration. He was with Lutheran
leadership, the co-host. And preached along with the
Lutheran general secretary a sermon in which it was
the pope who articulated the meaning of justification by faith. He said in this sermon,
he said it in Spanish, but here it is for us. The spiritual experience of
Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart
from God we can do nothing. With the concept of by grace alone, he reminds us that God
always takes the initiative prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response. The doctrine of
justification thus expresses the essence of human existence before God. At the service in Lund, this
image of a Salvadoran cross was introduced that captures a picture of our current condition. Rooted in God’s creative,
sustaining hands, called together as Christians by baptism, living together and spread
out on the arms of the cross, in ways that are not yet together, around the table that is there, over which the risen Christ resides. So the image both of what
we share and what we have yet to do is the image of this year. The Lund liturgy has
proved itself capable of an adaptation to many settings. I recognized paragraphs from
it in the service we had last night. That was the 13th time that I have prayed serious parts of that
liturgy and have found it appropriate and flexible
for each of those settings. We used it in the United
States where the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for ecumenical and interreligious affairs met with our ELCA conference of bishops and used the Lund liturgy,
signed a statement, making the same commitment
that Pope Francis and the Lutheran leaders had made in Lund. This included commitment
to continue dialogue. It includes care for the
world in the US specification. It lifted up especially
care for immigrants. But our US bishops like the
pope and the LWF leaders took onto their lips the language of hearing the yearning in our people, that we move forward to greater unity, particularly around the table. And accepting the pastoral responsibility to continue the work that
will make that possible, including the work of continued dialogue. The whole process would not
have been possible at all without the study document produced by the International Commission
called very carefully From Conflict to Communion. This claims the communion
that we already have, the partial but real
communion in which we live, and turns aback on the
conflict, the sometimes violent but often ugly conflict
that has separated us. This was the first of these
two major summative documents produced for this anniversary. And it sets the tone in
its reliance on all of the biblical and historical
and theological scholarship that has happened over the last 50 years. What happened in the past, From Conflict to Communion
says, cannot be changed. But what is remembered of the
past and how it is remembered can be changed with the passage of time. Remembrance makes the past present. In view of 2017, the point is
not to tell a different story, but it is to tell that story differently. At Lund, the work of this study commission was transformed into liturgical form. And I think that unlike
sometimes shallow liturgies that were described earlier this morning, the capacity of this liturgy to be adapted and to speak in different contexts comes directly from its strong shaping by the work of this
theological commission. This is in fact theology
turned into liturgy. And the center of that
transformation is that out of this document are
lifted up three themes: thanksgiving, repentance and commitment. I cannot emphasize strongly
enough that what I’m going to say in the next few
minutes about both dialogue and about repentance would
not have been possible without the careful theological
work of multiple commissions over the last 50 years. These are not easy thanksgivings
or cheap repentances, but they are grounded
in the best encounter of these theological
commitments toward each other over this time. We have 50 years not only
at the international level but also and in fact first,
beginning first here in the US, and in other places around the world, you’re not surprised to
hear Germany, Scandinavia, Brazil and other places
where these dialogues have gone on for these many years, and given us the possibility
of outlining places where convergence and
agreement is possible. In particular the US
dialogue has played that role at the international scene
on a number of issues: ministry, Eucharist,
justification and papacy. These are all places where
the US dialogue fed into ongoing international dialogues. And the hope is that we
can continue to do that. As we’ve heard several times, the culmination, the crown
jewel of the dialogue uniquely between Lutherans and Catholics, is the achievement of a joint
declaration that changes the official teaching of
both participant bodies. And bilateral dialogical
encounters that have begun since Vatican II with many partners, this has not happened except in this case. And it is worth noting that uniqueness. Because it has allowed us
to begin from a new place, to begin from what some
commentators have said is a transformed world, where the heart of our mutual condemnation in the 16th century is
held not to be condemnation that we need to repeat of each other now. On this particular issue, Lutherans and Catholics
said, together we confess. Together we confess, by grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work, not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and
receive the holy spirit who renews our hearts while
equipping and calling us to good works. As you can tell, Pope
Francis had read that when he preached in Lund. I want also to call
attention to what happened when this was signed in 1999. There was the official recognition of the importance of this. That hug is unscripted. The Germans had planned that any kind of official recognition of the
importance of the moment would come after everyone had signed and everyone would be directed to applaud. But not Cardinal Yet, but Walter Kasper and the general secretary of the LWF report that they just couldn’t resist. So as they stood, they hugged each other. And it is that picture
that is in the PCPCU. The joint declaration is
important not only for its affirmation of what we confess together. It is also important for
the method it pioneered. Known by the technical
theological term of a differentiating consensus. It is a carefully
written document that has common affirmations and
then Lutheran readings and Catholic emphases
carefully alternating on points through the rest of the document, including seven points on
which Lutherans and Catholics still have significant but
not church-dividing issues. And that recognition that there can be important non-condemnation, and yet the continuation of
different patterns of piety and theology and practice, that look to be incompatible, has been one of the great
contributions of this declaration. Because it invites theologians
to continue the search for frameworks that are
larger than the frameworks of theological understanding that produced what seem to be intractable oppositions. To think of wider ways and new approaches that will allow these different
emphases and practices to continue without needing to be decided in an either-or kind of way. We heard this morning
some of the discussion of the complexity of
scholarship that underlies our theological work. And so this continuing adaptation to new theological frameworks is one of the ongoing tasks
of ecumenical dialogue. Paulist has back in its book display one of the follow-throughs
to the joint declaration, which was a promise
made at the time of 1999 that Lutherans and
Catholics would continue to explore the biblical basis of
the doctrine of justification. They did that with Reformed
and Methodist collaborators. And I have to say, with all respect, it’s a rather dull book. Because the scholars
discovered that there were no confessional differences
that were separating them on those issues. There were interesting national divisions of academic formation,
particularly and poignantly related to how close collaboration
had been with Jewish scholars. Not respect for Jewish scholarship. That was a shared value. But actual engagement with
concrete Jewish interpreters was not so widely available. That was not a confessional difference. Also part of what you
notice in the book is that it was dull and agreed upon
because all the scholars were using the same methods. Agreed on methods of historical criticism. And those few members
from the global south who were raising questions
from other perspectives, notably post-colonial ones, are not finally represented so much in the common statements. So even though this looked
as if it was a done deal, it is an ongoing task to
interpret the Bible together around these issues. Also an ongoing part of reception is the ecumenical reach
of the joint declaration which has had a new level
of expansion in this anniversary year. Already in 2006, the World
Methodist Council had affirmed the joint declaration and
then set an excellent example of how to do that by attaching to it a signing statement with Methodist values of sanctification lifted up. The Reform did the same thing last July in Wittenberg, Germany,
when they also affirmed the joint declaration
with a strong statement of justification and justice. And the Anglican communion
also has affirmed just within the last 15 months
the content of the statement. So we have many lessons
of dialogue to rejoice in and many yet to accomplish. I want to speak for just a
moment about the way in which Lund would not have been possible if we had not learned also
lessons of repentance. Again, these acts of
repentance come not only from our personal living together but also from the careful
work of historical scholarship that has discovered that
to tell history together in ways where the telling is
accountable to multiple voices is itself a healing and reconciling act. I lift up first of all the
beginning of this millennium, when Pope Saint John Paul II
began this new millennial year with an extraordinary
sermon on the Day of Pardon, in which he identified
not only the things to be continued and celebrated after 2000 years of Christian experience, but those particular places
where repentance was necessary. Now we say between
Lutherans and Catholics, we say it in the Declaration on the Way, that our two traditions bind, we have different boundaries
on the way in which we speak about whether or not
the church itself can sin. But we are together on recognizing the practical implications
of the sinful consequences of those who act in the church’s name, those who are the people of the church. And the Pope’s setting the
tone for this millennium was an extraordinary act. On the Lutheran side,
we have had experience, hard-won experience in
recognizing the ways in which there has been anti-Jewish language, not only in Luther’s later writings, but carried on in our tradition. Again, as we heard this
morning, this is an ongoing and unfinished task of looking at Luther’s biblical interpretation as
well as his theological works. But officially, the church
in the United States, the Luthern World Federation, other Lutheran bodies around the world, have looked simply at the record and said, we disavow both what
Luther said about Jews in some of these writings, and the consequences they
have had in our churches. More recently and with more direct impact on this anniversary year, Lutherans had another
act of formal repentance. Like Catholics, like Reformed, Lutheran Christians in the
16th century engaged in persecution of members of
the Anabaptist traditions. The Mennonites and others who look back to that tradition of believer baptism, withdrawal from state demands
and idolatrous claims, and other kinds of teachings
that made them seem subversive and very dangerous
in the 16th century. We had never acknowledged that. And in dialogue we discovered
that we couldn’t get further on issues like baptism
because while we had forgotten what Lutherans had done
in the 16th century, the members of those traditions had not. And still told those stories
as ways of inculcating young people with a witness
to the kind of extreme witness that the discipleship
they were entering into might require of them. So it became clear after
all of the kinds of ameliorating reasons had been studied, it became clear to Lutheran
members of the dialogue that the only possible
recourse was to ask forgiveness of this tradition. And that began a really
extraordinary process, helped by people who
had participated in the South African church’s
resistance to apartheid and the truth and reconciliation
processes afterwards. And with other experiences
around the world, Lutherans encountered
the questions of how we understand responsibility
for actions we might not have individually committed ourselves, but have been parts of communities that where the continuing influence and impact of those actions continues. So in 2010, there was an act of repentance at the Lutheran World Federation Assembly, asking forgiveness of
God and our Mennonite brothers and sisters for
those acts of persecution and for the ways we had not addressed them in the intervening centuries
and for the ways in which we had continued with the
misleading stereotypes of them that had undergirded that persecution. It was an extraordinarily moving moment, not least because the Mennonites, hearing this was going to happen, had been praying in preparation
for it for two years, and arrived with a foot washing tub made by the Nickel Mines
Amish community in the US, which was the location of a brutal slaying of a teacher and her students, and the forgiveness of that community. They didn’t belong to the
partner in this action, but that Amish community
wanted to be part of this reconciliation. When that vote was taken, the president of the LWF
turned to the Catholics and to the Reformed and said, we call you especially,
since you share the guilt, to join with us in this act, but we understand that
we are not doing this just in front of the whole church, we’re doing it on behalf
of the whole church and ask you to join in prayer, for this healing. At that moment, voting yes for this action was interpreted to mean
kneeling in prayer. At the close of that extraordinary
moment, Cardinal Kasper, who was there representing
the Catholic church, walked from that room and said, if we can have this spirit of
humility and reconciliation and forgiveness for the 2017 anniversary, then we have the possibility
of real reconciliation. I think the element of repentance
that is present in Lund needs to be read against moments like that where we have come to know
the reality of forgiveness and want to extend that to one another. Another feature of the Lund
liturgy that is so remarkable is that it took the five
ecumenical imperatives that came out of the theological
commission’s document and made them into five
ecumenical commitments that were reached with prayer
and in a liturgical act by the affirmation of the assembly. I’ll mention only the first. To begin always 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. Each of the three parts
of that is a real zinger. First of all, to begin from
the point of view of unity. We say often in the ecumenical movement that what unites us is more
important than what divides us. But this calls us to
hold that in our minds as the framing context
that we recall and honor before we come to engagement
with those pesky divisions, including the differences
that are on points that are very dear to each of our hearts. There’s a reason for that. In order to strengthen
what is held in common. And there’s a caution. Even though the differences
are more easily seen and experienced. So living into that
commitment is going to take us a little bit of doing. Let me say just a little
bit as I finish here about the context of the
Declaration on the Way. This was an effort on the part
of US Lutherans and Catholics to make a contribution in this time as the anniversary year approached, and as we saw the kind of
openness to moving forward that might be possible. As you can tell, those
are not the easy issues. But the declaration was
an effort to address an ongoing problem in ecumenical life. How do we receive these
documents, ecumenists always ask. Agreements that are reached
with great passion and devotion by the commissions that produced them and yet seem not to be
changing our churches as much as we might hope. How do we address this
problem of reception? You’ve heard one approach
already this morning through liturgical action. A second is through this
exploration of a new kind of ecumenical document that was an effort to take
the stacks of dialogue reports known only to ecumenical
specialists and sometimes even ecumenical specialists
find themselves specialized only in part of them or
troubled with forgetfulness, to take those long lists of documents who are said in our churches
to have a certain authority that no one has ever quite defined, and to assemble from these agreements those places where we already have reached significant agreement on three topics that are felt and recognized
widely in our churches to be intractable and
complex and deserving of lots more work. This was an effort to have a
declaration that was midpoint between something like the
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. We’re not there yet on these issues. Between that and a stack
of dialogue reports, how could we get this process
moving forward on the way? And the effort was, as you
see, to claim this image of being on the road to Emmaus. We had in our Lutheran church,
the possibility to present the agreements reached in this document to our church-wide assembly, which our highest governing body, meets every three years. And in August of 2016,
with Susan on the platform, with Bishop Madden there, we presented these 32
statements of agreement and the document itself
as a study resource to the thousand voting members. And then we waited for the results, hoping as our former
presiding bishop had indicated we could hope for 75,
80% if things went well. We were also prepared for a whole list of theological questions. We had books stashed under
the chairs and on the tables. That wasn’t what we got. What we got were comments
and testimonies and pleas. In a session that became
increasingly quiet, increasingly a holy space, as people spoke of the
deep interweaving of their Lutheran Christian lives
with the lives of their Catholic fellow students,
neighbors, coworkers, co-participators in works for justice, co-participants in Bible
study and spiritual direction, and of the pain that that brought when those relationships
could not be fully expressed, notably at the table. When the vote came and it was 99% plus, out of a thousand voting members, that vote was on behalf
of telling the church, get on with this, please. On behalf of those who
are bearing the cost of this disunion. Martin Junge at the
general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation has talked about this double accountability
that theologians have to work for unity not only because that is part of our Christian call, but also because there is
a responsibility to those who bear the cost of disunion. In their families, in their efforts to witness
to the Christian message in a pluralist world in ways that are made more difficult by our disunion, and in other places
where we bear that cost. So as he told the International Commission at its final meeting in
July, they hope, in Poland, the task of theologians
is not to articulate the reasons we cannot move forward. The task of theologians
engaged in ecumenical dialogue is to create and imagine
and articulate persuasively those theological frames
that will allow us to do so. The defining moment of
our church-wide assembly for all those who participated in it was captured in this tweet, when Bishop Madden lifted
the chalice he had been given and looked forward to
a day when we can share the chalice of the
precious blood together. In that moment, I think,
we experienced exactly what the definition of ecumenism, that is our working definition
in the ELCA, promises. Ecumenism is, first of
all, the joyous experience of the unity of Christ’s people. And then secondarily,
but also essentially, it is the serious task
of expressing that unity visibly and structurally
in order to advance the proclamation of the gospel for the blessing of humankind. This year, I think, has
been a time of advance in that experience and work of ecumenism. Susan? (audience applauding) – Thank you, Kathryn. As we said before, this
is two parts of a whole, not two talks. But I want to begin by
responding (chuckling) to a couple things you said,
in the spirit of dialogue. We started out with the
notion of repentance as being one of the themes of
this commemoration of 2017. And I can tell, I was on the commission that developed From Conflict to Communion, and these documents do not develop easily or in a straight line. And so at one point, I
was proposing that we use the literary genre of a lamentations psalm as kind of the structure of this document, which, obviously, hit the cutting floor because it’s not there. But it’s true that we have to repent of anti-Semitism. We have to repent of
the polemical discourse and the misjudgments and the hot language of the Reformation. But Theo Dieter, who’s a Lutheran on the
international dialogue, taught me a really important lesson that I’d like to share with you. Because there are things
of the Reformation that Catholics cannot repent of. And we should not repent. And so we have to, you
know, correctly identify what deserves repentance and what doesn’t. And what does not deserve repentance is Luther’s anguished cry of, how shall I find a gracious God? We cannot repent of the
evangelical emphasis on the gospel. We cannot repent of having, something that ended up in church unity but had a very positive root in trying to search for that gospel. And so as a Catholic, I
need to acknowledge that there are graces of the
Reformation that are to be cherished by both traditions. And that it’s not all beat
your breast, you know, and sit in sack cloth
and ashes or something. So that’s the first thing. The second thing I wanna say about when I was looking at your slide again, of the stacks of documents, that then somehow are
looking for reception. And there are challenges to reception. One of the challenges
of reception is that we look at the results of
dialogue through old categories and custom lenses. And what’s really hard is when, ecumenism has become a subseat
theological discipline. There is so much literature. You cannot teach it in one class. So it’s a subdiscipline in theology. And what’s hard about it
is that it has this method, it looks for new categories, it’s not lowest common
denominator theology. And then people who haven’t
been on the dialogue come along and read
these through old lenses. And one example of that is
the category of validity. Or to look at the Eucharist and say, if I don’t see the word
transubstantiation in there, something’s missing. And so this is one of the receptions, is how do you communicate
shifts in theological paradigms of how you look at things? But anyway, those are just
two responses I wanted to say. So you know, we structured
this presentation around Declaration on the Way, which is an American document
in response to Cardinal Cook’s invitation to do something
that’s in via, on the way. And so the first thing I wanna
say is what’s gonna happen, first of all, they’re
the three most important anguished topics, which would be Eucharist,
church and ministry. But the question is, what’s
gonna happen to it next? I refer to this as
ecumenical money laundering. (audience laughing) We’re trying to get it
into an international arena for reception. Which means that it is most
probably not in its final form. And if you look at the process
that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of
Justification went through, it went through, I forget now, three to five draftings. And the committees that worked on that changed in their composition. And frankly, we have a political problem in that it is an American document and it’s a little hard to get
it into a European context. So what our hope is is
that it would be received and mandated. The commission went over and
talked to the International Joint Commission of
Lutherans and Catholics and they didn’t feel themselves mandated. But if the Lutheran World
Federation and the PCPCU would give this back to
the commission and say, we want a response or we
want you to work further on these documents. Or I know there’s a German
ecumenical commission that’s taking it up and studying it. But the problem right
now is its authority. It is an official document,
adopted by the ELCA church-wide assembly as Kathryn just said, by 99.4% approval, but right now, on the Catholic side, it’s been unanimously approved
by the ecumenical committee of the USCCB. And by the way, that’s about
the same level of approval that the document Coworkers
in the Vineyard has because that document also
came out of a subcommittee of the USCCB, not the entire assembly. And so the question then again,
is how do these move forward in terms of some kind of
authoritative document? Eventually it’s gonna have to
be on an international scene, however that can happen. The structure of the
Declaration is really important to know what kind of
authority we want it to have because the sections do
not have equal authority even within the document. So after an introduction,
there’s a statement of agreements of 32 affirmations. This is the core of the document. This is what the ELCA affirmed
in its church-wide vote. This is what we want to be received. And as I look at this, look at
them, one critic called them, well all they did was
pick the low-hanging fruit on the tree. But cumulatively, it’s
a powerful statement. So one way to pastorally use
this document is to have people go around and read these
agreements out loud. Because there’s a cumulative effect to what we can say we agree. Then the third section
is supporting elaboration from dialogues. Again, the method is important. In writing this, we did
not go back to theologians. We did not, for the most part, go back to confessional statements, either in Catholic Magisterial documents or the Lutheran Book of Confessions. What it was is going back
to prior dialogue reports. And so that’s a very conscious
methodology in terms of, so there’s a bit of a
harvesting moment there. But there’s a strong correlation,
a one by one correlation between the statements of agreement and the supporting
elaboration from dialogues, just to show that these
statements weren’t pulled out of the sky but have
some kind of background. Now section four has remaining differences in reconciling considerations. It was never meant to
correlate point by point to the 32 agreements. The reason it is there, and it does not claim to be exhaustive, that’s really important. The reason it is there is
that if you have a document in via, on the way, this is not a consensus document. It’s a document that shows
we’ve made some progress and we have progress yet to be made. And so if you have
progress yet to be made, you better point out
what some of these areas that require further dialogue are. So again, one of the
critiques of this so far is that you didn’t correlate this. And it’s incomplete and
why is it the way it is? Because we’re trying to
demonstrate the in via character of the rest of the document. And then, there’s a section
five, which is next steps on the way with some suggestions of how we can live together
and how we might go forward. And they’re proposals to the church. They’re not mandates. They’re proposals that can
be received and talked about. And so that’s the structure. One of the things that
I think needs to happen in ecumenical dialogue in the future, is that we have to develop a
methodology of correlation. So Kathryn mentioned that one
of the methodological advances of the JDDJ was a
differentiating consensus. I think that is still
viable going forward, but what we need to add
to that is a correlation. What has happened in the
past is that when we’ve picked up topics, we’ve picked them up in
comparative isolation one to the other. So church gets discussed, although there is a
correlation between church and justification in one of the
international dialogues. Or there’ll be a document
on Petrine ministry. Or there’ll be a document on ministry, or a document on Eucharist. But the point is is that
these are really connected one to the other. And so, I’m a systematic theologian. This is kind of how I think. I would suggest, for example,
is one example of correlation, is that since Vatican
II, we have acknowledge an imperfect communion between
Lutherans and Catholics. Right now the international
commission is studying baptism and growth in communion, trying to figure out what we can say. And one of the statements
that’s gonna come out of that is that it’s not only individual
Catholics and Lutherans that are in communion, but communities are in
communion with one another. Which we’ve assumed, but
they’re just trying to connect the dots on that one. But if we have an imperfect
communion of churches, is it also possible to have an imperfect recognition of ministry? If you look at the
correlation, if you correlate ministry and church, that demands using new categories. So for example, the category of validity is an all or nothing category. But the category of
validity seems to fall out when we look at Unitatis
redintegratio III, which says that those
celebrations of the Lord’s supper give access to that grace
necessary for salvation. That can’t happen without a ministry that is effective at some level. And so I told a group
at Nashota House that even though, for example, Leo XIII, declared the nullity of
Anglican orders in 1896. I don’t think we can
claim that despite that, as of Vatican II, because there is obviously
an effective ministry of keeping the church in that
grace necessary for salvation. And if you look at the JDDJ, the ministry of Lutherans has
kept the church in the faith regarding justification that is necessary. So we see the fruits of ministry. And if you see the fruits of ministry, can’t you argue, to a communion
that we have achieved, and then can that be correlated
with what we’re saying about the relationship of churches? And then Eucharist obviously
also needs correlation. So, if we look at church, many things that we hold in common are the christological
center of the church’s trinitarian foundations. I’m not gonna go through
all the doctrines. I’m going to more talk
about the principles. And the principle is that we cannot demand absolute equivalencies of one another in our ecumenical dialogue. So for example, one of the
differences with church, just to illustrate this, is that in Lutheran land, the parish is the fullness,
has what’s necessary for church because according to CA7,
it’s where the word is purely preached and the
sacraments are rightly celebrated. For Catholics, it has to be the diocese because we put the ministry of the bishop as a necessary equation for that. And yet, dialogue 10 of the US dialogue showed that there is
again a correlation that the Catholic’s most immediate
experience of church is in the parish. And Lutherans affirm the need
for a regional structure. So that they’re both necessary. And there are different
Lutheran interpretations of CA7. Some say that a ministry
is implicitly implied in the preaching and sacramental
character of the church because that doesn’t take
place without a ministry. Obviously, ministry is one
of the difficult topics. Related and correlated with church, probably the biggest
point of difference is what kind of teaching authority
ministry has in the church in terms of papal teaching when you start talking
about infallibility. Both of our communions
hold to the principle of indefectibility. That the church would be
preserved in the truth necessary for salvation. But how that happens in our
churches is very different. In the Catholic world, the teaching office is associated with the
magisterium, which are the bishops. In the Lutheran polity, there’s
a mandated participation of the laity in
decision-making structures, which would be one of
the differences in how ministry is correlated with laity. Some people say, well, in the Catholic world, ministry
is clearly a sacrament. It’s not usually identified as a sacrament in Lutheran world most of the time. But the fact is, our practice
of ordination is very similar. It’s a prayer to the holy spirit through a laying on of hands. Both communions consider that
ordination is not repeatable and that the ministry has charge of preaching and sacraments. And so there’s a commonality. I will say this, although
it’s kind of facetious and my tongue is a little bit in my cheek, but I call it my duck theology. If it looks like a
duck, quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck, I
don’t care what you call it or what you label it. And I think we have to
get beyond our labels and to see that what we
are saying ministry does is very common. One of the sore points has
been the use of the word defectus on the part of Catholics to describe Lutheran ministry, and its usual translation as “lack”. The recommendations of numerous groups, including the Declaration on the Way, but before that, round
10 in the US dialogue, the recommendation is that we translate it as not “lack” but “defect”
or “something missing”. And what is missing is really a witness to catholicity in terms of how it relates to the communion of churches. This is getting away
from ordination seen as a conferral of powers
and is a turn to seeing ordination as putting a person
in a particular relationship within the church and a responsibility for the communion of that church. So that’s the paradigm shift on ministry. I would say one of the
challenges that Catholics would pose to Lutherans regarding ministry, particularly Episcopal ministry, is to develop further
the collegial character of that ministry and the
sense of bishops belonging to a college. We applaud, obviously,
efforts to reinstate the episcopacy as a church order. It certain facilitates
ecumenical conversation about the exercise of
episcope or leadership, even though there may be
other forms of episcope. Moving onto Eucharist, this is where I really
wish Catholics would stop looking for the word transubstantiation. And saying that there’s
a problem or deficiency in someone else’s theology
if it doesn’t appear there. My understanding of the Council of Trent is that what was defined at Trent was the conversio, the
conversion of the elements, into the body and blood of Christ. And it said that
transubstantiation is the most fitting explanation of that. Catholics are not held to that
being the only explanation. The Declaration on the Way states that Jesus Christ himself is
present, truly, substantially, as a person in entirety as
son of God and a human being. How closer can you get to a Catholic theology of Eucharist? If you compare that to
Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the language is very close. And so I really think there
is no substantial difference on Lutheran and Catholic
belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. What has enabled ecumenical
theology to move forward on the Eucharist is the
liturgical category of anamnesis which says that these past
saving events are recalled in a real way, that they’re made present under a different modality,
the modality of sacramentality. And so that Catholics have
never taught the repetition of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but that once and for
all sacrifice spoken of in the epistle to the Hebrews is present in a different
modality on the altar. So the principle would be
that what you can affirm of the cross of Christ, you
can affirm of the Eucharist, under a different modality. Now, there’s um … There’s still a point that
needs further dialogue, which is to what extent,
and how, do we speak of the Eucharist as a sacrifice? I actually stand here
in the firm belief that I think we can come to a
differentiated consensus on that, to express that in
mutually acceptable ways. Catholics would hold that
the church offers Christ with Christ at the Eucharist. But that is not separate from Christ. It’s through a category
of participation in Christ that we are joined to
Christ in his offering. And this is a sacrifice of
praise and thanksgiving. And I would say that
praise and thanksgiving are not platonic, but are always embodied, and that embodiment leads to
our theology of sacrifice. We do not need to go to
theories of sacrifice in the Old Testament or
the history of religions. But I think we need to
meditate on the cross of Christ in the gospel to see
what is happening there. But there’s further work
to bring that forward, but I personally am hopeful. Okay, now moving from the
Declaration on the Way to kind of a conclusion of
where we are and should be. I think that ecumenism is both a charism, which is a gift of the holy spirit, and a vocational call. Not just to individual
professional ecumenists, but to the church. And I want to attribute to Timothy Wengert his lifting up of Ephesians 4:1-6 as an expression of that call. And I want to read that. I then, a prisoner in the Lord, urge you to be in a
manner worthy of the call you have received. With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with
one another through love, striving to preserve
the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace,
one body and one spirit, as you were also called to
the one hope of your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and father of all who is over all, through all and in all. This text speaks to the unity of the body, to the unity of baptism. And it’s when we are
called into ecumenism, it is not our human work, but is a response to God’s initiative. And it’s God’s initiative
that is calling us forth. And I think this gives
ecumenism an urgency. It’s not a hobby, it’s
not a sidebar to theology, but is front and center,
the work of the gospel. I think what’s required for
ecumenism is a will to unity. I think one of the biggest dangers is that ecumenical efforts are seen to be a threat to ecclesial identity. I did my dissertation on Henri de Lubac, and he wrote in the
1950’s that it is a shame to have to learn your
catechism against someone else. Too often, we are engaged in
oppositional ecclesiologies. I am what you are not. You are what I am not. And we define ourselves oppositionally. And I think the question is, how much do we will to be one? And yet, saying that, ecumenical
unity is not uniformity. We keep our historical backgrounds. We keep our differences and
are able to transcend them. So it’s not uniformity
and we need not fear that. We need to continue in
dialogue with one another. You can’t stop talking to one another. And I think what’s called for
today is a pastoral ecumenism. Pope Francis’s visit to the
Lutheran church in Rome, I thought was a wonderful
example of pastoral ecumenism. I think the call that we heard from the people at the ELCA
church-wide assembly was a call to pastoral ecumenism. That at some level, the people in the pew sometimes think theologians
are talking about things they don’t really care about and they just want to get on
with living life together. And we have to be pastorally sensitive. When the woman walked up
to Pope Francis and said, I’m in this marriage,
can I receive communion? And he said, I’m not here to tell you, talk to the Lord about it. That was a moment of pastoral ecumenism. It really was. He’s not breaking rules
or making new rules. But what Pope Francis
does is put people first. And we have to do that. I would hope that the churches could move a little bit more officially on this. There is an ecumenical directorate. The latest revision of it is 1993. That has never been fully
implemented in this country. And if we would fully
implement it, which would, there are four conditions
under which other people who are not Roman Catholics can receive Roman Catholic Eucharist. If we could even start
to implement it in places where people can’t move to
their own congregations, such as nursing homes and prisons. I think there are situations
in terms of marriages that could be applied to those situations. We haven’t used all the
tools in our toolbox to address pastoral issues. And then, Unitatis redintegratio, the decree on ecumenism number 11, speaks of a hierarchy of
truths that not all teachings are as centrally located
to the core of the gospel as other teachings. I would also suggest that
there is a hierarchy of virtue, which should accompany
a hierarchy of truths. And the gospel tells us that
the greatest of these is love. And if we need to approach
ecumenism with the virtues, not just with our heads. And I also want to close with
a hermeneutic of generosity rather than a hermeneutic of suspicion. People frequently come up to me, so I’ll say something like, well, Lutherans have a
belief in the Eucharist that is as strongly, we run out of words for
this, real, as Catholics. And then, frequently,
the next word that comes out of their mouth is “but”. Do they see it as new creation? But … And there’s something that follows. Dialogues will come up with a statement and then somebody says, but do Lutherans really believe that? Or do Catholics really believe that? Or there’s a suspicion
that that can’t be true. We can’t be that close. But I think we need to be
generous with one another. And with that continue on our way. And I’m just on the dot of
when I’m supposed to stop. To give you a chance for questions. (audience applauding) – I’m reminded that when
Yves Congar was asked what the most important
teaching of Vatican II was, he boiled it all down by saying, the reclaiming that we
are a pilgrim church, that notion of being on
the way is so central. Because it just changes
your entire mind space. Comments and questions. And please identify yourself. And there’s a fellow with a microphone. Why don’t we go to John O’Malley and then we’ll come up front
to this gentleman here. – [John] I’m John O’Malley
and I’m a historian. I’m not a theologian. But I have this question. You raised the question
of transubstantiation. That’s in a canon of the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent
issued about 216 canons. Why do we think all those
canons carry the same kind of responsibility and authority? Seems to be if a definition
is a definition of faith, you mean to tell me
there are 216 definitions of faith in the Council of Trent? So I wonder if we don’t need
to rethink this whole question of definition. And definition especially
in the Council of Trent. That’s a comment, in case
you didn’t understand that. (laughter) – Any response, or should
we go to the next one? This gentleman up here. – [Man] My recollection
of the intellectual leader of Vatican II and I think his
name may have been Hans Kung, said that we shouldn’t
let this 500th anniversary of the Reformation go on without some effort to create formal unity. And both of our speakers
have given me the impression that this conference we’re at now is heading in that direction. I think it was Kathryn that said, we have differences, but they’re not church-dividing issues. Are we moving in that direction? Can we see some formal
unity created as a result of what’s going on today and
wherever around the world? And I would assume as a
second sub-question here that if that occurred, this formal unity, the churches would still
have their own identity and they would continue that way perhaps, but there still would be formal unity. The kind of unity we see
happening in this event, I mean, we have common
communion and Eucharist and everything. – Kathryn? – There’s a lot packed into
that phrase, formal unity. And I’m not quite sure
how you would unpack it. Certainly there was a
commitment that we would not let this 500th year go without
coming closer together. Part of that is addressing
places where we have, in fact, condemned each other as
teaching falsely in the past. We have addressed many of those. We have declared, and
I hope I said clearly, on certain issues we
have said there are not church-dividing differences between us. There are still places where there are. And we have quite a bit of work to do. A lot of those concern matters
that might be understood to be implied in formal unity, like the role of a pope in a
single Christian community. Where we’ve had some, I think,
quite startling discussions in the 1970’s. I think where there’s
a different opportunity to open that issue now. And if I were a Catholic,
I would be saying, this is the time perhaps to explore that. But we’re not there. So we still have a number of
places where we’re living out and I think the language
is very helpful here, we’re living in this state already of a real but imperfect communion. An imperfect but real communion. And how do we claim more fully
the communion that we have that we’re not fully expressing and also continue to work on
the issues that divide us? (man speaking indistinctly) – [Man] He said … He’d identified himself
as the bishop of Rome rather than as a pope. That is a helpful thing in
that direction, I think. – I would just say what
we’re asking for is that there be concrete steps
that we can take together on the way, short of full unity. I mean, do we have to wait … Full unity at some
level is eschatological. It’s at the end time. But how much unity is
necessary for us to take intermediate steps? And I think what we’re asking
for are intermediate steps that our churches do. – Just one sentence. I was in a Benedictine
community in Minnesota last week and we used the five
ecumenical commitments from the Lund liturgy. They already had taken the one about identifying concrete
steps and concretized that for their own community
in the Lutheran-Catholic intensive context of Minnesota. And so by the time we got to it there, it had concreteness to it. – [Woman] Ann Riggs. I’d like to speak from the
global ecumenical location. I’m on the Central Committee of the World Council of
Churches, for instance. And I noticed that the Lund event, the two leader signatories
were from the global South and yet when we talk about
the international arena, it’s Europe. And there’s never going to be a way to be faithful to the
fact that most Christians are in the global South
if we don’t at every arena and every way engage ourselves with, how would this sound in Zimbabwe? And as colonial forces,
maybe you would say, from the United States have
had an impact around the world, we have a particular
responsibility, I think, to use the fact that
Christianity is global, that we have these networks, these ways of knowing
how others are thinking, and to yes, we’re here, we’re
having our local dialogue, but to think of that in the
horizon of the wider church. – I think that’s true. One of the problems of
the international dialogue is it’s still German-centric,
not just Euro-centric. And the Lutheran, I mean I’m a Catholic, but I know the Lutheran World Federation is consciously trying
to expand representation of these dialogues by having
regional representatives. But it’s still, they still
want to speak German. – This was the first
dialogue in which there was someone from every continent
on the international dialogue. But getting to the place
where those are equal voices is another step. – [Christopher] Brian? – [Brian] I’m Brian Flag from
(voice indistinct) University. First of all, thank you
for both of the talks, but for all the work you
and so many others have done to help bring our churches
to the unity Christ wants. My questions are similar
in some ways about coming from people who are
not part of the conversation. I’m wondering, to pick your
brains about the challenges of Lutherans who are not
part of this agreement. I’m thinking particularly of
the synods in the United States that were not part of the
Declaration on the Way. How does that provide
challenges or opportunities for Lutheran-Catholic
dialogue if we want it to be a full Lutheran-Catholic dialogue? – I guess this is me. Ah, thank you for raising that. (audience laughing) Let me say a couple of things. First of all, this is
really an important problem that you’ve raised. And I have never appeared in
a setting where we’re talking about this dialogue without
being reminded of our inner Lutheran divisions. Second, we do work on these. There is an evaluation of
From Conflict to Communion by the International Lutheran Council, which is the alternative
body of the Lutheran church Missouri synod, the
largest non-member church of the Lutheran World
Federation in what used to be called daughter churches. It is a surprisingly constructive
and positive agreement. This is not a church that had
approved the Joint Declaration so to have come out this strongly
in favor of that document I found extraordinary. And we’re still trying to take that in. I would also say, not to
turn away from the force of your question, it appears with special
force in the United States. 95% of the world’s Lutherans belong to the Lutheran World Federation. Most of those who don’t
are in this country. And so we are really
instantiating this problem, which is not getting simpler. – [Christopher] Let’s have one
quickly, one other question. I just want to add of course,
Catholics are totally united on everything all the time. (audience laughter) – That’s what scares us about you folks. – Last question. Just three minutes left. – [Man] It seems to me the
biggest shortcoming in all this is the discussion is going on
among a relatively small group of academics and scholars
and theologians and so forth. It is not seeped into the local
parishes and congregations. I was shocked at the
time of Lund to find out how almost nobody knew about
it in the Lutheran churches I was at at the time. And I talked to Catholics,
they didn’t know either. And it still is true to this day. Very few people even know it happened. Very few people are aware of
any of what we’re discussing, all these exciting developments, but how do we get this
into the local parishes and congregations? – I just want to make
one comment, and that is, coming from Freehold, New
Jersey, where we were hit with Hurricane Sandy, nobody asked who was
Catholic and who was Jewish and who was Lutheran. They asked, did you have water? And so, I … I think people don’t care
because they’re too busy being ecumenical, necessarily, right? I mean, I grew up in the Bronx. A mixed marriage was an Italian-Catholic and an Irish-Catholic. (audience laughter) Well, you know, right? But now that has no
meaning to my daughter. None, zero, none. So maybe de facto, the holy
spirit’s doing an end run. But sorry, your show, not mine. – I think you’re pointing
to something important. That change is happening
at all these levels. The challenge I think
is to get these levels more in communication with each other. Often we’re asked, isn’t
the real ecumenism at the grassroots? Well, real ecumenism is at the grassroots, but it’s still real when the
pope does something like that, that’s real. So to get these more in
contact with each other so that it’s a network of
mutually-enforcing moves towards unity, I think is an
urgent task at all levels. Often local communities are
ahead of where the dialogue is in their practice. Sometimes they’re behind. – I think church leadership
needs to step up. And I think it has. I think church leadership has
to have ecumenism as a value. It needs to educate its
clergy to ecumenism. And I mean I know that’s
a little bit top down, which is the opposite of the bottom up. Education in ecumenism
is actually mandated in the program of Priestly Formation. But sometimes it receives more lip service than feet on the ground. And I think it has to be
talked about from the pulpit. And it’s not. – Let me thank one particular
aspect of these presentations and that is, I was sitting
here, struck by the personal emotion and witness of the two of you to what you have done and the
direction that we’re going. And so I am grateful
not only for your minds and your actions, but your hearts that you
have offered us here today. From hearts to stomachs. (laughter) And they are related. Lunch is in the back. Please join me in thanking
our speakers one more time. (audience applauding)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *