Brand Leaves Legacy of Lutheran Ecumenism

 — Feb. 17, 199717 févr. 1997

by Rev. Edgar R. Trexler, editor of The Lutheran (the magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)

GENEVA (ELCA) — The Rev. Eugene L. Brand leaned back in his chair and reflected on recent ecumenical breakthroughs in Europe. Agreements between Lutherans and Anglicans and between Lutherans and the Reformed have “re-drawn the Christian map,” he said. “It’s either a marvelously colored fabric or a sticky mess.”

Brand sees it as a fabric he helped weave as head of the Lutheran World Federation‘s Department of Ecumenical Affairs. He also prefers to call it a fabric because he believes in the theological rightness of patching the denominational divisions of the 16th century.

He did not see all the divisions removed before he retired in November, but when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor, ecumenical scholar and liturgical expert moved to Columbus, Ohio, after 15 years in Geneva, Switzerland, he took with him a clear record of bringing churches closer together:

“The dialogues focused mostly on the past,” Brand says, “trying to break down the barriers that the churches have erected within the one Body of Christ. The Leuenberg Agreement, for example, not only set up fellowship between Lutherans and the Reformed in Germany. It also overcame a lot of condemnations.

“Many of these condemnations from Lutherans toward the Reformed were sharper than those between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. Now even the Methodists have come into the Lutheran-Reformed Leuenberg orbit because the European Methodist conference includes Methodists in England,” said Brand.

Although the Meissen Agreement established pulpit and altar fellowship between German Lutherans and the Church of England, it did not include exchange of clergy. When the Porvoo Agreement between Lutherans and Anglicans in the British Isles and the Nordic and Baltic countries solved that issue, it raised tensions between continental Lutherans and Nordic Lutherans because the German churches thought the Nordics were trying to set up something separate, Brand explains. The Nordics went beyond what German Lutherans thought possible. But the Nordics have been episcopal in structure since the Reformation, so it was easier for Anglicans and Nordic Lutherans to get together. Moreover, Porvoo puts Lutherans back together in Scandinavia just as Leuenberg does in Europe.

As he steps aside, Brand says that ecumenical approaches in Africa and Asia may require different approaches and emphases. “The Southern Hemisphere will come to the same conclusions as the North,” Brand says, “but by a different route. Even so, the conflicts that historically divided the churches belong to the whole Church and their resolution will involve the whole Church.”

At the same time, Brand knows “that confessional labels for the average person are less and less important. So we have to go both ways at the same time — upholding heritages and traditions and being open to new directions.”

In some ways, Brand completed a career’s worth of work before he went to the LWF. He was project director for the Lutheran Book of Worship, worship director for the former Lutheran Church in America and a professor at the Evangelical Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, now Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Brand will be a “distinguished visiting professor” there in 1997-98. Raised and educated in the former American Lutheran Church, he earned respect in liturgics and interchurch matters so he moved freely among Lutheran churches around the world.

LWF is a communion of 56 million Lutherans in 122 member church bodies in 68 countries. The 5.2-million-member ELCA is the second largest LWF member.

Posted: Feb. 17, 1997 • Permanent link:
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Catégorie : ELCA News

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