Yale Ecumenical Conference Lauds Lutheran-Catholic Declaration

 — Mar. 8, 20008 mars 2000

CHICAGO (ELCA) — The Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was the focus of an international ecumenical symposium Feb. 4-6 at the Yale University Divinity School and the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, New Haven, Conn. Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed and Roman Catholic leaders attended “The Yale Conference on Ecumenism: Justification and the Future of the Ecumenical Movement.”

Representatives of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Vatican signed the Joint Declaration last year in Augsburg, Germany. For the first time since the Reformation, both churches made a statement on the doctrine that severed the unity of the Western church in the 16th century.

Symposium participants included the Rev. Christian Krause, LWF president and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick (Germany), Bishop Walter Kasper, Secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Sir Henry Chadwick, an Anglican professor of theology at Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom.

The Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Rev. Robert L. Isaksen, bishop of the ELCA New England Synod, and the Rev. Canon David W. Perry, director, Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., attended the symposium.

In his introductory remarks, the Rev. William G. Rusch, director of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC), raised the question of whether the Anglican and Reformed traditions might also enter into the Joint Declaration.

Rusch, an ELCA pastor and former director of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs, asked whether the bilateral agreement on justification might be a vehicle for advancing ecumenical relations among several Christian traditions.

“We held our hands together as churches, and we wish to let go never again,” Kasper said of the Joint Declaration in his keynote address. “Our unity in reconciled diversity is an image of the triune God,” he said.

Kasper charted three frontiers for ecumenism: the interpretation of Scripture, ecclesiology (theological doctrine relating to the church) and ministry, and the need for a new common language in which to express the core of the gospel. He noted that the language of the 16th-century debates on justification is no longer relevant to most Christians.

Chadwick acknowledged several areas of agreement between the Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed and Roman Catholic traditions, but he said ecclesiology continues to divide Anglicans, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics. He said the question of church authority will continue to remain significant in future ecumenical dialogues.

Dr. Gabriel Fackre, a theologian of the United Church of Christ and former professor of theology at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Mass., responded from the Reformed perspective.

Dr. Michael Root, an ELCA associate in ministry and professor of systematic theology at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, responded from the Lutheran tradition. Root is former director of the Lutheran Ecumenical Institute in Strasbourg, France.

Krause summarized the contributions of symposium speakers. He said that lifting up the theological approach of the declaration enabled academic theologians at the universities to concern themselves more with ecumenism again.

The LWF president said the significance of the Joint Declaration was to be found in the way the document related to the core of the biblical message. He noted that the “universal character” of the Joint Declaration was acknowledged. Other recent interdenominational agreements are regionally limited while this document is universally valid for both partners, he said.

Krause said he was impressed by the Anglican and Reformed participants’ expressions of joy about the Joint Declaration. Both traditions had voiced their interest repeatedly in continuing to develop this ecumenical document in such a way that it would include other denominations in addition to the Lutheran and Catholic traditions.

Dr. George A. Lindbeck, professor emeritus of theology at Yale and a Lutheran theologian, gave an overview of the history and significance of ecumenical theology at Yale. For Lindbeck, the conference constituted a revival within the academy of ecumenical theology, which he described as having been “relatively dormant” in the past few decades.

R. William Franklin, dean of the Berkeley Divinity School, described the symposium as a good opportunity for the universities to regain their leading roles within the ecumenical movement, for the development of a new forum for ecumenical activities, and for encouraging a new generation of future theologians to work for the unity of the churches.

“The fact that the university was the context for the discussion, with church leaders, theologians and students participating together, opens up a new model for the future,” said Franklin. “As an inter-traditional divinity school, Yale offered a perfect setting for dialogue about how different traditions can learn, worship and work together.”

The LWF is a global communion of 128 member churches in 70 countries representing nearly 59.5 million of the world’s 63.1 million Lutherans. LWF offices are in Geneva, Switzerland. The ELCA is a member of the LWF.

The conference was sponsored through a joint partnership of Yale University Divinity School, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and the NCC’s Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches, with the assistance of the Luce Foundation.

 *Udo Hahn, press officer for the LWF German national committee, and the Anglican Communion News Service contributed to this story.

Posted: Mar. 8, 2000 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4705
Categories: ELCA News
Transmis : 8 mars 2000 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4705
Catégorie : ELCA News

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