Joint Declaration Affects U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue

 — May 19, 200019 mai 2000

[Washington – ELCA News] The “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” signed by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Vatican on Oct. 31, 1999, in Augsburg, Germany, did more than declare that certain 16th century condemnations between Lutherans and Catholics no longer apply. The formula used to reach that conclusion will influence talks between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“We’ve found not only a profound sense of agreement on something at the heart of who we are as Christians, but we’ve also developed a methodology that seems to have worked,” said the Most Rev. Richard J. Sklba, auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Sklba is the Roman Catholic co-chair of the dialogue, which met May 4-7 here at St. Paul’s College.

“We’ve come to feel comfortable with a statement that says when one group affirms this — whatever the ‘this’ may be, depending on the topic under discussion — that’s not necessarily to deny what the other group may be saying about a slightly different approach to the same topic,” said Sklba.

The Lutheran co-chair of the dialogue, the Rev. Charles H. Maahs, bishop of the ELCA Central States Synod, Shawnee Mission, Kan., said, “There was a methodology in use during previous dialogues that may be an example for us to follow.”

Using the Joint Declaration “as a model is very helpful,” he said. The current tenth round of ELCA-Roman Catholic talks will probably produce a technical theological statement. “At the same time we want to be able to summarize what we’re saying in a statement that can be used and understood by people in the pews,” said Maahs.

“The Church as Koinonia of Salvation: Its Structures and Ministries” is the title of the round. “Koinonia” is an anglicized Greek word that appears several times in the Christian Bible and is translated as “fellowship, a close mutual relationship; participation, sharing in; partnership; contribution, gift.” The dialogue is taking up issues of koinonia as they relate to “ordained ministry and structures of church unity.”

The USCCB and the U.S.A. National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation initiated the first round of the “bilateral” dialogue that began in 1965. It has produced a number of common statements on such topics as Scriptures, saints and justification by faith. There was a five-year break between the ninth and tenth rounds while the churches studied the Joint Declaration.

“We have a variety of experiences that come to the table,” said Sklba. The Joint Declaration is a new influence on the talks, which involve several “veterans.” “We have some folks who have come back again and again for topic after topic over the past 35 years,” said Sklba. “They bring a great deal of wisdom and a certain sense of how these dialogues have preceded in the past.”

“People who have been involved in dialogue for more than 30 years understand that it does take time,” said Maahs. “Some of us who are new may think that we can get to our goal a lot quicker, but it does require a significant amount of study and conversation together,” he said. “We have to remember that we’ve got a broad subject here,” said Maahs. “We’re talking about koinonia. We’re talking about salvation. We’re talking about structures of ministries. There is a lot of literature that is available on these subjects, and it is going to require some careful study as we move toward some kind of statement,” he said.

Sklba cited two advances made at this particular meeting: “recognition that we experience God’s gift of salvation in the context of a community” and “a growing understanding of the parallels between the function of a bishop in the Roman Catholic tradition and that of the Lutheran congregational pastor.”

Koinonia means “we share this experience of God’s salvation in a community and not as individuals alone. That’s remarkable,” said Sklba. “To realize that this basic conviction is shared by all the dialogue partners is very helpful,” he said.

In the structures of ministry, Roman Catholic bishops and Lutheran pastors are “servants of authentic preaching and servants of the saving presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” Sklba said.

The meeting included presentations by Lutherans:
+ the Rev. Scott S. Ickert, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Arlington, Va., on “Adiaphora, ‘Ius Divinum’ and Ministry: A Lutheran Perspective;” and
+ Dr. Michael Root, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, on “The Local Church and the Paradigmatic Pastor: The Way Beyond the Impasse?”

Roman Catholics made several presentations:
+ the Rev. Patrick Granfield, OSB, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., on “The Universality and Particularity of the Roman Catholic Church;”
+ Dr. Margaret O’Gara, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Ontario, on “A Roman Catholic Perspective on ‘Ius Divinum;'”
+ Prof. Michael Slusser, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, on “Two Sacred Orders: Diaconate and Presbyterate;”
+ the Rev. Georges Tavard, AA, Brighton, Mass., on “The Tridentine Anathemas concerning Ministry and Ordination;” and
+ Dr. Susan K. Wood, SCL, St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minn., on “The Teaching of Vatican II on Bishops and Priests.”

“The opportunity to come together in respectful conversation is always a highlight for me,” said Sklba. “The opportunity to pray with the different communities is another highlight.”
In addition to prayers to open and close each day of the meeting, dialogue members worshiped together at the Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on May 6 and at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on May 7.

“Fear not” were first words Jesus uttered to his disciples after his resurrection, the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary and dialogue member, said during a reflection at the basilica. Christ’s words are still relevant as Christians tackle issues that almost seem impossible to resolve, he said.

Almen quoted Pope John Paul II, who called the Joint Declaration a milestone. “Many more milestones must be passed along the journey toward ecumenical unity,” said Almen.

“One of the those remaining divisions we experience this night,” said Almen. He referred to a dialogue practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper in both traditions — Lutherans receiving a blessing instead of the sacrament during the Roman Catholic mass and Roman Catholics receiving a blessing during the Lutheran service.

Worshiping together “not only lifts up our unity in Jesus Christ, but we can also see that there is still a separation that exists as we are not able to share in receiving the Eucharist,” Maahs said later. “That’s always a painful experience and may also point out that we still have distance to go in understanding how we structure our ministries. That’s going to be an important task in the ongoing time that we are together in dialogue.”

Other Lutheran members of the dialogue are: the Rev. Sarah Henrich, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; the Rev. Winston D. Persaud, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa; and the Rev. John H.P. Reumann, Philadelphia.

The other Roman Catholic member of the dialogue is the Rev. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, SJ, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. The Rev. Bertram F. Griffin, Mt. Angel Seminary, St. Benedict, Ore., has retired from the dialogue for health reasons.

The Rev. Charles P. Arand, chairman of the department of systematic theology and assistant dean of the faculty, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, serves as an observer to the dialogue for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The dialogue is staffed by Bro. Jeffrey Gros, FSC, and the Rev. John F. Hotchkin of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and by the Rev. Randall R. Lee and the Rev. Darlis J. Swan of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs. The Rev. Daniel F. Martensen, director of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs, serves as a consultant to the dialogue.

Participants meet twice each year. The next meeting will be Nov. 29-Dec. 3 in Las Vegas.
“I’m very confident that next time we will be able to shape an outline or some direction that’s going to begin to get us into some initial drafting,” said Maahs. “That would be significant, because we will have only met five times in less than three years,” he said. “The movement is good at this time.”

Posted: May 19, 2000 • Permanent link:
Categories: ELCA NewsIn this article: Catholic, Lutheran
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Catégorie : ELCA NewsDans cet article : Catholic, Lutheran

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