ELCA Presiding Bishop Responds to Vatican Statement on Nature of the Church

 — July 11, 200711 juil. 2007

CHICAGO (ELCA) — In response to a document released by the Vatican July 10, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said the statement does not appear to change the Vatican’s previously stated positions, and it will not alter the ELCA’s commitment to ecumenism, including ongoing discussions in the U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic bilateral dialogue.

The Vatican statement, “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church,” was prepared by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope Benedict XVI. It reasserted that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, stated that Orthodox churches “lack something in their condition” as churches because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope, and it said that other Christian denominations “cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense.”

In his written response issued July 11, Hanson said that while the Vatican’s statement doesn’t change any existing statement “it does, however, restate known positions in provocative ways” that are under discussion in the current U.S. dialogue.

“It is no surprise that the Roman Catholic Church asserts that in it subsists the Church of Christ; surely every Christian church body makes the same assertion, for it is only because Christ’s Church survives in and lives through the community we call ‘Church’ that we preserve and promote the apostolic faith,” Hanson wrote. “However troubling such exclusive claims may be, we recall the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Decree on Ecumenism‘ which affirmed that the separated churches and ecclesial communities are used by the Spirit of Christ ‘as means of salvation.'”

Hanson pointed out that the ELCA upholds the “Augsburg Confession,” a 16th century foundational document which states that the Church is the “assembly of saints in which the Gospel is taught and the sacraments are administered rightly.” He wrote that the Church is “wounded by the division that exists among Christians.” However, Hanson stated that the ELCA is not deficient in its self-understanding as ‘Church.’

The “anguished response of Christians” throughout the world to the Vatican’s statement shows that what may have been meant to clarify has caused pain, Hanson wrote.

“Now is the time for our thoughtful and measured response. The question all Christian people should reflect on today is how best to exercise forbearance and love for one another,” he wrote.

The Vatican document doesn’t alter the ELCA’s commitment to ecumenism, nor will it cause the ELCA to step back from its U.S. or international relationships or promises. With the Roman Catholic Church, that there have been numerous “breakthroughs” in recent years, Hanson wrote.

“The ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’ in 1999 … resolved a bitter 500-year dispute. We will continue to celebrate and build upon the deepening relationships fostered by that Joint Declaration even as we long for greater visible unity itself,” Hanson wrote.

Hanson urged Lutherans not to pull back from their own personal commitments to ecumenism. He wrote that he agrees with Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, that “for the ecumenical movement to bear the weight of change for the future, it must be rooted in ecumenism of life.”

“Difficult and important matters of ministry and ecclesiology remain to be discussed in our ongoing U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue,” Hanson wrote, concluding that Christian unity already exists through baptism into Christ, which serves as a continuing sign of hope that the churches will not always remain divided.

Posted: July 11, 2007 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4857
Categories: ELCA NewsIn this article: ecclesiology, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Vatican
Transmis : 11 juil. 2007 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4857
Catégorie : ELCA NewsDans cet article : ecclesiology, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Vatican

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