LWF Conference on the Protestant Understanding of Church in an Ecumenical Horizon

 — June 13, 200813 juin 2008

The Confessing Church in the Contemporary World

[Geneva • LWI] The Protestant understanding of the church is the central theme of an international conference of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for Theology and Studies (DTS) taking place at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute near Geneva, Switzerland.

Scholars from 11 countries are participating in the 12-16 June gathering, with the theme “The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church – reflections on the understanding of the church in an ecumenical horizon.” According to Rev. Dr Hans-Peter Grosshans, DTS Study Secretary for Theology, the meeting will help make the Evangelical Lutheran understanding of the church more visible. It is the “historical obligation of the Evangelical Lutheran church to make the ecclesiological consequences of Reformed theology clear to itself and to other churches,” he said prior to the meeting, being organized in collaboration with the University of Geneva Faculty of Theology.

Grosshans said the conference ushers in a new LWF/DTS study program, in which the phrase from the Nicene Creed “We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” will be interpreted from the perspective of the Evangelical Lutheran church and contemporary Protestant theology and given new life.

The study program’s first meeting in Bossey will focus on the significance of the Nicene phrase in its entirety for today’s Protestant churches. Follow-up meetings to be held in South America, Asia and Africa, will examine significance of the four hallmarks of the church–oneness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity–for today’s Protestant churches. The program will address questions such as: “What is the importance for Protestant churches of achieving the ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church? And what is meant, from a Protestant point of view, when referring to the church in terms of oneness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity?”

Participants at the Bossey meeting come from Brazil, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Malaysia, Myanmar, Switzerland, United States of America and Zambia.

Different Contexts

While many of them are specialists on questions of ecclesiology, their experience of the concept of “church” occurs in very different contexts and extremely diverse religious, political, legal and economic situations, said Grosshans. “They represent various theological styles, methods and approaches, and demonstrate the great diversity of theological thinking within the Evangelical Lutheran church,” he added.

In addition to Lutheran scholars, other confessional traditions represented at the conference include the Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Baptists and Reformed. For Grosshans, the Evangelical Lutheran understanding of the church must not seek to assert itself in opposition to other Christian confessions, but rather with them. Emphasis must be placed on ecumenical dialogue and pursuing contextual attempts to define what church is and make it a reality.

Since the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) by representatives of the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church on 31 October 1999 in Augsburg, Germany, “church” has increasingly been the central theme of ecumenical dialogues, said Grosshans. The JDDJ reception made it poignantly clear that the main obstacle to church unity was the divergent conceptions of the church. The Evangelical Lutheran understanding of the church has, by and large, defined itself in terms of its difference with other confessions. Until now, Lutheran churches and Protestant theology have paid far too little attention to clarifying the understanding of church on the basis of their own principles.

He went on to say that the Protestant understanding of church therefore lacks a clear identity and consequently, an essential prerequisite toward making progress in ecumenical discussions on the topic of “church.” Until now Protestant churches have not been sufficiently successful in making clear how, based on their understanding of the church, they can bring about the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church in accordance with the Gospel and the implications this has for the life and organization of the churches. In many ways, Protestant churches have regressed with regard to Reformation ideals, due to their understanding of their own ecclesiality.

The rich and diverse experiences in many Lutheran churches all over the world, which could deepen our interpretation of these hallmarks of the church, have not been brought to fruition, he added.

Posted: June 13, 2008 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=471
Categories: NewsIn this article: Lutheran
Transmis : 13 juin 2008 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=471
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Lutheran

  Previous post: Ancien article : Canadian churches welcome PM’s apology on residential schools
  Newer post: Article récent : Liturgies for Christian Unity: The First Hundred Years, 1908-2008