Tuesday, October 4, 2011
A First in Canada. . .
The reconciled diversity of the ecumenical program of the ELCA and its Canadian counterpart have borne fruit and time will tell what kind of fruit. I am sure that those on the one side will herald this as a dramatic confirmation of the dialogues and documents that forged this fellowship. In the end, it troubles me for a several reasons. On the one hand, it suggests that either there are no differences between the Lutheran Confessions (at least as the ELCA/ELIC or it means that those differences count for nothing. Both are problematic for this Lutheran.
I have many friends in the Episcopal Church and much respect for some of its theologians -- though I seem to find some of them are leaving the original structures just as the Lutherans are moving in. I do not mean to disparage them or their troubled path of faithfulness amid the departures from Christian doctrine, faith, and morality within the original Anglican structures in North America and some across the world. Yet as close as I feel to some of them, they would be the first to admit that Anglicanism and Lutheranism are not the same, not nearly so. The ones I am friendly with have great reservations about Lutheran orders because they hold to an understanding of apostolic succession held by hardly any Lutherans. I have great reservations about how clearly held are such doctrines as the Real Presence (rather ambiguous and not treated much in the 39 Articles not merely historical documents, at least according to the current prayer book).
I remain thoroughly indebted to the Anglicans for teaching us German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and other Lutherans how to speak English. Our own collects reflect the wonderful language of the Book of Common Prayer (especially 1662) and Cranmer's careful attention to the sound of the words used in worship. I appreciate the rich tradition of Anglicanism and its role as one of the treasures and guardians of the history of the English people (to which we are much in debt). Yet I continue to be perplexed by a church which can house such folks as a Gene Robinson or Katherine Jefferts Schori or, the bigger albatross of John Shelby Spong. And I find myself confused by a church body and tradition more united in the prayer book and the way of worship than doctrine and faith (which, should be confusing to me since I belong to one which is perhaps more united in doctrine in faith than it is in the way we worship).
The Anglicans have done a good job at keeping the structure but it has not kept them orthodox. Lutherans have done a good job at keeping the Confession but it has not kept all of us orthodox either. The marriage between the Anglicans and the Lutherans has seemed to unite them more in their weaknesses than their strengths. Lutherans got a bit more structure and Anglicans appreciated a little more the Confession but neither headed an inch closer to orthodox doctrine and faith. So, perhaps, we should let it go there...
All in all, I know that some will think the appointment of a Lutheran as dean of the diocese for the Anglican Cathedral in Winnipeg is a good thing. I just cannot for the like of me figure out why it is so good.... unless you want to ignore differences in confession and practice for the sake of a good photo op.