So said Pope Francis in an interview... This is what ecumenism of blood is. It still exists today; you just need to read the newspapers. Those who kill Christians don’t ask for your identity card to see which Church you were baptized in. We need to take these facts into consideration.
Francis is correct. We live in an age in which the blood of the martyrs is mixed and no one distinguishes Roman Catholic blood from Lutheran, Anglican, Orthodox, etc... And there is too much of that blood to be mixed because of the persecution that continues, unnoticed, unmarked, and without the outrage of most of those who champion human rights in general.
I do appreciate how he has put it. We have not managed to take the necessary steps toward unity between us and perhaps the time is not yet come, nor, it seems, will it come in the foreseeable future. That is one thing. But to the world we smell pretty much the same (except, of course, for those Christians who have forsaken nearly every Christian distintiveness for the cover of a cultural faith that merely mimics whatever social movement or voice is raised. And there are too many of these as well. But for those creedal Christians who wear the clothing of the liturgy on Sunday morning, we Christians do not smell any different to the world around us. We stink the same to them. Unless I am wrong, the week of Christian unity is coming up and Christians will practice some silly ecumenism in which we prove we can play well together and too little real ecumenism of substance but the world is watching and we need to exercise some discretion here.
Whether we like it or not, the world does not carefully distinguish some Christians from others, or even some Lutherans from other Lutherans. When the ELCA acts, the LCMS and all the other sets of initials that are worn by Lutherans feel the heat. When the LCMS acts, all the other Lutherans get painted with the same broad brush. This is the often unreported and unrecognized ecumenism that we inside the Church fail to appreciate. We are painted the same color by those outside of us and, in the smell test, we smell the same to those outside of us. This means that for the sake of the ecumenical endeavor we owe some sensitivity to those who will be labeled by our actions and judged by our words. I am NOT suggesting that we compromise the truth but rather that it is even more important in this day and in this age that we speak that truth in love.
Francis has certainly raised some dust with his comments but those comments have not been without their impact upon other Christians. We have already seen how the actions of Lutherans have been interpreted within the media (Yankee Stadium but one example). We live in an age when we are blamed for the sins of other Christians, when other Christians are blamed for our sins, and when we are all marked by comments good, bad, or foolish. We may not have found common ground but the world paints with a broad brush. It happens in the tragedy of martyrdom and it happens when one thing or the other grabs the headlines as Christians and Christian groups make the news. We need to take this into consideration to make sure we are heard as nuanced as as we should speak so that we do not give fuel to the fire of misunderstanding and confusion that already exists. Do not shy away from speaking but make sure you not only speak the truth but speak it clearly and carefully and with love as the cause. Perhaps then the internal ecumenism might make better progress...