Tuesday, February 16, 2016

50 Years of Dialogue. . .

Mathew Block, editor of The Canadian Lutheran magazine, communications manager for Lutheran Church–Canada, and editor for the International Lutheran Council, has written carefully about the 50 years of official Lutheran and Roman Catholic dialogue.  He reminds us that the situation in Rome has changed since the conversations began and the situation among Lutherans has changed dramatically -- even to the point where you might wonder who is across the table from the theologians and bishops representing the Pope.

The dialogues began before the Lutheran World Federation became a communion.  Before the ordination of women became normative for LWF members.  Before the same sex marriage and clergy divergence from historic Biblical and Judeo-Christian morality.  Before the rise of the African Lutherans whose size soon will dwarf Lutherans in North America and most of Europe.  Before the skepticism toward the Scripture had nearly stripped it of much of its claims of fact and history.

In the early days of LWF and the Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogue, Franklin Clark Fry and Fredrik Schiotz were the world leaders (who would hardly recognize the churches and the state of Lutheranism today), the Lutherans were in a heady state after the dramatic growth of Lutherans in North America up to the mid to late 1960s, and they had a track record of able partnership in the rebuilding of war torn Germany and the rest of Europe.

Rome was embarking on a new direction with Vatican II and its huge assembly of bishops gathered by one pope and overseen by another.  Though the official statements of Vatican II were not nearly as radical as the changes in the wake of the council, it was clear a new wind was also blowing in Rome.

Of course, all this has changed.  The dramatic growth and vitality has shifted from the groups now seen as the liberal leading edge of Lutheranism and the conservatives on doctrine, Scripture, the ordination of women, and the GLBT issues have experienced a resurgence due in no small part by the rejection of the liberal agenda by African Lutherans.  Rome has seen experienced a hermeneutic of continuity both in theology and liturgy but most especially in morality under John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  Block is correct.  Now is a good time to re-evaluate not merely the dialogues but the documents produced so far and to do it under the new found seriousness of the International Lutheran Council and its more confessional identity and the convergence of Rome and the ILC churches on such issues as the ordination of women and the GLBT agenda.  That is, if Rome wants an ecumenical partner who is serious about what Scripture says and they believe.

Take some time to read Block.  His words are careful and his wisdom worth your time.

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