Dialogue between Confessional Lutherans and Roman Catholics continues

Third Meeting of the Informal Dialogue Group between the International Lutheran Council and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

Participants in October's meeting of the Informal Dialogue Group of the ILC and PCPCU.
Participants in the October 2016 meeting of the Informal Dialogue Group of the ILC and PCPCU.

GERMANY – On October 14-15, the Informal Dialogue Group between the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity met. This time the gathering took place at the Johann-Adam-Möhler-Institute for Ecumenism in Paderborn, Germany. Delegates on the ILC side were Rev. Dr. Albert Colver III (St. Louis, Missouri), Prof. Dr. Werner Klän (Oberursel, Germany), Prof. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Ft. Wayne, Indiana), Prof. Dr. Gerson Linden (São Leopoldo, Brazil), and—standing in for Prof. Dr. John Stephenson—Prof. Dr. Thomas Winger (St. Catharines, Canada). On the Roman Catholic side were Prof. Dr. Josef Freitag (Lantershofen, Germany), Prof. Dr. Grant Kaplan (St. Louis, Missouri), PD Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn, Germany), Father Dr. Augustinus Sander (Maria Laach, Germany), and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Paderborn, Germany).

The conversations centered on the Lutheran perception of the Roman Catholic liturgy. They focused particularly on the Roman Catholic understanding of the presence of Christ’s sacrifice and the sacrifice of the Church in the Lord’s Supper. It became apparent that there were different ways of thinking—not only between Lutheran and Roman Catholic approaches to the topic, but also in the various Roman Catholic Eucharistic prayers themselves. The debate centered in particular on the problem whether and to what extent the Church might play a distinct, or “active”, role in the performance of the liturgy.

The next meeting is scheduled for June 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. In preparing for this meeting, cross-confessional pairings were formed. They are meant to engage with the following topics: the understanding of co-operation of the Church (“synergeia”) and sacrifice; the theological understanding of “time”, that is to say the relationship between the history of salvation and the “event” of salvation, or the issue of the realization of salvation in the liturgy; the understanding of sacrifice against the background of article 24 of the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, and in The Examination of the Council of Trent by Martin Chemnitz,  looking also at the document “The Eucharist” (1978); and questions concerning the office of the ministry and ordination. Moreover, they plan to identify and describe areas of major agreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the churches in the International Lutheran Council. The resulting texts will serve to steer the further debates in the year to come, and secure the results of this informal dialogue.

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Second Meeting of the ILC-PCPCU Dialogue Group

ILC-PCPCU-dialogue-May-2016-banner
Roman Catholic and Lutheran delegates to the ILC-PCPCU meetings in May 2016.

GERMANY – On May 6-7, 2016 the Dialogue Group of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) met for the second time. The venue was the Augustinian Monastery at Erfurt, Germany. Delegates on the Roman Catholic side were Dr. Josef Freitag (Erfurt, Germany) Dr. Grant Kaplan (Mainz, Germany/St. Louis, USA), Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn, Germany) and Fr. Dr. Augustinus Sander (Maria Laach, Germany). Delegates on the Lutheran side were Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III (St. Louis, USA), Dr. Werner Klän (Oberursel, Germany) Dr. John Stephenson (St. Catharines, Canada), Dr. Roland Ziegler (Ft. Wayne, USA). Unable to attend the meeting were Lutheran delegate Dr. Gerson Linden (Sao Leopoldo, Brasil) and Roman Catholic delegate Dr. Wolfgang Thoenissen (Paderborn, Germany).

As agreed upon at the first meeting, held in Oberursel, Germany in October 2015, the chief topic was the Sacrifice of the Mass. Presentations were given on Articles 24 of the Augsburg confession and its Apology by Dr. Neumann from a Roman-Catholic perspective, and by Rev. Dr. Collver from a Lutheran perspective. It was noted that the terminology on sacrifice was used in a complex manner already in the 16th century, and ambiguously at times as well. Additionally, changes in the understanding of what “sacrifice” means, occurred—especially in the Roman-Catholic camp—before the Second Vatican Council and beyond. The Dialogue Group also discussed issues like “opus operatum,” commemoration and representation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, faith and the receiving of the sacramental gift, the Eucharistic Prayer, and the connection between the celebration of the Lord’s Supper with the whole of the liturgy.

For the next meeting, the Dialogue Group established working groups to address: a) how Lutheran liturgies addressed the concept of sacrifice and the sacrifice (of the Mass) from a Roman Catholic perspective,and how the concept has developed  in Roman Catholic liturgies since the 16th century  as seen from a Lutheran perspective, b) an evaluation of Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue on the theme of the Eucharist and the theology of the Lord’s Supper over the last half century, and c) a historical survey of developments and changes in the interpretation of the sacrificial dimension of the Lord’s Supper that affect how each side understands its own confession and that of its dialogue partner.

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“The ILC is Growing”: Papers from 2015 World Conference published

Journal-Lutheran-Mission-ILC-coverONLINE – Presentations from the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 25th World Conference (held in Buenos Aires, Argentina September 23-26, 2015) have been published in a special issue of the Journal of Lutheran Mission.

In a preface to the issue, ILC Vice Chairman Robert Bugbee reflects on the continuing growth of the ILC. “This is not only true from the perspective of membership numbers and statistics,” he notes. “There is a rising urgency within the Council to become more vigorous in its goal of extending the reach of a truly confessional Lutheran witness to additional places throughout the world. The Council’s leadership is currently grappling with concrete plans to bring that about.”

Such growth has more to do with than just ILC infrastructure of course. “If this growth had only to do with a human agency, its structures, personnel, and funding, it would be of little moment to those who care deeply about the mission of Christ’s church in the world,” Vice Chairman Bugbee explains. “For us, the happiest news flash is the one St. Paul identified long ago when he wrote his friends of ‘the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing’ (Col. 1:5-6).

That emphasis on Gospel-proclamation ties into the ILC’s 25th World Conference in Buenos Aires, where the theme was “Bringing the Reformation to the World.” Papers presented at that conference focused on proclaiming Reformation truths to a contemporary world, and are now available in this special issue of Journal of Lutheran Mission. In addition to the convention’s Keynote Address on “The Augsburg Confession in the 21st Century,” the issue includes lectures, reports, and sermons. It also includes a statement adopted by the ILC at its world conference on the document “From Conflict to Communion,” a document published by the Lutheran World Federation and Roman Catholics regarding the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

To read this special ILC issue of the Journal of Lutheran Mission, see the embedded document below or click one of the links below. You may also download the full issue in pdf format here.

Among other material, the issue includes:

  1. A Sermon for the International Lutheran Council—2015 World Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina by ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt.
  2. The Augsburg Confession in the 21st Century: Confessing the Faith Once for All Delivered by Rev. Alexey Streltsov.
  3. The Report of the ILC’s Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt.
  4. A Statement from the International Lutheran Council on the Document ‘From Conflict to Communion:’ Lutheran—Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation 2017
  5. A Sermon on St. Michael and All Angels (Luke 10:20; Rev. 12:11) by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III.
  6. Our Confession in Augustana IV-VI by Rev. Sergio Adrián Fritzler.
  7. A Devotion on Matthew 6:24-34 by Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast.
  8. Augustana VII: The Church and Fellowship by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III.
  9. Bringing the Reformation to the World: The Means of Grace by Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt.
  10. Faith, Ethnicity, and Social Issues in the Thoughts and Work of Pastor Vladislav Santarius by Rev. Dr. Martin Pię

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International Lutheran Council – Roman Catholic dialogue begins

Participants in the dialogue between the International Lutheran Council and the Roman Catholic Church.
Participants in the dialogue between the International Lutheran Council and the Roman Catholic Church.

GERMANY – Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) met October 7-8 on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Oberursel, Germany to initiate a three-year series of informal academic dialogues. Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Chairman of the ILC, greeted the participants and wished them God’s blessing and good progress for their discussions.

The Roman Catholic delegation includes Professor Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Presiding Director of the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute for Ecumenism, Paderborn, Germany); Professor Dr. Josef Freitag (University of Erfurt, Germany); Dr. Burkhard Neumann (a Director at the Möhler Institute); Professor Dr. Grant Kaplan (St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO, USA), and Father Dr. Augustinus Sander, OSB (Maria Laach, Germany). Representing the ILC were Professor Dr. Werner Klän (President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Oberursel); Professor Dr. John Stephenson (Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, ON, Canada); Professor Dr. Roland Ziegler (Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN, USA); Professor Dr. Gerson Linden (Concordia Seminary, São Leopoldo, Brazil); and Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver (Director of Church Relations and Assistant to the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, St. Louis, MO, USA).

The way had been paved for this consultation by a three-year series of talks carried out on a national level within Germany. Because of the positive developments achieved at that time, representatives of the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Oberursel had appealed for discussions to continue on an international basis.

At this initial consultation evaluations were shared from a confessional Lutheran point of view of documents already produced by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church. Discussions focused specifically on the documents The Eucharist (1978), The Ministry in the Church (1981), and Church and Justification (1993). In addition, Roman Catholic participants were made aware of an ILC response to the document produced in 2014 by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Unity Commission entitled From Conflict to Communion. This response was recently approved formally by the 25th ILC World Conference, meeting September 24-27 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Beyond findings reached in Lutheran-Catholic dialogues up to the present time, the goal of the planned discussions is to determine whether exchanges between confessional Lutherans and Catholics could lead to mutual enrichment leading to a discovery—or re-discovery—of a certain shared apostolic, catholic heritage.

The next meeting of the dialogue commission is set for May, 2016, in either Erfurt or Paderborn.

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ILC leaders report, delegates discuss ecumenical relations

Discussion at the ILC's 2015 World Conference spill into the coffee break. Bishop Hans Jorg Voigt (ILC Chairman and head of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany) and Chairman Jon Ehlers (Evangelical Church of England) speak with General Secretary Ofga Berhanu (Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus).
Discussion at the ILC’s 2015 World Conference spills into the coffee break. Bishop Hans Jorg Voigt (ILC Chairman and head of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany) and Chairman Jon Ehlers (Evangelical Church of England) speak with General Secretary Ofga Berhanu (Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus).

ARGENTINA – The 2015 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) continued the afternoon of September 24 as delegates heard reports from the Executive Council and discussed ecumenical relations.

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt gave his report to the conference in the afternoon, highlighting various successes of the past triennium, including joint relief and aid following Typhoon Haiyan, the ILC’s 2013 World Seminaries Conference held in Lithuania, new contacts between ILC churches and other Lutheran churches, and the 2015 Wittenberg Conference on global confessional leadership.

In his report, Chairman Voigt also noted the challenges the Church will face in the years to come. Among these challenges he identified the fact that faith in Christ continues to decrease in Western society; that worldwide persecution of Christians is on the rise; and the rise of the global refugee crisis. We must also learn anew to speak Christian wisdom and insight into the world around us, he suggested, stressing the importance of Christian though to the cultures in which we find ourselves. Finally, he suggested, the ILC must learn to look further forward and consider what form the International Lutheran Council should take going into the future.

That last topic led into the ILC’s Executive Secretary Al Collver’s report. Dr. Collver noted that the ILC has been undertaking in depth Strategic Planning over the past triennium. He indicated that he would be bringing the details of their findings forward to the Conference to discuss in the days to come.

Ecumenical relations

Among other subjects raised by Chairman Voigt in his report was that of ecumenical relations. He noted that planning meetings between the Pontifical Council for Promoting of Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the ILC have finalized the start date for informal theological dialogue between the two bodies. The first official meeting between the two dialogue groups will begin October 7. Representing the ILC are theologians from Germany (Werner Klän), Brazil (Gerson Linden), the United States of America (Roland Ziegler), and Canada (John Stephenson).

Delegates then turned their attention to a discussion of the document “From Conflict to Communion,” a reflection on Lutheran-Catholic dialogue produced by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church. The ILC’s dialogue representatives feel that providing a confessional Lutheran statement on “From Conflict to Communion” may serve as an appropriate first step in the informal dialogues between the PCPCU and the ILC. Such a statement might also be a productive means of engaging the LWF as well, it is hoped. Discussion of the response statement will continue into Friday’s business sessions.

The LWF is represented at the ILC’s World Conference in an observer capacity by Rev. Dr. Gloria Vargas, LWF Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean region. Dr. Vargas will have the opportunity to greet delegates on behalf of the LWF during Friday’s sessions.

World Area meetings

Following these discussions, delegates broke for World Area meetings. After this, the Conference heard World Area reports from Latin America. Each member church had the opportunity to discuss a bit of their church’s history as well as their present work. A recurring theme among many of the Latin America churches was many churches and mission opportunities but too few pastors to fill them—a situation where “the harvest is ready but the workers are few.”

Latin America church leaders report to the ILC.
Latin America church leaders report to the ILC.

The day ended with Vespers. President Lawrence Rast of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) served as liturgist, while ILC Executive Secretary Al Collver gave a homily reflecting on angels and the devil. In the face of the evil in this world—war, sickness, suffering—it can feel as though Christ is not really victorious, Dr. Collver noted. But we must remember that Satan and his armies already stand defeated by the blood of Jesus and the Word of God. This is how St. Michael and his angels prevailed against the devil (Revelation 12:11), Dr. Collver explained. So too, we can trust that the blood of Christ and His Word have defeated Satan on our behalf too. This promise gives us comfort and hope to stand up against the suffering and evil we experience in this world.

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Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) to Hold Informal International Dialogue

Prof. Dr. Werner Klan, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Monsignore Dr. Matthias Türk
Prof. Dr. Werner Klan, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Monsignore Dr. Matthias Türk

VATICAN CITY – The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC), an organization for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and promoting confessional Lutheran theology, met to discuss the possibility of extending local and regional informal discussions into an
informal ecumenical dialogue process on the international level. The meeting between the PCPCU and the ILC primarily occurred after several informal discussions between some ILC members and Roman Catholic organizations resulted in positive outcomes, especially those held between the Lutheran Theological Seminary Oberursel of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) and the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute for Ecumenism in Paderborn, Germany. Other informal discussions that contributed to the meeting between the PCPCU and the ILC included those held between The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Archdiocese of Saint Louis and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, and those between Lutheran ChurchCanada (LCC) and representatives of the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Dicastery, and Monsignore Dr. Matthias Türk represented the PCPCU. Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Chairman, Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Executive Secretary, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Vice-chairman, and Prof. Dr. Werner Klän, Lutheran Theological Seminary Oberursel, represented the ILC.

The discussion had three primary points: A Presentation of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) including its history and priorities, Ecumenical Relations between ILC members and the Roman Catholic Church, and Future Ecumenical Goals.

After a productive discussion, it was proposed that the local and regional informal discussions may be extended to an informal international dialogue process between the ILC and the Roman Catholic Church. These international series of consultations would be delegated to the ILC executive committee and to the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute for Ecumenism. The goals of these discussions would be to define more unity between the churches represented by the ILC and the Roman Catholic Church and to offer a deeper understanding of the work already accomplished by the Lutheran – Roman Catholic dialogue on the international and regional level.

Cardinal Koch and Bishop Voigt expressed gratitude for the meeting and looked forward to a deepening of relationships between member churches of the ILC and the Roman Catholic Church.

The ILC and the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute for Ecumenism after an organizational meeting, propose to hold two meetings a year for the next three years with the results of these discussions to be presented to the PCPCU.

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About the International Lutheran Council
The ILC is a worldwide association of established confessional Lutheran church bodies, consisting of 34 member churches, which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. (www.ilc-online.org)

About the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
The Pontifical Council is entrusted with the promotion of Christian Unity. It carries out this task in liaison with the various departments of the Roman Curia and through ecumenical relationships and theological dialogues with the other Christian Churches and ecclesial Communities on the world wide level. (www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/)