Lutheran Ordinariates?

Leroy HuizengaBlog4 Comments

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has opened the door to Lutheranorum Coetibus in a recent interview with ZENIT:

ZENIT: You are the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The dialogue with Protestants is, in fact, very important in Germany. In your opinion, what progress has been made recently in Germany and what can be expected concretely from the Synod?
Cardinal Koch: The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed in August of 1999 was undoubtedly a great step forward in the ecumenical dialogue with Lutherans. The task remaining now is to discuss the ecclesiological consequences of this Joint Declaration. What is clear, in fact, is that the Evangelicals [=Protestants here — LAH] have another understanding of the Church in regard to Catholic Christians. It’s not enough to recognize one another mutually as a Church. What is needed, rather, is a serious theological dialogue on what constitutes the essence of the Church.
ZENIT: Is a solution similar to the Anglicanorum coetibus for Anglicans possible for Evangelical Christians?
Cardinal Koch: Anglicanorum coetibus was not an initiative of Rome, but came from the Anglican Church. The Holy Father then sought a solution and, in my opinion, found a very broad solution, in which the Anglicans’ ecclesial and liturgical traditions were taken into ample consideration. If similar desires are expressed by the Lutherans, then we will have to reflect on them. However, the initiative is up to the Lutherans.

It’s hard to read too much into or behind Cardinal Koch’s comments, especially as he’s responding to a specific question. On the other hand, there has been talk of this here and there, and one has to think certain Lutherans have eyed Anglicanorum Coetibus with a degree of interest and hope.

Theologically, though, I wonder if it wasn’t easier to come up with an agreement with the Anglicans because Anglicans haven’t had a well-defined confessional theology. Lutherans have, whether they’re more liberal, pietist, or orthodox in a given congregation or era. I suppose if Catholics and Lutherans willing to be in union with Rome can accept the 1999 Declaration on Justification, then the sides can also come up with an understanding of Holy Communion as a sacrifice. In some ways, Lutherans are closest to Catholics in spirit and (thanks to common roots in Augustine) in theology, especially when one reads the Lutheran confessional statements of the 1500s, but in other ways, worlds apart.

In any event, Pope Benedict is the Pope of Christian unity.

4 Comments on “Lutheran Ordinariates?”

  1. The big problem seems to be in uniformity of Lutheran congregations. Anglicans, by nature of being country/cultural specific had a unity and uniformity that I don’t see- at least in North American Lutherans. How would this agreement look for ELCA/MSLC/WELS varieties? Especially when they do not use a common book of worship.

    I suppose they could approve one common book of historical significance and offer that as the option for Lutherans wishing to join. It certainly shows His Holiness’ commitment to Christian unity. “If you want in, we’ll do what we can to bring you in.”

  2. Well, I wonder about Anglicans. There’s actually a lot of diversity there in terms of worship and belief. You’ve got a lot of evangelical Anglican congregations who are all about guitars and praise music, and others who have really high liturgy. So I’m not sure you’re right. The question is, what sorts of Lutherans would be interested? What sorts of Anglicans were interested?

  3. Pope John Paul started this unity thing in big ways and Benedict has tried to communicate his passion for it–but I wonder who reads this amazing stuff they have written and spoken of.

    I say, like George Weigel said to me, that the only real discussion about unity can be between those who see the Bible as the common ground–authoritative, inerrant and Christocentric.

    So I say. Christians who believe what the Bible says about salvation. The kind of Lutherans alot more like Lutheran Brethren or LCMS than ELCA.

  4. Well, it is one of the unfortunate facts of our time that people don’t read and heed what JPII or BXVI say. Usually it’s just catholic nerds like myself. What I think I’m seeing in BXVI’s pontificate is a turning away from engagement with mainliners (like the ELCA), given the directions they’ve taken with women’s ordination and social issues, except for efforts like Anglicanorum Coetibus, and a turning to the Eastern Orthodox with whom so much more is shared. The problem with engaging evangelicals is that there’s little structure, even though there’s a lot of shared convictions regarding biblical authority, theology, and moral and social teaching. An evangelical leader can come to Rome and dialogue, but for whom does he or she speak, and with what authority? Timothy George was just in Rome addressing the synod of bishops; he’s part of a substantive evangelical denomination, but even there Baptist ecclesiology makes real joint action and moves to unity difficult.

    That’s why, I think, Catholic dialogue with mainliners was easier until the 1970s or so when biblical authority and traditional convictions on Christian and social morality really started eroding, because mainliners generally had structure and a relatively high sacramentology.

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