Author Topic: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity  (Read 7824 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« on: October 30, 2015, 03:03:32 PM »
ELCA News Service

Oct. 30, 2015

Lutherans, Catholics ‘on the way’ to greater unity15-72-MRC

CHICAGO (ELCA) – Drawing on 50 years of national and international dialogue, Lutherans and Catholics have made available Oct. 30 Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist – a unique ecumenical document that marks a pathway toward greater unity between Catholics and Lutherans.


“Five hundred years ago wars were fought over the very issues about which Lutherans and Roman Catholics have now achieved consensus,” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). “Church, ministry and Eucharist have been areas of disagreement and even separation between our two churches, and we still have work to do both theologically and pastorally as we examine the questions. The declaration is so exciting because it shows us 32 important points where already we can say there are not church-dividing issues between us, and it gives us both hope and direction for the future,” she said.

“Pope Francis in his recent visit to the United States emphasized again and again the need for and importance of dialogue,” said Bishop Denis J. Madden of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Catholic co-chair of the task force creating the document. “This Declaration on the Way represents in concrete form an opportunity for Lutherans and Catholics to join together now in a unifying manner on a way finally to full communion.”

At its heart are 32 “Statements of Agreement” where Lutherans and Catholics already have points of convergence on topics about church, ministry and Eucharist. The document also indicates differences that remain.

The declaration seeks reception of the Statement of Agreements from The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). The LWF is a global communion of 145 churches in 98 countries worldwide. The ELCA is the communion’s only member church from the United States.

The conclusion of the declaration invites the PCPCU and the LWF to create a process and timetable for addressing the remaining issues. It also suggests that the expansion of opportunities for Lutherans and Catholics to receive Holy Communion together would be a sign of the agreements already reached. In addition, the declaration urges Catholics and Lutherans at local levels to connect in “a deeper commitment to Christ and greater engagement and collaboration with one another,” according to the declaration’s executive summary.

Earlier this month the ELCA Conference of Bishops – an advisory body of the church –received and unanimously affirmed the Statements of Agreements. ELCA bishops requested that the ELCA Church Council accept them and forward the entire document to the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the denomination’s highest legislative body. The statements were also unanimously affirmed by the Bishops Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A growing unity
In December 2011, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the PCPCU, proposed a declaration “on the way” to seal agreements in the areas of the church, ministry and the Eucharist. The ELCA and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded to the cardinal’s proposal by identifying Catholic and Lutheran scholars and leaders to produce the declaration, drawing principally on the statements of international dialogue commissions sponsored by the LWF and the PCPCU and a range of regional dialogues, including those in the United States.

A significant outcome of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in the United States and internationally is the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), signed in 1999 in Augsburg, Germany. With the JDDJ, the LWF and the Catholic Church agreed to a common understanding of the doctrine of justification and declared that certain 16th century condemnations of each other no longer apply.

“I learned of Cardinal Kurt Koch’s hope that there could be a Declaration In Via,” said the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, former executive for ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations. “After consulting with (former ELCA) Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson, I wrote a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with a hope and a prayer that the ELCA and the (conference) might respond to Cardinal Koch’s hope for a declaration.”

“With great joy we have embraced this assignment together. The Spirit worked and has continued to guide the scholars, co-chairs (of the task force) and staff as we have addressed agreements that we have with ministry, the church, and the Eucharist. In light of 2017 (which marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation), God has given us this moment to be on the way together as Lutherans and Catholics,” said McCoid.

Trying a new thing: The road from dialogue to declaration
The Rev. Jared Wicks, SJ, Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, described the significance of this work: “With the Declaration on the Way, our churches can focus attention on 32 remarkable results of our dialogues of the past half-century. It’s a moment to move from study to declaration, to expand in Catholic and Lutheran believers a shared awareness of their real agreements on significant and well-defined essentials of our faith and life.”

Wicks, a Catholic member of the task force, said the document “puts into the hands of theology teachers and students a concise and well documented account of results of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogues of nearly five decades. I hope and pray that the (declaration) can help to form a new generation of well informed and dedicated ecumenical thinkers and dialogue members.”

“We carefully studied the reports from international, regional and national dialogues,” said the Rev. Joy Schroeder, professor of Church History at Trinity Lutheran Seminary and professor of religion at Capital University, both in Columbus, Ohio.

“While acknowledging that there are matters on which we have not achieved full consensus, we identified numerous places in the dialogue documents where Lutherans and Catholic ecumenists affirmed strong points of agreement regarding the church, ministry and the Lord’s Supper,” said Schroeder, a Lutheran member of the task force. “As we studied the official reports of Catholic-Lutheran dialogues for the past 50 years, we were impressed by the amount of consensus we have already achieved.”

“The Declaration on the Way is a unique document in the history of ecumenical documents,” said Dr. Susan K. Wood, SCL, professor and director, Department of Theology at Marquette University, Milwaukee. Wood is a Catholic member of the task force.

“It is not yet a consensus document of the stature of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. It does not claim that the resolution of all the differences between Catholics and Lutherans on the topics of church, Eucharist, and ministry have been resolved,” said Wood.

“Nevertheless, at the same time, it is not just another dialogue statement on these issues. It gathers the agreements on these topics as presented in international and regional dialogue statements, identifying 32 statements of agreement and presenting the documentation that supports those agreements. These agreements signal that Catholics and Lutherans are indeed ‘on the way’ to full, visible unity,” she said.

“As we approach 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this witness to growing unity gives a powerful message to a world where conflict and division often seem to drown out more positive messages of hope and reconciliation.Declaration on the Way shows that Lutherans and Catholics are living within the ‘already, but not yet’ relationship of real but imperfect communion. Too often, we have stressed the imperfect nature of our unity. The declaration invites us to celebrate the real communion achieved through 50 years of dialogue that we can recognize and affirm with the reception of this text,” said Wood.

Hope for the declaration’s impact was expressed by the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, a former ELCA presiding bishop who serves as the Lutheran co-chair of the task force: “Thanks be to God that we can now offer this declaration. Trusting in the Holy Spirit and with renewed resolve, we can say confidently that Catholics and Lutherans are on the way to full communion.”

The text of the Declaration on the Way and more information are available at
www.elca.org/Declaration-on-the-Way.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2015, 03:12:24 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Terry W Culler

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2015, 08:48:44 AM »
A false unity is not unity and there can be nothing but a false unity between Reformation theology and the theology of the RCC as they stand today.  This reminds me of Cardinal Sodeleto's letter to Geneva seeking their return to the Roman fold.  Calvin answered that letter quite well, I think.
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Charles Austin

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2015, 09:38:14 AM »
I'm sorry, Pastor Culler, but that is the kind of thinking that really gives me the irks and wrinkles.
It is not the 16th Century.
We are not who we were then.
The Roman Catholic part of the Church is not what it was then.
To suggest that a 500-year old letter from Calvin will help settle, explain or further improve the situation today just does not work.
Do you discount the past 40+ years of discussion, both nationally and internationally, so much that this is your response?
Retired ELCA Pastor. Iowa native. Now in Minneapolis. One must always ponder both the value and the dangers of poking the bear. Aroused and stimulated, the bear usually shows its true self. Or it might leap to an extreme version of itself. You never know with bears.

Team Hesse

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2015, 09:57:42 AM »
As I listen to my formerly devout Roman parishioners, I come to understand there remains a long way to go for any meaningful sense of unity between Rome and Wittenberg. Sometimes institutional reality is a long way from reality. Most people live in reality.


Lou

Terry W Culler

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2015, 10:31:13 AM »
I'm sorry, Pastor Culler, but that is the kind of thinking that really gives me the irks and wrinkles.
It is not the 16th Century.
We are not who we were then.
The Roman Catholic part of the Church is not what it was then.
To suggest that a 500-year old letter from Calvin will help settle, explain or further improve the situation today just does not work.
Do you discount the past 40+ years of discussion, both nationally and internationally, so much that this is your response?

Has the RCC renounced Trent?  Has the RCC said they are ready to stop praying to Mary?  Has the RCC stopped giving out indulgences?  Has the RCC said they will treat our theology as on a par with theirs?  Has the RCC agreed that the Reformation is right about justification?  Has the RCC said they agree that apostolic succession is about the teachings of the apostles, not the laying on of hands by people?  Could anyone claim they adhere to the Augsburg Confession and still accept the teachings of Rome as valid?  That's pretty much all I have to say on the matter.
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readselerttoo

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2015, 11:03:34 AM »
For many years I believed there was a good chance for Lutheran-Roman Catholic "unity" whatever that word means.  But institutionally that could only happen on their terms.  No matter how much we interpret the wide meaning of the Augsburg Confession, the RC church officially would need to provide their caveats to it.  I say again and this has been my constant word on this:  until there is substantive agreement about the nature of sin and our variant understanding of the image of God and justification, there will be no "unity".  I say that with deep regret.

MJohn4

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2015, 12:15:51 PM »
Declaration on the Way appears to be a simple summary of where Lutheran/Catholic relations are at this time. Perhaps it is a useful introduction for those interested in that subject area. Viewed in this way, it's a nicely formatted publishing achievement. Hence, "it is not just another dialogue statement on these issues. It gathers the agreements on these topics as presented in international and regional dialogue statements, identifying 32 statements of agreement and presenting the documentation that supports those agreements"-Task Force member Dr. Susan K. Wood. So, I can't see where it really brings anything new to the table. As pages 72 to 116 illustrate, we have a long way to go.

The Task Force that compiled the Declaration seems to be overselling it.

« Last Edit: October 31, 2015, 12:22:25 PM by MJohn4 »

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2015, 12:29:09 PM »
As I listen to my formerly devout Roman parishioners, I come to understand there remains a long way to go for any meaningful sense of unity between Rome and Wittenberg. Sometimes institutional reality is a long way from reality. Most people live in reality.


But for many, on both sides, their "reality" is one of (false) perceptions. Much of what I as a youth was told by Lutherans about Roman Catholics has proven to be false or exaggerated when I actually talk with Roman Catholics. They have also discovered that what they were told by Roman Catholics about Lutherans was also false or exaggerated.


When I was at Wartburg Seminary, we could share classes with the Roman Catholic Aquinas Institute of Theology and the Presbyterian University of Dubuque Seminary. One of the newer Catholic professors confessed that when he was a student at Aquinas, the Lutheran and Catholic students were not supposed to socialize or have discussions with each other, but they had secret meetings off campuses where they would gather for beer and to talk theology.


Once we actually started talking with each other rather than about each other, we discovered that we had a lot more in common that we had thought. There are still differences; but there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all." We can start with that common confession.



"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2015, 12:41:53 PM »
For many years I believed there was a good chance for Lutheran-Roman Catholic "unity" whatever that word means.  But institutionally that could only happen on their terms.  No matter how much we interpret the wide meaning of the Augsburg Confession, the RC church officially would need to provide their caveats to it.  I say again and this has been my constant word on this:  until there is substantive agreement about the nature of sin and our variant understanding of the image of God and justification, there will be no "unity".  I say that with deep regret.


No matter how much we interpret the wide meaning of the Augsburg Confession, we can't even get Lutherans to come together, even though we, the ELCA, confesses: 2.05. This church accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel, acknowledging as one with it in faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.

   
You are also starting at the wrong place, as the summary document indicates.

 Two key points from the conclusion of From Conflict to Communion guided the work:

1) Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.

2) Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with each other and by mutual witness of faith. 

Are you (and others) willing to begin by confessing that there is only one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one Spirit, one God and Father of all; and be willing to be transformed. If we want them to give up elements of Trent, can we say that we willing to give up elements of our Book of Confessions?
« Last Edit: October 31, 2015, 12:44:54 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2015, 12:55:36 PM »
As I listen to my formerly devout Roman parishioners, I come to understand there remains a long way to go for any meaningful sense of unity between Rome and Wittenberg. Sometimes institutional reality is a long way from reality. Most people live in reality.


But for many, on both sides, their "reality" is one of (false) perceptions. Much of what I as a youth was told by Lutherans about Roman Catholics has proven to be false or exaggerated when I actually talk with Roman Catholics. They have also discovered that what they were told by Roman Catholics about Lutherans was also false or exaggerated.


When I was at Wartburg Seminary, we could share classes with the Roman Catholic Aquinas Institute of Theology and the Presbyterian University of Dubuque Seminary. One of the newer Catholic professors confessed that when he was a student at Aquinas, the Lutheran and Catholic students were not supposed to socialize or have discussions with each other, but they had secret meetings off campuses where they would gather for beer and to talk theology.


Once we actually started talking with each other rather than about each other, we discovered that we had a lot more in common that we had thought. There are still differences; but there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all." We can start with that common confession.


"As I listen...."


Did you miss that part?


Reality is not, nor should it be institutionalized.


Lou

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2015, 01:47:53 PM »
As I listen to my formerly devout Roman parishioners, I come to understand there remains a long way to go for any meaningful sense of unity between Rome and Wittenberg. Sometimes institutional reality is a long way from reality. Most people live in reality.


But for many, on both sides, their "reality" is one of (false) perceptions. Much of what I as a youth was told by Lutherans about Roman Catholics has proven to be false or exaggerated when I actually talk with Roman Catholics. They have also discovered that what they were told by Roman Catholics about Lutherans was also false or exaggerated.


When I was at Wartburg Seminary, we could share classes with the Roman Catholic Aquinas Institute of Theology and the Presbyterian University of Dubuque Seminary. One of the newer Catholic professors confessed that when he was a student at Aquinas, the Lutheran and Catholic students were not supposed to socialize or have discussions with each other, but they had secret meetings off campuses where they would gather for beer and to talk theology.


Once we actually started talking with each other rather than about each other, we discovered that we had a lot more in common that we had thought. There are still differences; but there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all." We can start with that common confession.


"As I listen...."


Did you miss that part?


Reality is not, nor should it be institutionalized.


As I listen to devout Roman Catholics - who remain active Roman Catholics - one a priest, one a deacon, one an active lay person, we have a lot in common. We are not that far apart. We look for the day when we can be in eucharistic fellowship. (When the layman worships with us, he will receive communion.) When we attended the ordinations of the priest and deacon, we refrained from receiving the sacrament out of respect for their tradition and not to offend the bishop who was presiding.



"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

readselerttoo

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2015, 02:29:05 PM »
Declaration on the Way appears to be a simple summary of where Lutheran/Catholic relations are at this time. Perhaps it is a useful introduction for those interested in that subject area. Viewed in this way, it's a nicely formatted publishing achievement. Hence, "it is not just another dialogue statement on these issues. It gathers the agreements on these topics as presented in international and regional dialogue statements, identifying 32 statements of agreement and presenting the documentation that supports those agreements"-Task Force member Dr. Susan K. Wood. So, I can't see where it really brings anything new to the table. As pages 72 to 116 illustrate, we have a long way to go.

The Task Force that compiled the Declaration seems to be overselling it.


I think this comment pretty much summarizes my sentiments also.  Thanks for illustrating further.

readselerttoo

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2015, 02:34:12 PM »
As I listen to my formerly devout Roman parishioners, I come to understand there remains a long way to go for any meaningful sense of unity between Rome and Wittenberg. Sometimes institutional reality is a long way from reality. Most people live in reality.


But for many, on both sides, their "reality" is one of (false) perceptions. Much of what I as a youth was told by Lutherans about Roman Catholics has proven to be false or exaggerated when I actually talk with Roman Catholics. They have also discovered that what they were told by Roman Catholics about Lutherans was also false or exaggerated.


When I was at Wartburg Seminary, we could share classes with the Roman Catholic Aquinas Institute of Theology and the Presbyterian University of Dubuque Seminary. One of the newer Catholic professors confessed that when he was a student at Aquinas, the Lutheran and Catholic students were not supposed to socialize or have discussions with each other, but they had secret meetings off campuses where they would gather for beer and to talk theology.


Once we actually started talking with each other rather than about each other, we discovered that we had a lot more in common that we had thought. There are still differences; but there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all." We can start with that common confession.


I would agree with this also but with one exception, my comments above were focused on official teaching and not so much of that at the grassroots level as I hear discussed in your post, P. Stoffregen.  When I was at Wartburg I too took courses at Aquinas.  But always with the clear internal understanding of our official teaching differences in doctrinal matters.

readselerttoo

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2015, 02:43:33 PM »
As I listen to my formerly devout Roman parishioners, I come to understand there remains a long way to go for any meaningful sense of unity between Rome and Wittenberg. Sometimes institutional reality is a long way from reality. Most people live in reality.


But for many, on both sides, their "reality" is one of (false) perceptions. Much of what I as a youth was told by Lutherans about Roman Catholics has proven to be false or exaggerated when I actually talk with Roman Catholics. They have also discovered that what they were told by Roman Catholics about Lutherans was also false or exaggerated.


When I was at Wartburg Seminary, we could share classes with the Roman Catholic Aquinas Institute of Theology and the Presbyterian University of Dubuque Seminary. One of the newer Catholic professors confessed that when he was a student at Aquinas, the Lutheran and Catholic students were not supposed to socialize or have discussions with each other, but they had secret meetings off campuses where they would gather for beer and to talk theology.


Once we actually started talking with each other rather than about each other, we discovered that we had a lot more in common that we had thought. There are still differences; but there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all." We can start with that common confession.


"As I listen...."


Did you miss that part?


Reality is not, nor should it be institutionalized.


As I listen to devout Roman Catholics - who remain active Roman Catholics - one a priest, one a deacon, one an active lay person, we have a lot in common. We are not that far apart. We look for the day when we can be in eucharistic fellowship. (When the layman worships with us, he will receive communion.) When we attended the ordinations of the priest and deacon, we refrained from receiving the sacrament out of respect for their tradition and not to offend the bishop who was presiding.

I don't believe we will have official sharing of the Eucharist during my lifetime.  Until Rome reverses its anathemas at Trent, it cannot be an option.  I don't believe Lutherans need to accept whatever the Papacy puts forward that would compromise the New Testament's clear teaching about justification by faith through grace.  To do otherwise would lose the magnification of the benefits that Christ brought for us through His death on the cross and his resurrection. (Apology 4). 

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Re: Lutheran, Catholics "on the way" to greater unity
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2015, 03:20:32 PM »

Are you (and others) willing to begin by confessing that there is only one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one Spirit, one God and Father of all; and be willing to be transformed. If we want them to give up elements of Trent, can we say that we willing to give up elements of our Book of Confessions?
Is coming together in unity a matter of negotiating a settlement, like a treaty between nations or a union contract?  Each side gives up something so that the settlement can advance?

Let me ask this, what of the Book of Concord is not in line with Scripture or goes beyond what Scripture teaches and so be given up without denying what Scripture teaches?  More specifically, what of the Augsburg Confession is contrary to Scripture or goes beyond what Scripture teaches and so may be given up without denying what Scripture teaches?

Otherwise, what are you willing to give up that Scripture teaches in order to have unity with the Roman Catholics?  Can you show that all of our remaining disagreements are in areas that Scripture does not teach?

What if one of the remaining sticking points preventing unity with Roman Catholics was the ordination of women or the ordination of partnered homosexuals?  Would you be as willing to give that us as you apparently are willing to give up sections of the Augustana?

I remember reading some years back of an Episcopal priest who also wanted to be a Muslim and suggested that in order to foster greater understanding, peace and unity with the Muslim community we Christians should be willing to back down some of our claims about Jesus being God and Savior.  That is an extreme case and I doubt that you would go along with such a proposal.  But what of the faith would you be willing to jettison to foster unity with Roman Catholics or other religious groups?

Recognizing that generally the opinions of Lutherans who lived more than a hundred years ago are often discounted as irrelevant to today's world I still will go with what a prominent Lutheran has been quoted as saying about departing from what he found Scripture to be teaching: "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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