Thanks for your explanation on how Lutherans generally see themselves
situated in the "ecclesiastical spectrum." I agree that the ecumenical
situation is getting complicated. The recent discussions between some
Lutherans and, in Canada, the Anglican church, are just one example.
Interestingly, there appears to be more of a difference between the ELCIC
and the LC-C (Missouri Synod) than between the ELCIC and the Anglican church
and, I've been told, stems from the refusal of the MC-C to accept female
pastors. If this is the case, the historic doctrinal differences between
various denominations are being superseded by the acceptance or rejection of
new practices. Some of the denominational fragmentation has to be a luxury
that we may not be able to afford indefinitely.
Historically Lutherans have been considered "protestants" & one
might even argue the protestants: The term originated at the 1529 Diet of
Speyer. Often the term is used very broadly to mean all western Christians
who aren't RCs.
My language shows to some extent my own position in the Lutheran
spectrum, what is sometimes called "evangelical catholic." It's the view
that the purpose of the Lutheran Reformation wasn't and isn't to establish a
new church but to reform the church catholic, and that the offer the
Lutherans made to Rome in the Augsburg Confession remains on the table. Or
to put it another way, the Reformation isn't irreversible. Other Lutherans
(e.g., those opposed to recent agreements with the Anglicans & with Rome)
would disagree with this.
Certainly Lutherans have a great deal in common with other
communions which broke with Rome in the 16th century on critical doctrines
like justification. The fact that a number of Lutheran-Reformed
intercommunion agreements have been reached in the past 50 years is an
indication of this.
But in a number of ways Lutherans are closer to RCs than to most
protestants. Continuing use of historic liturgies, church calendar,
vestments, & respect for church traditions in general, provide one example.
Of more significance is basic agreement between Rome & Lutherans on Baptism
and Eucharist. (Luther said at one point, "Before I would have mere wine
with the Swiss, I would have mere blood with the pope.") The Apocrypha is
another example. We've also come to see that some of the things that
divided the churches in the 16th century don't have to today: The recent
Lutheran-Roman joint declaration on justification was an important step in
But of course the whole ecumenical situation gets rather
complicated. One indication of that is that I'm now serving as a Lutheran
pastor at an Episcopal parish!
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Dialogue"
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