A Joint Catholic/Lutheran Observance Coming Up
Aug 27, 2017
On Sunday, September 10th at 3:00 p.m., Bishop Daniel Thomas and Bishop Daniel Beaudoin of the Northwestern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will lead a joint Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Findlay.
As many of you are aware, I have served as a Lutheran Pastor and am presently serving as a Catholic Priest. I am grateful for my life, both as a Lutheran and as a Catholic. From my vantage point, I have always maintained that one can “believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God” in a manner that is in harmony with the Lutheran Faith at its heart. The evangelical spirit of the Lutheran Faith can serve as a vital framework within which a person can embrace all of the teachings of the Catholic Church.
For example, a painful reality of modern life for a number of persons is that of the trauma of divorce. Even though Lutheran church bodies do not have tribunals that look into the consent of marriages that terminate in civil divorce, I am not aware of anything in Lutheran teaching that would prohibit the healing work that Catholic diocesan marriage tribunals seek to carry out. The existence of marriage tribunals in the Catholic Church is based upon Christ’s teaching that marriage is designed by God to be permanent and indissoluble. Marriage tribunals serve to apply and to make personal our Lord’s teaching about the permanence of marriage. A marriage tribunal can be likened to a pair of prescription glasses. Glasses are designed to enhance the reality of vision for which our eyes exist. I maintain that the existence of marriage tribunals need not and does not contradict but rather enhances what the Lutheran Church believes about the sanctity of marriage.
Catholics are strongly encouraged to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular frequent basis. In the Lutheran tradition, by and large, this practice is not observed. And yet, there is much agreement in regard to what the Catholic and Lutheran Churches teach about the reality of sin and our on-going need for reconciliation. The Catholic practice of encouraging persons to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation responds to a need that all persons have to subjectively appropriate to ourselves God’s gracious offer to forgive us our sins in Christ.
A question that I leave with the Lutheran faith community is this: To whom, or to what office in the Lutheran faith community do all Lutherans look up for Apostolic guidance in regard to the interpretation of the Scriptures and the Confessional Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church? Is there an office or position within the world Lutheran community, acknowledged by all Lutherans, to which the mission of interpreting and teaching the Scriptures in the light of the Confessional Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church has been entrusted in a unique way?
I pray for unity within the Lutheran Faith Community. If and when a person and/or office exists and is recognized by all Lutherans as one who embodies the spirit of Lutheranism, then Lutherans and Catholics will be able to enrich and enhance the already fruitful dialogue that is presently happening. This will lead to significant results in regard to how Christians of both traditions relate to the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Nelson Beaver – Pastor