WINNIPEG — That Lutherans and Catholics share a common confession of faith, are bound by the sacrament of baptism and are nourished by the same Scriptures make clear that the two share the same foundations of Christian faith, according to a professor of theological studies.
“Lutherans and Catholics have been re-reading their common history and learning how far we have come together on the path from conflict to communion,” said Prof. Matthew Robert Anderson of Concordia University, Montreal, as he addressed, via video, the fifth and final ecumenical study session sponsored by the Catholic and Lutheran Churches of Winnipeg commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
The study sessions were held at Lutheran and Catholic churches beginning in February and concluded June 20 at First Lutheran Church. Each gathering carried a different theme connected to the Commemoration of the Reformation based on the document From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, a product of Lutheran and Roman Catholic dialogue over the past 50 years, and the theological agreement outlined in The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed in 1999.
The Winnipeg sessions were titled “Commemorating the Reformation,” “Conflict Breaks Communion,” “From Conflict to Communion,” “Growth in Communion through Dialogue,” and “Commitment to Communion.” Each session included a short video presentation, with the final one provided by Anderson.
“Seeking union requires that we know each other more deeply,” he said, “and that we esteem the many gifts of the church present in each other’s traditions. This has happened through the centuries wherever unnamed Christians living side by side and led by God’s Spirit have shown goodwill and sought to live in friendship. We saw how the modern ecumenical movement began to bring Christians together to work for reconciliation, among Christian churches. An important impetus for these efforts is the mutual recognition of the sacramental bond of baptism that unites us to Christ and brings us into communion with one another in his ecclesial body, the church.
“We learned how, through the practice of dialogue, many scholars and church leaders worked to overcome misunderstandings and doctrinal disagreements. The practice of dialogue can also help us build trust, mutual respect and better knowledge of one another at the local level. Today Lutherans and Catholic leaders and pastors gather together in ministerial associations for fellowship and mutual support. Clergy and pastoral workers come together for common study days and times of retreat. Military, hospital and prison chaplaincy teams have become important centres for ecumenical collaboration and ministry.”
All five videos can be found on the YouTube website by searching “Joint Ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation.”
Co-chairs of the Roman Catholic — Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada working group for the 500th Year Commemoration of the Reformation, were Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon and Rev. Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
In a letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, Gagnon explained the “immense significance” of the events of Oct. 31, 2016, at the 1000-year old Lutheran cathedral in Lund, Sweden, when Pope Francis joined with leaders of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The LWF bishop, Dr. Munib A. Younan, and general secretary, Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, participated with Pope Francis “in a communal liturgy highlighting the fruits of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue.”
The final study session concluded with five commitments made by Lutherans and Catholics: to begin from the perspective of unity, not division; to continuously be transformed by the encounter with the other and the mutual witness of faith; to seek visible unity, to elaborate together what this means in concrete steps and to strive repeatedly toward this goal; to jointly rediscover the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for our time; and to witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.