Daily Archives: October 21, 2009

Quo Vadis ELCA? David Yeago looks at “The Way Forward” “In the Aftermath”

While a lot is going on among the Anglicans, we should not loose sight of the fact that there are things going on among the Lutherans as well. The recent decision of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to allow practicing homosexuals to serve in the ordained ministry has caused great difficulty for “Confessional” (or “traditional”) Lutherans in that country. Many are asking “Where do we go from here?”. One answer is provided on the blog “Lutherans Persisting” by the Rev. Dr. David Yeago, an intelligent and widely published theologian who teaches systematic theology at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. Together with theologians like Michael Root and Carl Braaten, he represents the very best of Lutheranism among the Yankees.

He began by publishing back in September a post entitled “In the Aftermath”. He has followed this up with about ten additional posts under the title “The Way Forward”. This is a work in progress, and we look forward to more. But I have found this so very intriguing because essentially it is all a question about what to do when you suddenly find that the ecclesial community you belong to (and I use that term advisedly) publically teaches a lot of tommy-rot and expects you (as either a minister of that community or a lay member) to tow the line and go along with it.

There are different “breaking points” – as Dr Yeago calls them – for everyone. For me it was the fact that my Lutheran Synod simply voted on a question which thirty-four years earlier they had declared a matter of divine revelation, of apostolic teaching, which could never be altered. This led me to understand that the Lutheran Church of Australia had contradicted its claim to be able to authoritatively teach on matters of divine revelation (aka “judge teachers and teachings according the sole norm of Holy Scripture”), and that such authority must be sought elsewhere. As our Lord promised, seek and ye shall find, and I found the Catholic Church.

Dr Yeago is, like many in his situation, very eager to nip in the bud any such seeking beyond the boundaries of Lutheranism. He is convinced that “breaking point” has not been yet reached, and this series of posts is designed to be a call Lutheran “traditionalists” (as he names them) to remain faithful to their denomination. I think you can see why I am interested in his arguments. Should I have remained in the LCA? Was I wrong to see the vote on women’s ordination at the 2000 General Convention of the Synod of the LCA as a “breaking point”?

Of course not. I remain convinced and thankful that God in his grace opened my eyes to the truth. I have, in the past, been wrong in many of my convictions. Once I was a supporter of women’s ordination, and demanded of those who opposed it that they demonstrate their case. In fact, while I was still a Lutheran I saw the error of that teaching. Other doctrines I was not convinced of until I accepted the whole Catholic faith upon my conversion to the Catholic Church. For example, until I became a Catholic, I practiced contraception. I was not convinced that it was sinful until I learned to listen to the Catholic Church in faith. Then I understood. As St Anselm said, Credo ut intelligam. Another more esoteric example – but important none-the-less – was my rejection, as a Lutheran, of the immortality of the soul. Now, Lutherans do not generally reject this doctrine, but I did. It was not until I accepted the Catholic faith, that I learnt the truth concerning the destiny of the human being as a body-soul unity.

It is my intention over the next few weeks to examine David Yeago’s essays addressing the predicament of traditionalist Lutherans in the ELCA. I hope to do some service to both my Catholic and Lutheran readers, both here and in the United States. I want the Catholics to understand where the Lutherans are coming from, and I want the Lutherans to understand that what they fear in the Catholic Church (the ABC rule: “Anything But Catholic”) is unfounded. There is a way forward. There is somewhere to go. In fact, there is a Church to which God is calling all those who are baptised into Christ.


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More info on the upcoming “Anglican” Apostolic Constitution

Many thanks to Andrew Rabel for forwarding this link on to me from Robert Moynihan at Inside the Vatican. Andrew has his own report included in this. So many questions yet to be answered!



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A new model for Catholic Ecumenism?

Well, well, well. So it has finally happened. Doing things backwards, as they often do, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has released an explanatory note on an Apostolic Constitution that has yet to see the light of day, but which we are assured will set up “personal ordinariates” for Anglicans wishing to enter full communion with the Holy See while maintaining the bulk of their traditional Anglican heritage and spirituality.

Two things to note about the Note:

1) It solves the problem of married bishops among the traditional Anglican groups by determining that (a) married Anglican clergy – priests and bishops – seeking full communion can be prepared for ordination as priests but not bishops, and (b) that “the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop”. What a neat solution!

2) It solves the old question about the Western liturgical diversity. Part of the problem has been that, essentially, the Anglican rite is simply a “Reformed” version of the Roman Rite. Can it be said to be a “rite” in its own “right”, so to speak? Answer: Yes. According to Levada:

“It is the hope of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows. Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (4:5). Our communion is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith.”

So, the only question remaining for this one-time Lutheran is: Could a similar situation be envisaged for Lutherans wishing to enter into communion with the See of Rome? Or, for that matter, any identifiable Christian tradition? In other words, is this a new model for Catholic ecumenism? OR, is it just ancient “Uniatism” resurrected?


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