Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pastor Zip Gets Quoted: Part 1

I've been quoted twice over the last month in articles by Peoria Journal Star Religion Editor Michael Miller in the Saturday "Faith & Values" section. In July (while I was on holiday in Los Angeles) I had responded via e-mail to questions he'd asked in the light of the recent statement on the Doctrine of the Church, and he used some of that to conclude his Religion Beat column, Vatican words rile some Protestants.
The Vatican’s recent statement on the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church has riled some non-Catholic Christians in the ecumenical movement, but Catholic leaders and some Protestants are saying it’s nothing to be concerned about and certainly nothing new.
For me the statement had come shortly after I'd attended a conference Freedom and Authority in the Christian Life sponsored by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. Among the speakers there was Dr. Margaret O'Gara, who has been an official Catholic representative in the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogues in both the U. S. and internationally, and I had been struck by the tone of her address where it seemed she was minimizing particular differences between Lutherans and Catholics (related to her conference topic) so much that it sounded like the Catholic Church had become Lutheran—sort of along the lines of American missionaries of a few generations ago "going native" after spending so much time in a non-Christian culture. So that, along with the understanding that the Vatican's "Responses" statement was targeting that sort of ecumenism, was behind my reply to Miller and what he included of my response in the paper:
However, Kieschnick said that the LCMS looks "forward to the continuation of our theological dialogues with Roman Catholic leaders in discussion of this very important matter and to strengthening our common witness on such matters as the sanctity of life."

That "sanctity of life" movement is one of several where Catholics and other Christians participate on a grass-roots level. Another area of cooperation is the Cursillo renewal movement, which in the Diocese of Peoria has historically been marked by Protestant involvement. Such interaction will probably continue without a noticeable hitch.

That’s the feeling of the Rev. Steven Tibbetts, pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Peoria. Tibbetts has been involved in ecumenical efforts since the early 1980s. He’s also a "non-Roman" spiritual advisor on Cursillo weekends and takes part in the conferences of the Center for Catholic and Ecumenical (sic) Theology.

"It is almost as if the pope is trying to get Catholic ecumenists to give a more consistent message to the various communions and groups with whom they have dialogues," said Tibbetts, whose church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The statement’s impact will be minor, Tibbetts said, "because ecumenical relations aren’t really going anywhere beyond the committees having the discussions—at least formally."

"I think that, in this statement, the Vatican is challenging ‘Protestant’ ecumenists, and the churches themselves, to seriously deal with a doctrine of the church, of which the ministry-priesthood and apostolic succession are an indispensable part."
If you haven't already, read it all here.

And, yes, the Lutheran Reformers saw the Holy Ministry (the Confessions speak repeatedly and approvingly of "priests" and the "priesthood," except where the office has been abused) and Apostolic Succession as indispensible to the Church. They hadn't defined them precisely as the Council of Trent would a few years later, but they didn't just throw them out the door like the more Radical Reformers did. As we confess in Article V of the Augsburg Confession:
That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake.

They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.
Lutherans need to remember who we are, so that we can remind Romans Catholics of who they are, so that we can together re-discover the Catholic Faith and be fully "Church" once again.

Continued on next post.

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