Why the Pope likes Luther

At the joint Catholic/Lutheran service in Sweden, commemorating Reformation Day, Pope Francis was said to have “issued some of the most positive language ever used by a pope to describe Martin Luther and his beliefs.”

The Pope said that the doctrine of justification “expresses the essence of human existence before God.”  The Reformation “helped give greater centrality to sacred scripture in the Church’s life.”  And in his teaching that salvation is “by grace alone, ” Luther “reminds us that God always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response.”

The Pope also signed a commitment with the head of the Lutheran World Federation to work towards full intercommunion between the two theological traditions.

After the jump, a news story about the developments from a Catholic publication.  For the full text of the Pope’s remarks, go here.  For the Communion agreement, go here.  See also my thoughts on the matter.

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Commemorating or undoing the Reformation?

On Reformation Day, October 31, the Pope will commemorate the Reformation in a common service with Lutherans in Sweden.

Michael Root, in The Christian Century, discusses the event, sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation, and gets into the difficulties it and related events scheduled for the 500th Anniversary of the 95 Theses have been posing for Catholics.  Nothing is said about the difficulties they might pose for Lutherans.

But such unionistic services raise the question:  Is the intention to celebrate (what Protestants are saying), commemorate (what Catholics are saying) or undo the Reformation (what would seem to be the ecumenical agenda)? [Read more…]

A common liturgy for Catholics & Lutherans on Reformation Day

Catholics and LWF Lutherans have released a common liturgy to be used for joint services, with both a Catholic and a Lutheran celebrant, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 1517.  (Both conservative Lutherans and conservative Catholics will find unity in the response of being appalled.) [Read more…]

Searching for the Church

Patheos has a blog called The Evangelical Pulpit that posts a wide range of material and that you can actually contribute to.  (I urge you to put together a submission if you have something pertinent to say.)  One of my prized students, Nick Barden, has written a post about his search for a church and a theological tradition. And, more broadly, for the “church Catholic,” how the different traditions all fit together.

He treats Baptists, Pentecostals, Calvinists, Lutherans, and Catholics, and is quite fair and illuminating about them all.  He “gets” some important facets about Lutheranism, though perhaps not completely.  I quote from his post after the jump, but you really need to read the whole thing from the beginning. [Read more…]

Evangelicals take part in Vatican marriage conference

Evangelicals, Pentecostalists, and even Mormons took part in a recent Vatican conference on marriage, which was hosted by Pope Francis.  Southern Baptist social ministries spokesman Russell Moore was an invited speaker.  So was megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who was said to have turned the Roman Catholic meeting into a “revivalist meeting.”  (Does anyone know if any Lutherans participated?)  The Catholics gave the evangelicals a standing ovation.

Do you think this was a good thing–religious people of various stripes rallying in defense of marriage–or a problematic and potentially dangerous  bit of unionism? [Read more…]

Whatever happened to the National Council of Churches?

The ecumenical organization of liberal mainline Protestants (plus the Orthodox, which I never understood) known as the National Council of Churches used to be enormously influential.  But now it has dwindled to insignificance.  Jacob Lupner explains what happened and how the NCC is trying to rise again. [Read more…]