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"Lutheran - Catholic Commission on Unity"

First Official Report of the Joint Working Group
between the Roman Catholic Church and
the Lutheran World Federation

  1. From the 25th to the 27th of August, 1965, and from the 13th to the 15th of April, 1966, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Lutheran World Federation met in Strasbourg. The purpose of these meetings was to determine whether and in what manner the relations which have already begun between the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church can be continued and intensified.
    Participants at this Consultation were:

    1. as representatives of the Roman Catholic Church:
      The Most Rev. Dr. Hermann Volk.
      The Very Rev. Mgr. William Baum
      The Rev. Prof. Peters Bläser, MSC
      The Rev. Yves M.-J. Congar, OP
      The Most Rev. Hans L. Martensen
      The Most Rev. Dr. Johannes G. M. Willebrands
      The Rev. Prof. Johannes L. Witte, SJ

    2. as representatives of the Lutheran World Federation.
      The Rt. Rev. Dr. Hermann Dietzfelbinger
      The Rev. Prof. Jerald Brauer (first session)
      The Rev. Carl H. Mau, Jr.
      The Rev. Prof. Warren A. Quanbeck
      The Rev. Dr. Kurt Schmidt-Clausen (first session)
      The Rev. Prof. Kristen Ejner Skydsgaard
      The Rev. Prof. Vilmos Vajta
      The Rev. Dr. André Appel (second session)

    3. as observers:
      The Rev. Victor Hayward, World Council of Churches (first session)
      The Rev. Patrick Rodger, World Council of Churches (second session)
      The Rev. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

    4. as guest:
      The Rev. André Appel (first session)

    The meetings were held under the joint chairmanship of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Dietzfelbinger and the Most Rev.Dr. Volk.

  2. The Roman Catholic delegation received its authorization from the Holy See by a letter from the Cardinal Secretary of State dated July 7th, 1965. The Lutheran delegation was authorized by the Executive Committee of the LWF at its meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, June 13-19, 1965. The two delegations are to report the results of their mutual conversation in the form of recommendations and information to their respective authorities.

  3. The two delegations are convinced that within the context of the total ecumenical awakening, which has developed and exists today in many churches, special and official relations are necessary between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Churches. The common origin of both Churches and the particular history of their relations to each other account for the specific responsibility which they acknowledge for each other.

  4. This acknowledgement in no way jeopardizes their respective relations to the World Council of Churches or other churches. Therefore, the two delegations recommend that an observer from the World Council of Churches be invited and the presence of observers from other churches, if appropriate, be considered at any future meetings. Furthermore, they express the hope that the relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation and future relationships that may evolve, will contribute to the ecumenical cause in general.

  5. As the point of departure for the deliberations two themes were considered introduced by four lecturers. The themes were:

    "Content, Shape and Scope of Possible Contacts between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation - Retrospect and Hopes", and "Central Theological Issues for Future Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church".
        The discussions have convinced the two delegations that the traditional theological problems between Roman Catholics and Lutherans are still with us. Through the emergence of the modern world, however, they now appear in different perspective.
        A number of topics for future discussion emerged from the deliberations, centering around the following themes (see below for further explanation):

    1. The Word of God.
    2. The Presence of Christ in the Church.
    3. Christology.
    4. Pneumatology.
    5. Justification and Sanctification.
    6. Renewal and Reformation.
    7. Missionary and Pastoral Problems.

        The development of the natural sciences compels us to see the traditional problems in a new setting. The expanded knowledge of the universe today, the growing secularization of the modern world, and the difficulties of faith in God for contemporary man put the anthropological problem in an acute new way.
        Similarly the development of historical science has given modern man a new way of apprehending the past. When one studies the questions between us on a theological and scholarly plain, the historical dimensions must be constantly considered.
        In the same way the development of modern biblical scholarship has modified the traditional formulation of the respective positions and opened a new approach to the confessional differences.

  6. The two delegations believe that the following activities can establish or intensify mutual relations:

    1. Dialogue
      By dialogue the two delegations mean a common striving for the truth carried on in mutual respect, where both partners meet as equals. Dialogue between churches should be conducted in obedience to the Spirit of truth. It is recommended:

      1. That dialogue be encouraged or established, notwithstanding local or historical obstacles, involving responsible representatives of the churches at those levels which are appropriate. These groups should provide opportunity for the churches both to engage in serious discussions on theological issues and to identify and eliminate misunderstandings and causes of irritation.

      2. That on the international level two joint study commissions be established,
        - one assigned the topic "The Gospel and the Church"
        - the other assigned the topic "Theology of Marriage and the Problem of Mixed Marriages".
        The respective staffs of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and the General Secretariat of the Lutheran World Federation shall facilitate the work of these commissions (which can be composed of seven members on each side) and the proper reporting to their respective authorities.

      3. That, upon recommendation of the respective staffs, authorization be given to hold special joint consultations on problems of common concern.

    2. Exchange of Observers
      The Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation have already exchanged observers or consultants on various occasions. The two delegations believe that this provides a means of fraternal understanding and communication between the two groups and should be continued and extended at such meetings and consultations where it is appropriate and mutually beneficial. Judgement on each occasion belongs to the free decision of each group.

    3. Regular Staff Consultations
      Liaison has existed between the General Secretariat of the Lutheran World Federation and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. It is recommended that this be continued and, where possible, broadened. Special attention should be given to the possibility of cooperation in the field of charity, relief work, social welfare, etc.

  7. Both delegations agree that attention should be drawn to the following way of approach or methodology:

    1. In our relations the deep differences that have developed between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Churches should not be overlooked. These differences will be honestly recognized and taken seriously with mutual respect for convictions.

    2. We cannot take it for granted that we know each other's positions. To deal in our discussion only in categories of "things we already know" is completely insufficient. Apologetic haste, oversimplification and hidden prejudice are harmful and dangerous. Patience is needed to go into questions seriously and loyally. Each time a question is taken up with adequate knowledge and charity, new Christian insights are opened up for future development.

    3. Dialogue is not only a matter of academic theological discussion. To the scientific theological side there must be added openness to the leading of the Spirit of God, openness to each other and to the possibility of an inner movement toward one another. This requires time for prayer and silent meditation, mutual charity and understanding. So too the Council decree De Oecumenismo gives precedence to "spiritual ecumenism" over theological discussion itself.

  8. In repentance and faith we are grateful for the new insights and for the new hope that are given to us by divine grace in our fraternal relationships.
     We pray that our Churches will be enabled to give a more effective witness to the world where so many feel incapable of faith in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, or even of accepting the existence of a personal, living God.

  9. The two delegations recommend to their respective authorities that the results of the conversations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation shall be publicly announced only upon common agreement. Each side, however, shall be entitled to provide its own authorities, member churches, bishops' conferences, etc., with current confidential information. The World Council of Churches, as well as other confessions or church families may, upon common agreement, also be informed.


List of Topics (see point 5 of report)

  1. The Word of God
    The Authority and Interpretation of Scripture
    Scripture and Tradition
    Divine Revelation and Confession of Faith

  2. The Presence of Christ in the Church
    Priesthood of Believers
    Authority and Ministry in the Church
    The Purity of the Gospel and the Fulness of the Church

  3. Particular Problems of Christology
    The soteriological function of the Humanity of Christ
    Solus Christus et Cooperatio
    Christological Implications of Marian Theology
    The Anthropological and Cosmic Implications of Christology

  4. and Pneumatology
    The Presence of the Spirit in the Church
    Spirit and Institution (Amt und Charisma)
    The Relation of Sin and Temptation to the Church (Versuchbarkeit der Kirche)
    The Place of Law in the Church

  5. Justification and Sanctification
    Law and Gospel
    The Meaning of Sin
    Baptismal Faith and Justification
    Sacraments as Means of Grace

  6. Renewal and Reformation
    The Meaning of the Reformation
    (Can Roman Catholics learn from Luther;
    Self-criticism in the Lutheran Tradition)
    Permanent and Changeable Elements in the Church

  7. Missionary and Pastoral Problems
    What can we do together in World Mission?
    The Theology of Marriage
    Mixed Marriages
    Religious Liberty

(Lutheran World 13, 4 (1966) 436-438 and Information Service 3 (1967) 26-28)


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