Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FW: True Ecumeny Is This…



Feed: Gnesio
Posted on: Tuesday, February 08, 2011 12:30 AM
Author: driley
Subject: True Ecumeny Is This…


The unity of the Lutheran Church may not be confused with the unity of the Church of Christ in general; for we do not confuse, as do the Roman Catholics, our church with the Una Sancta. In what does the unity of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church consist? The 7th article of the Augsburg Confession teaches that: wherever the gospel is announced so that humans can thereby come to faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and where the sacraments are still administered according to the institution of the Lord, there is the one holy church, the community of saints, i.e., the sinners who have faith and who are justified in faith. That can happen inside of, and outside of, our denominational church. Indeed, Lutheranism has never given up the faith, that the true church of Christ is all around the earth, hidden among the historically metamorphosed "churches", wherever even only the voice of the Good shepherd can still be heard. Here is the great and authentic ecumeny of our church, which has found its most powerful expression in that which the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, article 7/8, says about the "comforting article" of the ecclesia catholica:

this remains certainly true, that the group and the individuals are the true church, which here and there in the world, from sunrise to sunset, truly believe in Christ, which then have one gospel, one Christ, one baptism and one sacrament, governed by one Holy Spirit, even if they have different ceremonies. (Müller, pg. 154)

This church and its unity are a reality in the world, but a reality which must be believed, as the explanation of the third article in Luther's large catechism so clearly says:

I believe that there is on earth a little holy flock or community of pure saints under one head, Christ. It is called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith, mind and understanding. It possesses a variety of gifts, yet is united in love without sect or schism, (Müller, pg, 457)

True ecumeny, which sees the one church of Christ wherever the means of grace are yet preserved – through which the Lord calls to His church -even beyond the boundaries of one's own ecclesiology, stands opposed to false ecumeny, which treats Christians of all denominations as brothers in faith. This false ecumeny tries to make visible and tangible that which we humans cannot see and touch, the church as the people of God, as the Body of Christ, as the temple of the Holy Spirit. This false ecumeny changes the "article of faith" about the church into an "article of sight." It understands the unity of the church, which only the Holy Spirit can create and maintain, as something which we humans can produce. And it tries to produce this unity, in that it works to realize the one faith, the one baptism, the one sacrament of the altar as a compromise of various forms of faith, various interpretations of baptism, and various understandings of holy communion. In so far as it does that, this false ecumeny overlooks [the fact] that the various understandings of the means of grace are not only different possibilities of understanding the truth, but rather that soul-murdering errors and church-destroying heresy also hide among them. True ecumeny sees this. Therefore, it is able to recognize the true unity of the church only there, where it recognizes the one correct faith, the one correct baptism, the one communion of the Lord Christ. True ecumeny asks, therefore, not first about unity, but rather about truth. It knows that where the true church is, there, and there alone, is also the one church. In this sense it understands the high priestly prayer of the Lord, too, in which the "that they may all be one" is linked inseparably with "sanctify them in Your truth; Your Word is the truth" (John 17:17,21)

from Hermann Sasse, 'Concerning the Unity of the Lutheran Church' (1952)

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