From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue Reviews Rough Drafts

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Thu, 13 Dec 2001 14:47:18 -0600


December 13, 2001


     BALTIMORE (ELCA) -- The 10th round of talks in the United States
between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reviewed rough drafts of sections
that would eventually become a statement on "The Church as Koinonia of
Salvation: Its Structures and Ministries."  Representative teams from
both churches met here Dec. 6-9.
     "Koinonia" is an anglicized Greek word that appears several times
in the Christian Bible and is translated as "fellowship, a close mutual
relationship; participation, sharing in; partnership; contribution,
gift."  The dialogue is taking up issues of koinonia as they relate to
"ordained ministry and structures of church unity."
     "I continue to be encouraged by the depth and fruits of our work
in this effort to appreciate the significance of priest, pastor and
bishop in God's work of salvation," said the dialogue's Catholic
co-chair, the Most Rev. Richard J. Sklba, auxiliary bishop of the Roman
Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
     "In the course of our four days this time, it's become
increasingly clear that there are five or six points of clear
convergence, which we can all recognize around the table, whose
descriptions still need refinement," said Sklba.  A major development of
the meeting came through the dialogue's study of church history to
illustrate how similarly the two traditions have structured their
ministries, he said.
     The Rev. Charles H. Maahs, former bishop of the ELCA Central
States Synod, Overland Park, Kan., is the Lutheran co-chair.  "We have
come to a point where we can acknowledge one another's strengths while
being clear about those issues that continue to separate us in our
relationship," he said.  "The way we are working as a group is something
that is exemplary and needs to be affirmed."
     Members of the dialogue presented rough drafts of papers, analyzed
the wording and discussed ways of organizing the papers into a final
report.  In addition to the chairs, the dialogue teams include six
participants from each church and staff from both church offices.
     Participants developed a tentative outline that would divide the
report into two sections -- a common statement and supporting materials.
The common statement would include an introduction and a presentation of
the dialogue's findings about areas of agreement and areas still needing
study.  Supporting materials would give deeper explanations of the
findings in biblical and historical research, as well as in recent
developments and confessional positions.
     The co-chairs gave a four-member drafting committee the assignment
to put the papers into a draft the dialogue could review at its next
meeting, May 2-5 at St. Paul's College, Washington, D.C.  Lutheran
members of that committee are the Rev. John H.P. Reumann, Philadelphia,
and Dr. Michael Root, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio;
Catholic members are the Rev. Michael Slusser, Duquesne University,
Pittsburgh, and Dr. Susan K. Wood, SCL, St. John's University,
Collegeville, Minn.
     Maahs said the group will not have a final draft in May "but will
have a draft that will probably be able to clarify for us the places
where we can arrive at some consensus terms about our structures and our
ministries and the places where we will need to continue to do some
     "We recognized agreement," said Sklba.  "We also discovered that
the other party in the dialogue may be saying the same thing we are
saying in different words that don't deny our own affirmations," he
     "I find it an enormous grace to be working together in this
project and discovering the communion that already exists," Sklba said.
There are Lutheran pastors and Catholic priests serving the same
neighborhoods who prepare their homilies together.  "That's the kind of
communion we recognize already existing and a sign of what should and
still could come in the future," he said.
     "We continue to keep in mind, perhaps even in a growing kind of
way, that what we hope to do will provide some missiological
opportunities as well," said Maahs.  "What we do together can be helpful
to the mission and the evangelism for both our churches in partnership,"
he said.
     The ELCA has 5.13 million members in 10,816 congregations across
the United States and Caribbean.  Those congregations are organized into
65 synods, each headed by a bishop.
     The Roman Catholic Church has more than 62 million members in the
United States.  Its 187 dioceses or archdioceses oversee almost 20,000
     The USCCB and the U.S.A. National Committee of the Lutheran World
Federation initiated the first round of the "bilateral" dialogue in
1965.  It has produced a number of common statements on such topics as
Scriptures, saints and justification by faith.  The 10th round of talks
began in September 1998.
     In addition to prayers to open and close each day of the meeting,
dialogue members worshiped together Dec. 8 at the Roman Catholic
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
Mary and Dec. 9 at Christ Lutheran Church, both in Baltimore.  Maahs
brought greetings at the National Shrine; Sklba preached during both
worship services.
     Maahs said dialogue members have found St. Paul's biblical
blessing for the church in Rome to be "foundational, uplifting and
encouraging" for their work: "May the God of steadfastness and
encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in accord
with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
     "The Holy Spirit challenges us to understand, listen to and
respect the faith we have and share in Jesus Christ," said Maahs.
     Advent, the church season preceding Christmas, shows Christians
they must constantly repent and reform -- individually and corporately,
Sklba said.  Preparation for the coming of Christ is more an attitude
than a calendar item, he said.
     Sklba called the dialogue an example of God's constant work of
reformation -- "a sign of this fresh new beginning of God in our world."
     "Reunion, reconciliation is possible.  We look forward to that,"
said Sklba, "for the kingdom of God is at hand."

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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