Monday, July 30, 2007

faith and order anniversary

... church historian and Lutheran pastor Dr. Martin Marty, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, summarized the many ecumenical accomplishments of the Faith and Order movement in the last 50 years. He cited advances such as mergers of denominational variations into united churches; the development of various state, national and world councils of churches; the number of full-communion agreements; and theological breakthroughs such as the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation.

At the same time, Marty counseled against minimizing the difficulties the movement still faces. These difficulties are not so much in the area of faith, he observed, which operates in the area of mystery, depth and amplitude but is hard to define. Rather, the "sticking points" have to do with sexual issues and authority issues, he said. These still remain communion-dividing issues within and among the churches and keep Christians from sharing the common Eucharist.

Read the whole thing here. Faith and Order has always been the theological side of the modern ecumenical movement. Dr. Marty contends the thorniest theological disagreements have been either solved or made moot, issues such as baptism, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and liturgical differences. Only ecclesiological and social issues remain. What do you Whitehallians think? Has Faith and Order brought us substantive change, or are its accomplishments, such as the influential Lima statement from 1982, merely an illusion, with real differences hiding behind vague language? What is the best measure of success in the ecumenical effort -- agreed statements and signed concordats, or common work and worship, or something else?

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