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date: 27 March 2017

Martin Luther in the Ecumenical Movement

Summary and Keywords

It is by now a well-established fact that Martin Luther never intended to start a new church. He grounded his reforming and theological claims in the universally acknowledged canon of Scripture and decisions of the Early Church. Despite the fundamentally ecumenical intention of the Augsburg Confession and many overtures toward reconciliation, Luther and his colleagues were unable to reverse the divisive impact of their reforms. In the 20th century, however, the twin processes of establishing a worldwide Lutheran fellowship and participating in the nascent ecumenical movement after 1910 prompted Lutherans toward a fresh appreciation of Augsburg Confession, Article 7 and the universal quality of Luther’s theology. This can be seen already in the constituting assembly of the Lutheran World Convention in 1923, where Bishop Ludwig Ihmels made a case for Lutheran ecumenism on the grounds of Lutheranism’s cultural adaptability, commitment to the dogmas of the Ancient Church, and Christocentric focus. Lutherans were accordingly significant figures in the multilateral process during the first half of the 20th century, with Swedish archbishop Nathan Söderblom serving as head of Life and Work, and American Lutherans pushing for confessional rather than national membership in the World Council of Churches. The newly constituted Lutheran World Federation undertook its first theological study in the 1950s on the topic of “The Unity of the Church,” continuing to affirm a double commitment to Lutheran confessional identity and ecumenical reconciliation. Ecumenism underwent a dramatic change as a result of the new involvement of the Catholic Church following Vatican II, a change that suited Lutherans well. The new focus was on bilateral dialogue, resolving the specific difficulties between two churches. While ecumenical efforts have mostly been directed toward outlining areas of doctrinal consensus and removing obstacles to visible and structural unity, in certain dialogues the person and work of Luther himself has been at the center of the conversation. This can be seen most clearly in the dialogue with Catholics on the Reformation legacy, with the Eastern Orthodox prompting a reassessment of Luther’s teaching on union with Christ, and with Mennonites in narrating the painful history of Lutheran persecution of Anabaptists.

Keywords: Martin Luther, ecumenism, Lutheran World Federation, dialogue, unity, World Council of Churches, Augsburg Confession, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Mennonites

Assorted factors prepared divided Christians across the globe for a fresh encounter with one another in the movement that is now known as ecumenism. The scandal of competition in the mission field, new challenges of secularism and nationalism, and, more positively, the liturgical renewal that began with Catholic rediscovery of patristic sources all paved the way. Lutherans were additionally driven by the crisis of two world wars provoked by Germany, the historic homeland of Lutheranism. In the process of sheltering refugees and rebuilding society after the horrors of war, Lutherans gained a new perspective on both their present global reality and the meaning of their past.

Rather than asserting that the Wittenberg reformers had set out to found a new church eternally opposed to Rome or the Reformed or anyone else, 20th-century Lutherans were able to see instead the fundamentally ecumenical intention of the Augsburg Confession (AC). Its first nineteen articles address beliefs held in common with the church of Rome, only then turning to disputed matters of practice. Article 7 with its satis est clause deliberately proposed a wide scope for ecclesiology: “For this is enough for the true unity of the Christian church that there the gospel is preached harmoniously according to a pure understanding and the sacraments are administered in conformity with the divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by human beings, be observed everywhere.”1

Calling the AC “ecumenical” is, of course, anachronistic. It was composed in 1530 in a situation of threat to be presented before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Augsburg, and far from securing peace between the reformers and Rome it only led to formal schism and eventual war. Nevertheless, centuries later, the AC was found already to contain the seeds for reconciliation of the estranged parties.

Needless to say, the author of the AC was not in fact Luther but his colleague Philip Melanchthon. In many ways the AC has proven to be more fundamental to Lutheran ecumenism than Luther’s writings; one can get quite a bit further ecumenically with the satis est than with the “we are and remain eternally divided and opposed to one another” of Luther’s “Smalcald Articles.”2 Still, apart from his polemics, which were spurred in large part by the Roman political response to his theological reforms, Luther’s ecclesiology is well expressed by the minimalism of the AC. Structures, forms, hierarchies, and liturgies are adaptable to the needs of the Gospel. This approach proved to be useful not only in ecumenical reconciliation but also in coming to terms with the global nature of Lutheranism in the 20th century. Thus, as the AC can be understood as a reception of Luther’s ecclesiology, so can ecumenism be seen as a reception of the AC as mediating Luther’s ecclesiology in very changed historical circumstances.

Evidence of the AC’s basic ecumenical intention, and Lutheranism’s generally, can be seen in the efforts toward reconciliation on the part of Lutherans long before the dawn of the modern ecumenical movement, which is usually dated to the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910. A series of colloquies took place in the 16th century between Lutheran and Catholic theologians, attempting to negotiate peace on a doctrinal basis. While they failed in their explicit intention, they provided a precedent for informal dialogue in the centuries to follow, as for instance in the disputations at the University of Wittenberg, which included Jesuits,3 or in G. W. Leibniz’s decades-long discussions with Catholics attempting to resolve doctrinal divisions, particularly surrounding the Lord’s Supper.4 Likewise there were colloquies with the Reformed, starting at Marburg in 1529, which were most likely to succeed on the basis of a shared fear of resurgent Catholicism, as seen in the pre-20th-century theological highpoint of Lutheran-Reformed relations, the Leipzig Colloquy of 1631.5 A generally friendly outlook characterized Anglican-Lutheran relations, most especially in situations of emigration and mission. For example, Benjamin Schulze moved the Danish Lutheran mission that had been founded by Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg in Tranquebar, India, to Madras, establishing cooperation between Lutherans and Anglicans in this new “English Mission” that lasted for a century or more.6 Dialogues also took place between Lutherans and the Eastern Church, most notably in the correspondence between the Tübingen theologians and Patriarch Jeremiah II in Constantinople.7

Lutheran Ecumenism in the First Half of the 20th Century

While most other Protestant bodies had organized themselves into worldwide fellowships long before the world wars, Lutherans lagged behind. It is quite possible that old fears of a “super-church” on the model of Rome deterred them. Moreover, while Lutherans identified themselves confessionally, they had never worked through the implications of fellowship with other national, folk, immigrant, or mission churches that adhered to the same Confessions. Political struggles between their nations further impeded cooperation. Ultimately, it was the incipient multilateral movement that grew out of the Edinburgh Conference and the crisis of World War I that nudged Lutherans toward worldwide organization. And as Lutherans began to reflect on the fact and meaning of their mutual belonging, they simultaneously began to reflect on their relationship with other Christians. Lutherans’ self-discovery as a global reality and their rediscovery of the AC as an ecumenical charter happened at virtually the same time. These insights evolved hand in hand throughout the next hundred years.

Initial Lutheran Reflection on Christian Unity

In response to the Prussian Union and broader concerns about growing secularism and state compromise of ecclesial integrity, the General Evangelical Lutheran Conference (Allgemeine Evangelisch-Lutherische Konferenz, AELK) was established in 1868 in Hannover.8 An association of Lutheran individuals rather than member churches, it sought to address both the cultural shifts facing Lutheranism and to think through Lutheran relationality across the borders of various church bodies and nations. It continued to assemble every few years, not only in Germany but also twice in Sweden, and many contacts were made with American Lutherans facing similar questions. It held its last assembly in 1930 and finally was dissolved in 1948 with the formation of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands), composed of the various Lutheran Landeskirchen.

American Lutherans, for their part, proved to be the driving force behind the organization of worldwide Lutheranism, perhaps a reflection of the struggle of their small ethnically and linguistically based churches toward unity within the overwhelmingly non-Lutheran United States. The National Lutheran Council was founded in 1918 as just such a unifying body and immediately became a major player in postwar European rebuilding. Key figures included Frederick H. Knubel, Henry Eyster Jacobs, and John Alfred Morehead, the latter of whom served both as the National Lutheran Council’s Chair of the European Commission and as its Executive Director. As early as 1919 Morehead was pushing for a worldwide Lutheran organization.

Morehead’s dream became a reality in 1923, when delegates gathered in Eisenach, Germany—home to the Wartburg Castle—on August 19–24 for the first and organizing assembly of the Lutheran World Convention (LWC). Notably, of the five major speeches delivered at the event, two of them concerned the wider question of Christian unity, not just Lutheran unity.

Ludwig Ihmels, a German bishop in the Erlangen tradition who had served as president of the AELK, delivered the talk on “The Ecumenical Character of the Lutheran Church,” which aptly captures the basic Lutheran ecumenical attitude. Observing the widely shared feeling of excitement and awe at gathering Lutherans from all over the world, Ihmels remarked that the group was “experiencing the ecumenical character of the Lutheran Church,” by which he meant both the variety of cultural differences among Lutherans and the recognition that the Lutheran Church is “but a manifestation of the one essential Church, the communion of believers.” Yet at the same time Ihmels argued that “Luther’s doctrine is a word for all men” because “it has to do only with the re-discovery of the old way to God through faith in Jesus Christ alone.”9 However personal Luther’s Reformation breakthrough may have been, it remains universal in its scope and relevance. Ihmels continued:

The ecumenical character of Lutheranism depends, therefore, upon one very simple, but very earnest question, “Can Luther’s experience lay claim to universal validity, or is it only, as some have thought, the result of an over-tender conscience, which secretly delighted in self-torture?” In the latter event, there would be nothing ecumenical in Lutheranism. But if the experience of sin, which Luther had, is universally valid, then every conscience which has been really awakened—whether it knows of Luther or not—can come to peace only in that experience which he had, the experience of the old Gospel of Christ. Where a man comes from, what his outward circumstances are, these things make no difference. If the question after God has arisen within him, then Luther, with his new interpretation of the ancient Word, has the answer and the only answer.10

Proof of Lutheranism’s universality was, for Ihmels, the LWC gathering itself, which drew people from so many lands, and proof of its ecumenicity was its “one-sidedness,” for the implication of Christocentrism is “not outward uniformity, but inner unity amid a multiplicity of forms.”11 At the same time, Ihmels insisted, fidelity to the Lutheran confessions’ ecumenical nature implies fidelity to the “dogma of the ancient church,” which is not the exclusive province of Lutheranism but shared by all Christians.12 After a more pointedly Lutheran discursus on the sacraments, Ihmels concluded that, with Christ at the center, Lutherans “are in a position to recognize the truth that other communions have, and to learn from it.”13 He particularly noted that Lutherans share with Catholics a commitment to the objectivity of the Church, yet locate this in the congregation, and that Lutherans share much with those who emphasize the subjectivity of personal faith, yet this only arises in the context of the Church.

Frederick Knubel’s LWC address, “‘That They May All Be One’—What Can the Lutheran Church Contribute to This End?” explored the power, source, and development of the Church’s unity by means of an extended reflection on Ephesians, concluding with a list of six principles for assessing plans of “union” among churches. Although he did not appeal explicitly to Luther the way Ihmels did, Knubel did make the case that, while unity is already given in Christ, as a task for Christians it depends upon faith and confession of the Gospel above all else—a decidedly Lutheran conclusion to draw.14

The biggest debate at the convention was not over the gift or task of unity per se, but on the concrete way to proceed and the exact shape of the goal. In this respect, the intra-Lutheran discussion mirrors the wider and long-term debate within the whole ecumenical movement to define the means and ends of unity. And yet, despite the inspiring language of Lutheran unity, there was no official joint communion service celebrated at Eisenach—only local services that Convention attendees could opt to attend as individuals.

The LWC convened at two further assemblies, in Copenhagen from June 26 to July 4, 1929, and in Paris from October 13 to October 20, 1935. At this latter event, ecumenical concerns once again came to the fore, leading the Executive Committee of the LWC to meet in New York the following year to draft the statement “Lutherans and Ecumenical Movements.” Positively, it observes the emergence of worldwide fellowships and organizations; negatively, it reports the general feeling that “wholesale disaster to the Christian Church can be averted only by closer integration of the Christian forces of the world” (§2). In an argument already familiar from Ihmels and Knubel, it asserts that “the very genius of Lutheranism is essentially ecumenical. It has always been so” (§A). This is because Lutheranism is basically biblical, “not bound to incidentals, such as polity or liturgy or type of piety. With the God-man as its center and the universal priesthood of believers as its radius, it covers the whole range of the human family and can never be the exclusive possession of any particular race, nation, or temperament.” Article 7 means that Lutherans “are ready to recognize true Christians under whatever name or organization they may be found. The universal appeal of the Lutheran interpretation of the Gospel, the elemental quality of the Lutheran understanding of faith, and the catholic breadth of the Lutheran doctrine of the Church impart to Lutheranism an ecumenical quality that must be remembered in these days of emphasis upon externals. In the truest sense Lutheranism is itself an ecumenical movement” (§A). In order to pursue this ecumenical goal, however, Lutheran solidarity is needed—not to displace the state nor to pursue the detested “super-Church.” Rather, it is to help Lutherans who are suffering or persecuted and combine forces in mission. Thus, the Executive Committee formally encouraged a deepening of Lutheran identity even while it commended cooperation with other Christians in a variety of formats, “approving what appears to Lutherans to be evangelical in those movements and organizations and repudiating what appears to us to be unevangelical” (§B.2.e). This latter principle is repeated several times in a variety of ways. The document ends with a kind of abbreviated confession or statement of belief to be used in evaluating relationships with other Christians.15

It is striking that the LWC met for the first time in Germany so soon after the end of World War I, when the wounds inflicted by and between Lutherans on the continent had barely begun to heal; and it is not surprising that the LWC’s last assembly took place in 1935. Despite the damage done on so many levels by World War II, however, the key players were ready to reignite the process toward a world fellowship. The LWC dissolved itself in Lund, Sweden, June 30–July 6, 1947, in order to give way at the same event to the newly constituted Lutheran World Federation (LWF) under the leadership of an American pastor, Sylvester C. Michelfelder. Among its founding constitutional principles were the commitments to “serve Christian unity throughout the world” and “foster Lutheran participation in ecumenical movements.”

Lutheran Contributions to the Multilateral Movement

Swedish Lutheran archbishop Nathan Söderblom is said to have made the first concrete proposal for an ecumenical council already in 1919 at a meeting of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through Churches. The complex process toward the eventual creation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) began with the establishment of two international, multilateral bodies: the Faith and Order Movement, which attended to matters of doctrine and ministry, and the Life and Work Movement, which dealt primarily with social and diaconal concerns. Söderblom himself was the head of Life and Work for many years. The two movements merged to form the WCC on August 23, 1948, in Amsterdam, a year after the founding of the LWF.

One of the most controversial issues to be tackled en route to the WCC was the membership model. On the whole, Protestants preferred a model of nation-based membership: Britain would be allotted a certain number of delegates, as would France, Norway, and so forth. The Eastern Orthodox protested, insisting that they had to participate specifically as Orthodox, and an exception was made for them. American Lutherans mounted the most vigorous protest against the national model among Protestants, proposing instead membership by means of worldwide Christian families, such as the LWF or the Baptist World Alliance. The final structure restricted membership to actual church bodies, in order to maintain a direct connection between them and the WCC without the world communions functioning as middlemen, but also to respect the confessional character of each church. Worldwide bodies, parachurch organizations, and ecumenical councils could have observer but not member status. In addition to influencing the structure in this way, Lutherans advocated for the WCC to “receive” rather than “adopt” reports, so as to avoid any fear of doctrinal compromise among WCC member churches, and they insisted on the explicit repudiation of any aspirations to turn the WCC into a world church or a centralizing bureaucracy.16

Those who favored the national model wondered whether there could really be a true ecumenical commitment on the part of Lutherans if they insisted so strongly on their confessional distinctives. But these two impulses were not seen by Lutherans to stand in contradiction to one another; as already indicated, reflection on the two had always taken place in tandem. The subsequent history of Lutheran ecumenism has borne out this insight again and again. Lutheran churches that had just joined the LWF the year before brooked no objection to becoming charter members of the WCC: among them the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, and the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA). The ULCA’s president, Franklin Clark Fry, served as vice-moderator at the Amsterdam assembly and as central committee moderator for the next two assemblies in Evanston, Illinois, and New Delhi, India. At the New Delhi assembly in 1961, American Lutheran theologian Joseph A. Sittler gave a widely acclaimed address entitled “Called to Unity,” putting the ecumenical task within the wider framework of the restoration of the cosmos and the doctrine of creation, inaugurating what would become extended ecumenical reflection on the ecological crisis.17 Other notable Lutheran leaders in the WCC include Eivind Berggrav, Martin Niemöller, Hanns Lilje, Anne-Marie Aagaard, and Olav Fikse Tveit.

Still, at this stage in the multilateral movement, there was a distinct tendency to look upon United and Uniting churches as the ideal model for overcoming Christian division. Lutherans were therefore under considerable pressure to articulate a theologically persuasive alternative. It is no surprise, then, that the first study program of the LWF’s Commission on Theology, which had been founded at the Hannover assembly in 1952, addressed The Unity of the Church, the title of the resulting volume published in 1957 featuring such notables as Peter Brunner, Anders Nygren, Regin Prenter, and Bo Giertz.18 As would be expected, Article 7 receives frequent mention—one of the essays is devoted entirely to it—and various statements of Luther’s are invoked, though rather less systematically, ranging from the Catechisms to “was Christum treibt” to “On the Councils and the Church” to assorted sacramental writings. The same themes come to the fore again, with deeper theological grounding: Lutheranism is ecumenical insofar as it is centered on Christ; forms and structures are not matters of necessity. The greatest difficulty lies in contemplating intercommunion with Christians who have significantly different understandings of Christ’s presence in the Supper.

Following on the work of the Commission on Theology, the 1957 LWF assembly in Minneapolis adopted, among other statements, one entitled “The Unity of the Church in Christ.” After meditating on the implications of Article 7, it draws the conclusion:

The words “it is enough” give the Lutheran churches a freedom also in relation to other churches. Bound by them we are led to the Scriptures and so rescued from the pressures of institutional expediency as well as from complacent acceptance of the status quo. In an ecumenical study of the Scriptures we find the most hopeful means towards a fuller realization of the unity in Christ and towards a deeper understanding of our faith as found in and behind our confessional statements. On this basis also the questions of inter-communion and the nature of the Sacraments can be brought out of the present deadlock.19

However, it was only as a result of intensive bilateral work that would take place in the decades ahead that Lutherans would reach a more substantial account of confessional loyalty amidst ecumenical openness.

Lutheran Ecumenism in the Second Half of the 20th Century

All this time, Roman Catholics had remained conspicuously absent from the ecumenical movement. A complete reversal in the Catholic attitude came about with the Second Vatican Council’s 1964 Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio. The Catholic Church recognized for the first time other “Churches and ecclesial Communities” and acknowledged that “the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church” (§3). However, “since these Churches and ecclesial Communities, on account of their different origins, and different teachings in matters of doctrine on the spiritual life, vary considerably not only with us, but also among themselves, the task of describing them at all adequately is extremely difficult” (§19).20 Accordingly, while becoming a faithful partner (though not member) of the WCC and its multilateral work, Rome expressed a decided preference for bilateral dialogue. This became the new center of gravity in ecumenism in the second half of the 20th century.

As it turned out, such a change of emphasis suited the Lutheran confessional orientation extremely well. Under the leadership of Bishop Hermann Dietzfelbinger of Bavaria, the 1963 assembly of the LWF in Helsinki voted to establish a legally and financially independent Lutheran Foundation for Interconfessional Research, which in turn established the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France, in 1965. Its purpose was to convene Lutheran scholars of ecumenism to specialize in the doctrine and practice of other Christian churches. Charged with the three fundamental tasks of research, participation in the LWF’s international bilateral dialogues, and reception/education, the Institute became a key player in both Lutheran ecumenism and global Lutheran Verbindlichkeit (“connectedness” or “bindingness”) during the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st. The LWF’s own process toward declaring itself a “communion of churches” was accompanied by ecumenical reflection, as for instance in the two documents prepared for the 1970 LWF assembly in Evian, France, “More than Church Unity” and “Guidelines for Ecumenical Encounter,”21 and in the report entitled Self-Understanding and Ecumenical Role of the Lutheran World Federation, published in time for the 1984 Budapest assembly,22 which in turn affirmed the brief statement “The Unity We Seek.”23

Bilateral dialogue assumes that diverse problems will require diverse solutions and lead to diverse results. This also means that the importance of Martin Luther to the dialogues varies considerably, depending on the partner in question. While Lutherans have engaged in national and international dialogues ranging from brief to extensive with Adventists,24 Anglicans,25 Baptists,26 Methodists,27 Pentecostals,28 and the Reformed,29 none of these has required extensive examination of Luther’s legacy or reevaluation of his contribution; in fact, in many of them, key themes of Luther could simply be taken for granted. Thus, attention here will focus not on the already well-documented institutional history of Lutheran churches in ecumenism but on the use and reception of Luther in three dialogues30 where his legacy has proven especially problematic or promising.

Lutheran–Roman Catholic Dialogue

Meetings in Strasbourg in 1965 and 1966 established the Lutheran–Roman Catholic Study Commission, and this group, under a variety of other names, has continued to work up to the present, producing documents impressive both for their breadth and depth. In the beginning mostly attentive to the practical as well as doctrinal questions of reconciliation between the two churches, Luther himself was rarely the central point of attention. But the second phase of the Lutheran–Roman Catholic dialogue saw the release of two additional statements in recognition of two significant anniversaries.

The first of these was “All under One Christ,” released for the four hundred fiftieth anniversary of the AC in 1980. The Commission states that “in content and structure, this confession, which is the basis and point of reference for other Lutheran confessional documents, reflects as no other confession does the ecumenical purpose and catholic intention of the Reformation” (§7). The statement affirms that the Lutherans’ intention was not “the establishment of a new Church (CA 7,1)” but rather “the preservation and renewal of the Christian faith in its purity in harmony with the Ancient Church” (§10). Catholics can largely recognize the AC as an expression of “the common faith” (§11, 27). Insofar as the AC constitutes an institutionalized expression of Luther’s ecclesiology, this is a significant concession on the Catholic side.

The second additional statement was “Martin Luther: Witness to Jesus Christ,” released on the five hundredth anniversary of his birth in 1983. Acknowledging that hitherto Catholic and Lutheran views of Luther have been “diametrically opposed to one another” (§2), the statement affirms that more recent research has brought greater convergence in the churches’ judgment on the reformer, and even for Catholics “he is beginning to be honored in common as a witness to the gospel, a teacher in the faith and a herald of spiritual renewal” (§4). The statement proceeds to summarize Luther’s understanding of justification, the conflict that erupted as a result, and the “Reception of Reformation concerns” in both churches, including a list of Luther’s concerns that became important elements of Vatican II reform. The statement ends with an unusual evocation of Luther for the task of ecumenism: “Trust and reverent humility before the mystery of God’s mercy are expressed in Luther’s last confession which, as his spiritual and theological last will and testament, can serve as a guide in our common search for unifying truth: ‘We are beggars. This is true’” (§27). An inter-confessional conference in the same year brought together perspectives of many churches in appreciating “the man who in former times was often denounced as ‘heretic’” as a “‘father in the faith’” instead.31

By far the most significant of Lutheran–Roman Catholic statements has been the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), signed by top representatives of both churches in Augsburg on October 31, 1999. It was and remains the only instance of the Catholic Church binding itself to a doctrinal statement in common with a Protestant church. Structurally, it begins with a review of the biblical language regarding justification, followed by a common statement on justification, and then proceeds to a detailed consideration of a variety of related teachings, allowing each party to speak in its own voice while attempting to clarify likely misunderstandings on the part of the other.

Luther is never mentioned in the main text of the JDDJ, at least not by name. This was a deliberate choice because, throughout the negotiations between the two churches, the emphasis had been placed on their respective teachings that are binding on them as institutions, not on the figure of Luther per se. Thus, officially the reference point for Lutherans is the confessional writings—though, of course, these include works by Luther. Still, Luther serves primarily as interpreter and guide to the binding confessional formulas rather than being a binding authority himself.

The preamble of the JDDJ begins, however, by citing two sayings of Luther’s: “The doctrine of justification was of central importance for the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century. It was held to be the ‘first and chief article’ and at the same time the ‘ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines,’” referring to the “Smalcald Articles” and a 1537 promotion disputation in Wittenberg, respectively. Later, §23 calls grace “the favor of God,” citing his treatise “Against Latomus.” Luther is also mentioned three times by name in the source notes for the section on the “Assurance of Salvation.”

The relative paucity of explicit references to Luther, however, belies the substantial dependence on Luther’s thought throughout the document in its depiction of what “Lutherans” teach. Topics explicated at length by Luther appear in the portion of the document that analyzes distinct Lutheran and Catholic approaches, such that the JDDJ speaks of the exaltation of faith and grace over merit (§15), the essential role justification plays in judging all other doctrines (§18), the “mere passive” approach to the human reception of justification (§21), that Christ himself is our righteousness (§23), sola fide (§26), Christians being “at the same time righteous and sinner” (§29), peccatum regnum (§29), the hermeutic of law and Gospel (§32), the assurance of salvation (§35), and the good works of the justified (§39).

If the JDDJ only tacitly acknowledged the importance of Luther’s theology, the two dialogue statements that followed took the opposite approach. Finally, Luther himself, as both person and thinker, came into the spotlight.

The first of these, The Apostolicity of the Church (ApCh, 2007), seeks to address why—rather contrary to Lutheran expectation—agreement on the doctrine of justification did not, in fact, lead to church unity. Under the rubric of apostolicity, the nature and structure of the Church is explored as seen in Scripture, Early Church developments, medieval and Reformation theology, and the present-day situation. Differing significantly from earlier statements, ApCh construes itself as a study document rather than primarily as a convergence document. This was in recognition of the fact that previous statements simply asserted what “Lutherans believe” and tended to build on the foundation of previous statements, which did not succeed altogether in persuading the relevant constituency that ecumenical efforts were remaining faithful to their theological origins. Thus, in ApCh, Luther appears in much more striking detail than ever before, with consideration of both his theological writings and his (and his colleagues’) actual deeds and decisions to shape the evangelical Church.

Among the numerous references to Luther’s writings, far too many to list in full here, are citations from the “Leipzig Disputation,” both the 1519 and 1535 “Commentary on Galatians,” “The Freedom of a Christian,” “Address to the Christian Nobility,” “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” “A Sermon on Keeping Children in School,” “Concerning Rebaptism,” the “Large Catechism,” the “Smalcald Articles,” “On the Councils and the Church,” and even the “Table Talk.” Notably neuralgic discussions deal with the distinction between the priesthood of all the baptized and the calling of certain believers to public ministry (§196–206), and with the slowly emerging decision of the evangelical party to ordain its own ministers without bishops and the resulting Lutheran judgment on the episcopate (§211–224). It is observed that Luther denies the institution of the episcopate de iure divino, especially given the interchangeability of the terms in New Testament Greek, but that he nevertheless finds the office of oversight both necessary and useful. His association of the Church primarily with the local congregation is correlated to the Early Church’s understanding of the Eucharistic assembly (§214). Luther’s engagements with various church authorities of his day are also described in order to illuminate his actions and final decisions for order and authority in the evangelical Church (§256–260), which leads to his evaluation of the biblical canon and its authority within the Church (§261–271, cf. §439 on the Apocrypha).

As in ApCh, so also in “From Conflict to Communion” (FCtC, 2013) Luther’s words and deeds receive extensive treatment. Indeed, how to regard Luther himself is the central problematic of this document. The Foreword indicates: “Martin Luther’s struggle with God drove and defined his whole life. The question, How can I find a gracious God? plagued him constantly. He found the gracious God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. ‘True theology and the knowledge of God are in the crucified Christ’ (Heidelberg Disputation).” This necessitates a common assessment by Lutherans and Catholics in anticipation of the 2017 anniversary of the Ninety-Five Theses. The document highlights the fact that 2017 will be the first Reformation anniversary since Lutherans and Catholics have engaged in public and institutional dialogue. The way to common commemoration has been paved by the previous century’s groundbreaking research by scholars in both churches on the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and, of course, Luther himself.

Thus, chapter 3 of FCtC offers a history of the Lutheran Reformation, brief by comparison to the countless volumes on the subject but lengthy for an ecumenical document, beginning with the indulgence controversy and continuing through Luther’s trial and condemnation, the development of new Lutheran structures of ministry and oversight, the translation and dissemination of the Bible, the Catechisms, and hymns, attempts at peace through colloquies or war, and the Peace of Augsburg with the final decisions of the Council of Trent. Chapter 4 of FCtC then sketches Luther’s theology as regards four traditionally disputed points between Lutherans and Catholics: justification, Eucharist, ministry, and Scripture and tradition, each detailed discussion being followed by a review of Lutheran–Roman Catholic convergence on the topic. Cited sources include Luther’s letters and “Table Talk,” the “Disputation against Scholastic Theology,” “The Freedom of a Christian,” “Address to the Christian Nobility,” “A Sermon on Keeping Children in School,” the “Bondage of the Will,” the “Small Catechism,” the “Large Catechism,” the “Smalcald Articles,” “Lectures on the Psalms,” and the “Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther’s German Writings.”

It is notable that the standard for Catholic theology, as emphasized in FCtC, is the Second Vatican Council, putting the Council of Trent at a definite remove. Vatican II is interpreted as fundamentally more open to many if not all of Luther’s reforms and insights. Altogether, the approach of uniting historical and theological review with findings of ecumenical consensus, centered on the person of Luther, appears to convince on a deeper level than previous dialogue documents, as witnessed by grassroots translations of FCtC into at least fifteen languages by the time of this writing.

The takeaway from these various statements is that Luther himself remains somehow the central issue in Lutheran–Roman Catholic reconciliation, as Pope Benedict XVI himself has opined.32 And yet this same pope was able to say, during a 2011 visit to Luther’s friary in Erfurt:

What constantly exercised [Luther] was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey. “How do I receive the grace of God?”: this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For Luther theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God. “How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make a deep impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today—even among Christians?

A little later, Pope Benedict confessed: “It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds.”33 Continuing reassessment of the relative weight of doctrinal agreement and disagreement between divided churches remains necessary, but it seems unlikely that any breakthrough between Catholics and Lutherans will be achieved until there is a common assessment of Luther as a person and historical figure. It is encouraging that FCtC has started to move the ecumenical conversation in that direction.

Lutheran–Orthodox Dialogue

Visits between Archbishop Martti Simojoki of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland and Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad of the Russian Orthodox Church during the 1960s paved the way for the initiation of ecumenical dialogue between their respective churches starting in 1970, preceding dialogue on an international level by over a decade. The first topic to be addressed was the Lord’s Supper, with a particular emphasis placed by the Finnish Lutheran delegates on Luther’s teaching regarding the real presence of Christ.

In 1974 in Jarvenpää, however, the Russians introduced a topic that would have tremendous ramifications for the Lutheran team and, indeed, for Luther research throughout the world. In an Orthodox presentation on the doctrine of salvation, the question was posed as to whether Lutherans could in any way relate to the Eastern concept of theosis or deification. Archbishop Simojoki proposed that Luther’s understanding of in ipsa fide Christus edest, “in faith itself Christ is present,” as analogous to Orthodox teaching on human participation in divine life. The Lutheran group led by Jukka Thurén thereupon drafted theses on “The Christian Doctrine of Salvation,” stating among other things that

Participation in the Divine Life meant giving the glory to God: faith and love, seeking His help and obeying Him [§I.2] … man lost his blessedness, his share in the Divine Life [§I.3] … The Gospel proclaims to unworthy sinners that their sins are forgiven because of the obedience of the God-man and that they participate in his holiness when they repent and turn to Christ … Whoever truly believes the Gospel and receives the sacraments in faith is given by God a share in the Divine Life [§III.6] … The full likeness of Christ and full participation in the Divine Life will not be realized, however, before the resurrection of the dead [§III.8].34

The topic of salvation continued at the next meeting in Kiev in 1977, which included a paper by Tuomo Mannermaa, who would go on to become the best-known exponent of the new “Finnish School” of Luther research. The portion of the Kiev theses that were drawn up by Lutherans continue with the same basic insights as at Jarvenpää: “Through the Word of God, the Holy Sacraments and the Divine Service we become participants in justification and deification in Christ [§III.2] … Thus we are justified in Baptism and deification begins, i.e., participation in divine life [§III.3] … When we consume His real body and blood, we receive Him in our hearts by faith and love. In that we inwardly and outwardly participate in His divine nature [III.6].”35 By the next meeting in Turku in 1980, the Lutherans had already begun an internal critique of the reception of Luther’s theology in a neo-Protestant or Kantian mold, which had obscured the conceptuality if not the exact language of theosis in Luther as participation in Christ through faith.

It was precisely this ecumenical conversation that gave the impetus to what would become the Finnish School under Mannermaa’s leadership. His seminal essay, translated into English as Christ Present in Faith: Luther’s View of Justification,36 set the stage for an extensive re-reading of Luther, centered primarily on Luther’s 1531/1535 Commentary on Galatians. Subsequent scholars picked up the theme, as, for example, Simo Peura in his Mehr als ein Mensch? Die Vergöttlichung als Thema der Theologie Martin Luthers von 1513 bis 151937 and in the collection Luther und Theosis: Vergöttlichung als Thema der abendländischen Theologie.38 The case for theosis in Luther’s thought was made for an American audience in the edited volume Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther.39

These insights were also taken up in the international Lutheran–Orthodox dialogue. Salvation: Grace, Justification and Synergy, released after the meeting in Sigtuna, Sweden, in 1998, acknowledged that the language of theosis has not been central to the Lutheran tradition. “Lutherans prefer to speak of the sanctification in the body of Christ who is Himself present in the faith of the believers. Lutherans, together with the Orthodox, affirm the reality of the believers’ participation in the divine life, in which they grow by the grace of God” (§6). At the same time, emphasis is laid on the forgiveness of sins and the “forensic dimension of salvation” (§7).40

The fact that this new approach to Luther had ecumenical roots was one of the many causes of the backlash against it, with accusations flying of Finnish betrayal of forensic justification. Finnish scholars have nevertheless responded that, quite apart from any question of ecumenical usefulness, the turn in their research has uncovered a genuine if overlooked stream in Luther’s theology.41

Lutheran–Mennonite Reconciliation

The four hundred fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Augsburg Confession in 1980 brought new attention to the place of the Radical Reformation’s present-day heirs, chiefly the Mennonites, whose name derives from early Anabaptist leader Menno Simons. Articles 5, 9, 12, 16, and 17 of the AC condemn the Anabaptists by name. National dialogues in France (1981–1984), Germany (1989–1992), and the United States (2001–2004) led in due course to an international bilateral dialogue between the LWF and the Mennonite World Conference starting in 2002.

In a striking departure from other bilateral dialogues, this dialogue focused not so much on theological matters as on the historical conflict between the two groups. Lutherans rediscovered, to their dismay, the hostile reaction of their theological ancestors to early Anabaptists, to the extent of promoting and justifying their execution. The dialogue team thus decided to write the first jointly authored and approved history of Lutheran–Mennonite relations, which was published in 2010 as Healing Memories: Reconciling in Christ.42

The document begins with a history of dialogue between the two churches, and then in Part 2 undertakes the business of “telling the sixteenth-century story together.” The stage is set with Luther’s reforming work, by which he inadvertently inspired other reformers to arise who had rather different concerns. This overview is followed by a review of early Anabaptist groups, the impact of the Peasants’ War, and especially Luther’s harsh condemnation of their use of violence in Christ’s name—which outcome, in fact, prompted many Anabaptists to commit themselves to pacifism. It is acknowledged what meager information Luther and his colleagues had about the Anabaptists and their frequent corresponding misjudgments as a result. Luther’s treatise “On Rebaptism” receives a detailed summary, as do the writings of Luther, Melanchthon, and other Wittenberg-friendly reformers on the political issue of punishing clandestine preachers lacking a public call as well as rebaptizers; rebaptism had been a capital crime in the Holy Roman Empire for more than a millennium. While Johannes Brenz objected to political persecution of Anabaptists, Luther and Melanchthon both endorsed it, not always to the extent of execution but, unfortunately, sometimes. After reviewing developments in Lutheran–Anabaptist relations after Luther’s death, the chapter concludes that, despite the obvious theological issues at stake, the issues and their resolution were consistently driven by political forces and concerns.

The remainder of the study reviews the state of 16th-century condemnations in light of today’s findings and relationships. Several of the anathemas can be dismissed as inaccurate depictions of the other, but substantial doctrinal disagreements remain, most notably on the issue of infant baptism. These are referred to future dialogue. However, the most important finding is that the earlier Luther’s insights into temporal authority, the freedom of the Christian, the Eighth Commandment, and the calling of the Holy Spirit apart from human effort, all lay the foundation for a properly Lutheran teaching on religious freedom and mutual toleration, contrary to the historical fact of Luther and Melanchthon invoking temporal punishment for blasphemy against religious dissenters. In effect, Lutherans may use Luther against Luther to secure a better basis for civil society.

In addition to the joint narrative of history and commendation of a better way, the Lutheran team decided to initiate a process of public repentance and request for forgiveness from today’s Mennonite community, which after passing through the appropriate channels in the LWF culminated in the reconciliation event that took place at the LWF’s assembly in Stuttgart in 2010. Informed in advance of the impending decision, a committee of the Mennonite World Conference attended the assembly and in response offered the community’s forgiveness. A task force was subsequently established to implement on the local level the new mutual perception, improving cooperation between the churches and correcting stereotypes about the other.

Lutherans in the Multilateral Process after the Second Vatican Council

Lutherans worldwide have continued to be active in the multilateral movement, though broadly considered it is clear that the energy in ecumenism shifted after Vatican II over to the bilateral process. The most significant multilateral achievement in the second half of the 20th century was the Faith and Order Commission’s study on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (1982). Lutheran ecumenists were active in the formulation of the statement, as were Lutheran churches in compiling and submitting responses.

Further, as Protestant Evangelicals and Pentecostals in the early 21st century began to show interest in ecumenism after a hundred years or more of distrust and disdain, a new locus of multilateral energy lies in the Global Christian Forum, founded by former WCC General Secretary Konrad Raiser with the express purpose of offering a venue for “ecumenicals” and “evangelicals” to talk on equal terms. Here also Lutherans are active participants in the various international and regional gatherings and in the oversight committee.

Outlook and Challenges for the 21st Century

As many have observed, ecumenism has in many respects been the victim of its own success, leading to an “ecumenical winter.” The scandal of division and hostility fired the energy of the early ecumenical movement, but now that Christians are more willing to recognize each other as fellow members of the body of Christ, the urgency of achieving visible unity has dwindled. The focus of the multilateral movement has shifted mainly to political, social, and ethical questions rather than Christian unity. The bilateral dialogues have covered all the major topics of doctrinal dispute and found extensive agreement, but the remaining disagreements somehow maintain the upper hand. Unity rarely comes about as a result of dialogue; yet when it does, especially in the form of organizational merger, the outcome is nearly always membership loss and not infrequently the creation of new church bodies defecting from the merger. Ecumenism has always been as much a debate about what unity is as about how to get there, and that debate has by no means reached a universally approved conclusion. Despite the many studies already written on the relationship between agreement and fellowship, the relationship between the two remains rather mysterious, as does the phenomenon of efforts toward unity producing the exact opposite.

Nevertheless, the discouraging language of an “ecumenical winter” is probably overstated. It is no small achievement to have reversed hostilities that have lasted for centuries or even more than a millennium in barely a hundred years’ time. There is still much work to be done on the ground in removing misconceptions and suspicions, without which even the most nuanced theological work cannot hope to progress. Even where the final goal of full communion and recognition has not been reached—and it is important to recall that the exact shape of such recognition is still not agreed upon—Christians in divided churches can pray together, serve together, attend each other’s services, invite each other’s preachers, read each other’s books, and in a considerable number of cases they can recognize each other’s baptism and share the Lord’s Supper.

Looking toward the future, the most important development in ecumenism is the new and growing interest among Protestant Evangelicals and Pentecostals, most evident in the aforementioned Global Christian Forum but also in such initiatives as Evangelicals and Catholics Together in the United States and the surge of Evangelical and Pentecostal scholarship on their own history as well as that of the whole two millennia of the Church. Impulses toward fellowship are also strong outside of the homeland of division, especially in younger churches in Africa and Asia, where ecumenical cooperation is often a political and diaconal necessity and the grudges of history are felt less keenly. Just as the new interest of the Catholic Church in ecumenism gave a burst of new life to the ecumenical movement fifty years after its beginnings, so the new Evangelical and Pentecostal interest in ecumenism fifty years after Vatican II seems likely to revitalize the movement. The fact that most Evangelicals and Pentecostals proudly claim the heritage of Luther makes this development especially encouraging for Lutherans.43

Perhaps most promising for the future of ecumenical scholarship is the exemplary historical study of the Lutheran–Mennonite dialogue. Eschewing the generic “mistakes were made” approach that characterizes many apologies for historic estrangement, Healing Memories recounts in great and specific detail the actions, responses, and failures of the respective parties. The resulting apology was made in full recognition of the burden of history. It is probable that declarations of reconciliation on theological matters remain unconvincing to many because the specific misdeeds of history have been ignored or swept aside. Mutual retellings of history between divided churches in a spirit of repentance and accountability may well open up new possibilities for unity.

A final consideration is the challenge of ongoing catechesis. Lutheran ecumenism has always rejected the notion that unity among Christians requires the elimination of confessional distinctives. Yet there is something artificial in negotiating doctrinal and ecclesiastical boundaries when the constituencies of the churches remain largely ignorant of their own faith and tradition. The perhaps unexpected outcome of ecumenical endeavor is that it prompts a return ad fontes: believers rarely recognize what is at stake in their own confession until confronted with another. Satis est to commend ongoing Lutheran commitment to ecumenism.

Primary Sources

Most but not all of the publicly released statements by Lutherans and their partners in bilateral dialogue have been published. The principle resources are as follows.

Regional Dialogues

Agreement between Reformation Churches in Europe (Leuenberg Agreement). Trilingual ed. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2013.Find this resource:

Anderson, H. George, T. Austin Murphy, and Joseph A. Burgess, eds. Justification by Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1983.Find this resource:

Burgess, Joseph A., and Jeffrey Gros, FSC, eds. Growing Consensus: Church Dialogues in the United States, 1962–1991. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1995. Contains statements of American Lutheran dialogues with Baptist, United Methodist, Reformed, Evangelical, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic churches.Find this resource:

Dialogues with the Evangelical Free Church of Finland and the Finnish Pentecostal Movement. Documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland 2. Helsinki: Church Council for Foreign Affairs Ecclesiastical Board, 1990.Find this resource:

Kamppuri, Hannu T., ed. Dialogue between Neighbors: The Theological Conversations between the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church 1970–1986: Communiques and Theses. Helsinki: Luther-Agricola Society, 1986.Find this resource:

Karttunen, Tomi, ed. From Oulu to Järvenpää: The Finnish Lutheran-Orthodox Theological Discussions from 2001 to 2012. Publications of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland 11. Helsinki: Unigrafia, 2014.Find this resource:

Lehmann, Karl, and Wolfhart Pannenberg, eds. The Condemnations of the Reformation Era: Do They Still Divide? Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990. Translation of Lehrverurteilungen, kirchentrennend? Rechtfertigung, Sakramente und Amt im Zeitalter der Reformation und heute. Freiburg: Herder, 1988.Find this resource:

The Porvoo Common Statement: Conversations between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches. London: Council for Christian Unity of the General Synod of the Church of England, 1993.Find this resource:

International Dialogues

The Apostolicity of the Church: Study Document of the Lutheran–Roman Catholic Commission on Unity. Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran–Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt/Bonifatius, 2013.Find this resource:

Gros, Jeffrey, FSC, Thomas F. Best, and Lorelei F. Fuchs, SA, eds. Growth in Agreement III: International Dialogue Texts and Agreed Statements, 1998–2005. Geneva, Switzerland/Grand Rapids, MI: World Council of Churches/Eerdmans, 2007. Contains the Lutheran–Orthodox “The Ecumenical Councils,” “Understanding of Salvation in the Light of the Ecumenical Councils,” “Salvation: Grace, Justification and Synergy,” “Word and Sacraments (Mysteria) in the Life of the Church,” “Mysteria/Sacraments as Means of Salvation,” and “Baptism and Chrismation as Sacraments of Initiation into the Church”; the Anglican–Lutheran “Growth in Communion”; and the Lutheran–Reformed “Called to Communion and Common Witness.”Find this resource:

Gros, Jeffrey, FSC, Harding Meyer, and William G. Rusch, eds. Growth in Agreement II: Reports and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level, 1982–1998. Geneva, Switzerland/Grand Rapids, MI: World Council of Churches/Eerdmans, 2000. Contains the Anglican–Lutheran “Cold Ash Report,” “Episcope,” and “The Diaconate as Ecumenical Opportunity”; the Baptist–Lutheran “A Message to Our Churches”; the Lutheran–Methodist “The Church: Community of Grace”; the Lutheran–Orthodox “Divine Revelation,” “Scripture and Tradition,” and “The Canon and the Inspiration of Holy Scripture”; the Lutheran–Reformed “Towards Church Fellowship”; “Adventists and Lutherans in Conversation”; the Lutheran–Roman Catholic “Martin Luther—Witness to Jesus Christ,” “Facing Unity,” “Church and Justification,” and “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.”Find this resource:

Healing Memories: Reconciling in Christ. Report of the Lutheran–Mennonite International Study Commission. Geneva, Switzerland/Strasbourg: Lutheran World Federation/Mennonite World Conference, 2010.Find this resource:

Lutherans and Pentecostals in Dialogue. Strasbourg/Pasadena/Zürich: Institute for Ecumenical Research/David du Plessis Center for Christian Spirituality/European Pentecostal Charismatic Research Association, 2010.Find this resource:

Meyer, Harding, and Lukas Vischer, eds. Growth in Agreement: Reports and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level. Mahwah, NJ/Geneva, Switzerland: Paulist/World Council of Churches, 1984. Contains the Anglican–Lutheran “Pullach Report”; the Lutheran–Roman Catholic “Malta Report,” “The Eucharist,” “Ways to Community,” “All under One Christ,” and “The Ministry in the Church”; and the Lutheran–Reformed–Roman Catholic “The Theology of Marriage and the Problem of Mixed Marriages.”Find this resource:

Oppegaard, Sven, and Gregory Cameron, eds. Anglican–Lutheran Agreements: Regional and International Agreements 1972–2002. LWF Documentation No. 49. Geneva, Switzerland: Lutheran World Federation, 2004.Find this resource:

Further Reading

The Apostolicity of the Church: Study Document of the Lutheran–Roman Catholic Commission on Unity. Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. Faith and Order Paper No. 111. Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches, 1982.Find this resource:

Flesner, Dorris A. American Lutherans Help Shape World Council: The Role of the Lutheran Churches of America in the Formation of the World Council of Churches. St. Louis, MO: Lutheran Historical Conference, 1981.Find this resource:

From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran–Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt/Bonifatius, 2013.Find this resource:

“Guidelines for Ecumenical Encounter.” Lutheran World 17.1 (1970): 50–58.Find this resource:

Højen, Peter, ed. Ecumenical Methodology: Documentation and Report. Geneva, Switzerland: Lutheran World Federation, 1978.Find this resource:

Jenson, Robert W. Unbaptized God: The Basic Flaw in Ecumenical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992.Find this resource:

Kahle, Wilhelm, et al., eds. Wege zur Einheit der Kirche in Luthertum. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1976.Find this resource:

Lossky, Nicholas, et al., eds. Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement. Rev. ed. Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches, 2002.Find this resource:

The Lutheran World Convention: The Minutes, Addresses and Discussions of the Conference. Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1925. Translation of Lutherischer Weltkonvent zu Eisenach vom 19. bis 24. August 1923. Leipzig: Verlag Dörffling & Franke, 1925.Find this resource:

Mannermaa, Tuomo. Der im Glauben Gegenwärtige Christus: Rechtfertigung und Vergottung zum ökumenischen Dialog. Hannover: Lutherisches Verlagshaus, 1989.Find this resource:

Manns, Peter, et al., eds. Luther’s Ecumenical Significance: An Interconfessional Consultation. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.Find this resource:

Mastrantonis, George. Augsburg and Constantinople: The Correspondence between the Tübingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople on the Augsburg Confession. Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982.Find this resource:

Meyer, Harding. That All May Be One: Perceptions and Models of Ecumenicity. Translated by William G. Rusch. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999. Translation of Ökumenische Zielvorstellungen. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1996.Find this resource:

Meyer, Harding. “To Serve Christian Unity: Ecumenical Commitment in the LWF.” In From Federation to Communion: The History of the Lutheran World Federation. Edited by Jens Holger Schjørring, Prasanna Kumari, and Norman A. Hjelm, 248–283. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997.Find this resource:

Meyer, Harding. Versöhnte Verschiedenheit. Aufsätze zur ökumenischen Theologie I and II. Frankfurt: Verlag Otto Lembeck, 1998 and 2000.Find this resource:

“More than Church Unity: Study Document for the Fifth Assembly.” Lutheran World 17.1 (1970): 43–50.Find this resource:

Nelson, E. Clifford. “The One Church and the Lutheran Churches.” In Proceedings of the Fourth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation, Helsinki, July 30–August 11, 1963, 276–295. Berlin: Lutherisches Verlagshaus, 1965.Find this resource:

Nelson, E. Clifford. The Rise of World Lutheranism: An American Perspective. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982.Find this resource:

Neve, Jürgen L. The Lutherans in the Movements for Church Union. Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication House, 1921.Find this resource:

Pesch, Otto Hermann. Theologie der Rechtfertigung bei Martin Luther und Thomas von Aquin. Versuch eines systematisch-theologischen Dialogs. Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1967.Find this resource:

Pricop, Cosmin Daniel. From Espoo to Paphos: The Theological Dialogue of the Orthodox Churches with the Lutheran World Federation (1981–2008). Translated by Catalina Bogdan. Bucharest: Basilica, 2013.Find this resource:

Rusch, William G., and Daniel F. Martensen, eds. The Leuenberg Agreement and Lutheran–Reformed Relationships: Evaluations by North American and European Theologians. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989.Find this resource:

Saarinen, Risto. Faith and Holiness: Lutheran–Orthodox Dialogue 1959–1994. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997.Find this resource:

Selderhuis, Herman, ed., Luther and Calvinism. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016.Find this resource:

“The Theses of the Third Assembly: II. The Unity of the Church in Christ.” In Messages of the Third Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1957.Find this resource:

The Unity of the Church: Papers Presented to the Commissions on Theology and Liturgy of the Lutheran World Federation. Rock Island, IL: Augustana, 1957.Find this resource:

Wicks, Jared, S. J., ed. Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1970.Find this resource:


(1.) Philip Melanchthon, “The Augsburg Confession,” in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 42.

(2.) The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 303.

(3.) Kenneth Appold, Orthodoxie als Konsensbildung: Das theologische Disputationswesen an der Universität Wittenberg zwischen 1570 und 1710 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004).

(4.) G. J. Jordan, The Reunion of the Churches: A Study of G. W. Leibnitz and His Great Attempt (London: Constable, 1927).

(5.) Bodo Nischan, “Reformed Irenicism and the Leipzig Colloquy of 1631,” Central European History 9.1 (1976): 3–26.

(6.) Peter Vethanayagamony, It Began in Madras: The Eighteenth Century Lutheran–Anglican Ecumenical Ventures in Mission and Benjamin Schulze (Delhi: ISPCK, 2010).

(7.) George Mastrantonis, Augsburg and Constantinople: The Correspondence between the Tübingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople on the Augsburg Confession (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982).

(8.) E. Clifford Nelson, The Rise of World Lutheranism: An American Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982), 36–42; and Wilhelm Kahle, “Wege zur Einheit im Luthertum von der ersten allgemeinen evangelisch-lutherischen Konferenz 1868 bis zum Vorabend des ersten lutherischen Weltkonvents,” in Wege zur Einheit der Kirche in Luthertum, by Wilhelm Kahle et al. (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1976), 157–208.

(9.) Ludwig Ihmels, “The Ecumenical Character of the Lutheran Church,” in The Lutheran World Convention: The Minutes, Addresses and Discussions of the Conference (Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1925), 56. Ihmels’s italics here and in all subsequent quotes.

(10.) Ibid., 57.

(11.) Ibid., 58.

(12.) Ibid., 59.

(13.) Ibid., 62.

(14.) Frederick H. Knubel, “‘That They May All Be One’—What Can the Lutheran Church Contribute to This End?,” in The Lutheran World Convention: The Minutes, Addresses and Discussions of the Conference (Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1925), 94–109.

(15.) “Lutherans in Ecumenical Movements,” Executive Committee of the Lutheran World Convention, reprinted in Concordia Theological Monthly 8.6 (1937): 468–472, available online.

(16.) Dorris A. Flesner, American Lutherans Help Shape World Council: The Role of the Lutheran Churches of America in the Formation of the World Council of Churches (St. Louis, MO: Lutheran Historical Conference, 1981).

(17.) Joseph A. Sittler, “Called to Unity,” Ecumenical Review 14 (January 1962): 177–187.

(18.) The Unity of the Church: Papers Presented to the Commissions on Theology and Liturgy of the Lutheran World Federation (Rock Island, IL: Augustana, 1957).

(19.) “The Theses of the Third Assembly: II. The Unity of the Church in Christ,” in Messages of the Third Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1957), Thesis 6, 106.

(20.) Unitatis redintegratio, available online.

(21.) Both statements can be found in Sent into the World: The Proceedings of the Fifth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation, ed. LaVern K. Grosc (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1971).

(22.) Self-Understanding and Ecumenical Role of the Lutheran World Federation: Report on a Study Process, 1979–1982 (Geneva, Switzerland: Lutheran World Federation, 1984).

(23.) “In Christ—Hope for the World”: Official Proceedings of the Seventh Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation: Budapest, Hungary, July 22–August 5, 1984, ed. Carl H. Mau Jr., LWF Report No. 19/20 (Geneva, Switzerland: LWF, 1984).

(24.) See “Adventists and Lutherans in Conversation,” in Growth in Agreement II: Reports and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level, 1982–1998, ed. Jeffrey Gros, FSC, Harding Meyer, and William G. Rusch (Geneva, Switzerland/Grand Rapids, MI: World Council of Churches/Eerdmans, 2000), 295–309.

(25.) See, e.g., The Porvoo Common Statement: Conversations between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches (London: Council for Christian Unity of the General Synod of the Church of England, 1993); Sven Oppegaard and Gregory Cameron, eds., Anglican–Lutheran Agreements: Regional and International Agreements, 1972–2002, LWF Documentation No. 49 (Geneva, Switzerland: Lutheran World Federation, 2004).

(26.) See “A Message to Our Churches,” in Growth in Agreement II: Reports and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level, 1982–1998, ed. Jeffrey Gros, FSC, Harding Meyer, and William G. Rusch (Geneva, Switzerland/Grand Rapids, MI: World Council of Churches/Eerdmans, 2000), 155–175.

(27.) See “The Church: Community of Grace,” in Growth in Agreement II: Reports and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level, 1982–1998, ed. Jeffrey Gros, FSC, Harding Meyer, and William G. Rusch (Geneva, Switzerland/Grand Rapids, MI: World Council of Churches/Eerdmans, 2000), 200–218.

(28.) See Lutherans and Pentecostals in Dialogue (Strasbourg/Pasadena/Zürich: Institute for Ecumenical Research/David du Plessis Center for Christian Spirituality/European Pentecostal Charismatic Research Association, 2010); and Dialogues with the Evangelical Free Church of Finland and the Finnish Pentecostal Movement, Documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland 2 (Helsinki: Church Council for Foreign Affairs Ecclesiastical Board, 1990).

(29.) See, e.g., Agreement between Reformation Churches in Europe (Leuenberg Agreement), Trilingual ed. (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2013); and the assorted Lutheran–Reformed statements collected in the several volumes of Growth in Agreement.

(30.) Dialogues are named for their respective parties listed in alphabetical order.

(31.) James R. Crumley Jr., “Foreword,” in Luther’s Ecumenical Significance: An Interconfessional Consultation, ed. Peter Manns et al. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), ix.

(32.) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, trans. Sister Mary Frances McCarthy, SND (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1987), 220.

(33.) Benedict XVI, “Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI,” Meeting with the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), September 23, 2011, online.

(34.) “The Christian Doctrine of Salvation: Theses,” in Dialogue between Neighbors: The Theological Conversations between the Evangelical–Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church 1970–1986: Communiques and Theses, ed. Hannu T. Kamppuri (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola Society, 1986), 63–65.

(35.) “Summary of the Theme ‘Salvation as Justification and Deification’ …” in Dialogue between Neighbors, 74.

(36.) Tuomo Mannermaa, Christ Present in Faith: Luther’s View of Justification, trans. Kirsi Stjerna (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005). This book is one chapter of Mannermaa’s Der im Glauben Gegenwärtige Christus: Rechtfertigung und Vergottung zum ökumenischen Dialog (Hannover: Lutherisches Verlagshaus, 1989).

(37.) Simo Peura, Mehr als ein Mensch? Die Vergöttlichung als Thema der Theologie Martin Luthers von 1513 bis 1519 (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 1994).

(38.) Luther und Theosis: Vergöttlichung als Thema der abendländischen Theologie, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola Society, 1990).

(39.) Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).

(40.) All of the statements released by the International Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission may be found on Risto Saarinen's blog.

(41.) Olli-Pekka Vainio, “Luther and Theosis: A Response to Critics of Finnish Luther Research,” Pro Ecclesia 24.4 (2015): 459–474, especially 473–474.

(42.) Healing Memories: Reconciling in Christ: Report of the Lutheran–Mennonite International Study Commission (Geneva, Switzerland, and Strasbourg: Lutheran World Federation and Mennonite World Conference, 2010).

(43.) See the article on “Luther in Global Pentecostalism,” also in this work.