On the Way
What is Essential for Unity?
By Andrew Leahy
I have a question for our readers’ consideration. What does it mean to be a Lutheran in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church? The Augsburg Confession, Article 7, states:
“…it is enough for the true unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, rites, or ceremonies instituted by human beings be alike everywhere.” (Kolb, R. 2000. The Book of Concord : The confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Fortress Press: Minneapolis)
This sounds pretty simple and straightforward. Of course, the Confessions explain in some detail what the teaching of the gospel and administration of the sacraments mean to us Lutherans. What they don’t say is how we must worship. In fact, apparently the only liturgical instruction may be found in the Formula of Concord:
“…we believe, teach, and hold with one accord that in the use of the Holy Supper the words of Christ’s institution may under no circumstances be omitted but must be spoken publicly, as it is written, ‘The cup of blessing that we bless . . .’ (1 Cor. 11 [10:16??]). This blessing takes place through the pronouncement of the words of Christ.” (Kolb, R. 2000. The Book of Concord : The confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, Formula of Concord 1, VII, 9)
We must also remember that the Church did not begin with the Lutheran Reformation, nor did the Reformers intend to invent or create a new Church. Their intent was to reform the Church of which they were members.
So what can we set aside or give up entirely for the sake of Christian unity? What liturgical or historic practices should we maintain for the sake of Christian unity with the Church of history, the Church handed down through the ages? We are pretty sure that there is theological principle regarding the central teaching of justification by grace through faith that we uphold as Lutherans. Is there a liturgical “look” or “feel” that makes us Lutheran?
These are some thoughts and a few questions for our readers’ consideration, when you have a few minutes.And if you have a few minutes more, write down some responses and let me know what you think. Send your comments to me at PANDYHL@AOL.COM or write to Let’s Talk at P. O. Box 562, Downers Grove, IL 60515.