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Lutheran Theologians —Warn Against Signing
Sueddeutsche Zeitung

by Matthias Drobinski

October 30, 1999

240 German theologians issued their protest against the upcoming signing of JDDJ. Here's the news report from Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the large regional newspaper out of Munich. Auf Deutsch.

More than 240 higher education instructors fear that the Lutheran Confession will be interpreted in a Catholic way

Munich - In a joint statement, more than 240 Protestant higher education instructors have expressed "their weighty objections" to the Catholic-Lutheran "Joint Declaration" on the Doctrine of Justification. photo of Matthias Drobinski They warn against the signing of the document with which the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation want to declare solemnly on the 31st of October in Augsburg the end of a nearly 500 year old feud over doctrinal differences between their two churches. Earlier in June, more than 160 academics had produced their objections to the Catholic-Lutheran agreement.

According to the view of the theologians, despite a clarification in June through two additions to the text the objections to the controversial ecumenical text have still not been removed. These additions do accept "indeed a few Lutheran formulations" such as that the human being is justified before God "through faith alone" and that one is "at the same time sinner and justified". Nevertheless, these statements are being interpreted "against their Reformation meaning in a Roman Catholic sense". The Joint Declaration thus remains "one-sidedly influenced by the ecumenism program of the Roman Catholic Church." The agreement does not improve the "practicalities of Protestants and Catholics living together in families and in congregations". Furthermore, the Protest-signatories find fault that the churches of the Lutheran World Federation have been bypassed, "Not one of its synods" has taken a position to the additions to the text, "let alone affirmed them".

Wilfred Härle, Professor of Ethics in Heidelberg and one of the initiators of the theologian Protestation, stresses that the higher education instructors do not desire to pursue an anti-ecumenism agenda. Nevertheless, one "cannot discuss the fundamental questions of the confessions in the style of a trade agreement". The Lutheran ecumenical dialogue partners have relativized the core statements of the Reformation; concessions from the Roman Catholic side were on the other hand left out - "for example, in relation to the understanding of the church or to joint holy communion". Härle is the vice-chair of the theological committee of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Germany (VELKD). He belonged to the commission which formulated objections from the Lutheran side to the first draft of the Joint Declaration. Also, Dorathea Wendebourg, the chair of the theological committee of the VELKD and a church historian in Tübingen, has signed the protestation.

Jörg Haustein, director of the Protestant supported Institute for Confessional Studies in Bensheim, spoke against the opinion that one is engaging in Roman Catholic formulations by signing the agreement. Over against the Protestant Press Service he said that there is "actually a Catholic interpretation of Lutheran doctrinal formulations". This should be legitimate. The criticisms of these theologians is not justified. Indeed, one could now no longer prevent the signing of the agreement, "by doing so, these representatives of academic theology to come extent compromise themselves". Haustein warned against overvaluing the Justification Declaration. "For the Vatican it is an event of third or fourth class." Despite this, the Vatican is for signing the agreement. There has "never been a consensus text which the Roman Catholic church has actually confirmed with a church of the Reformation." One must make use of this chance.

Mark Menacher, Au Gres, MI