Two Approaches to Ecumenism

A. Gerhard Forde

… the ELCA statement on ecumenism seems more geared towards what we ought to be prepared to give up — more interested in selling the farm than in contributing from its bounty. What, after all, do Lutherans have to contribute to this postliberal, postmodern age? Well, what is it that keeps a postliberal Lutheran catholic? What keeps me, for instance, in the catholic faith, ties me to the Trinitarian confession of the church catholic? … What keeps this postliberal Lutheran catholic is precisely the most radical facets of the early Lutheran Reformation, such matters as the “theology of the cross,” the anthropology emerging from the argument about the “bondage of the will,” the hermeneutics of “letter and spirit,” and “law and gospel.” These are some of the things we have to contribute. … Lutherans actually have something of value to say, and it is not a proper or faithful move to leave it all behind to enter the middle kingdom where all cats are gray.

We Lutherans have a contribution that is a vital understanding of what it means to preach the gospel and to give the sacramental gifts.

from A More Radical Gospel, Eds. Mattes and Paulson, (Eerdmans, 2005), 188.

B. The Princeton Proposal

71. The disciplines of unity are penitential. As St. Paul teaches, for the sake of unity we must be willing to suspend gospel freedom and conform to the limitations of the weak. This process will be ascetical; it will necessarily involve the sacrifice of real but limited goods for the sake of greater good. We are convinced, however, that this ascetical dimension is necessary if the ecumenical project of modern Christianity is to move forward. Unity will require our churches not only to renounce the selfishness and insularity that we all dislike and easily see as sinful. It will also require our churches to embrace a spiritual poverty that has the courage to forgo genuine riches of a tradition for the sake of a more comprehensive unity in the truth of the gospel.

from In One Body Through the Cross: The Princeton Proposal for Christian Unity, Eds. Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson, (Eerdmans, 2003), 58.

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