Protestants and Catholic Row in Germany

As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaches.

A fierce row between Catholics and Protestants in Germany is the result of a misunderstanding, a German theologian has claimed.

Lutheran leaders had invited the Catholic Church to join them in commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther published his 95 theses.

Luther was opposed to the sale of indulgences, to the Bible not being in the vernacular and to the Church’s doctrinal position on justification through faith – all issues which have seen significant changes over the years.

In 1999 the Catholic and Lutheran Churches issued a joint declaration on the doctrine of justification which set out “a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ”. The declaration was widely seen as important in establishing common doctrinal ground between the Churches.

But when the German Evangelical church (EKD) issued a position paper “Justification and Liberty” in May it did not explicitly mention of the declaration.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said: “I could hardly believe it. That really hurt me”.

He said the EKD should “not forget what we have already formulated together”.

Now the row has escalated. According to the Tablet, Bishop Heinz Josef Algermissen, deputy chairman of the German bishops’ conference’s ecumenical commission, said earlier this month that he was “incensed and disappointed” by the position paper.

“I really cannot actually see a reason for celebrating anything together any longer,” he said, calling the position paper “destructive”. Bishop Algermissen was quoted as saying that the Catholic Church had been given “one slap in the face after the other recently”, and that “the cat has now been let out of the bag”.

Professor Volker Leppin, a member of the group which drafted the EKD paper, told The Catholic Herald that “the EKD takes the protest of Cardinal Kasper very seriously” and that “we are willing to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with our Catholic sisters and brethren”. He said the position paper “expresses exactly this. It ends with the vision of a jubilee celebrated together with Catholics. And it starts with the statement that Protestants are able to find formulations of the doctrine of justification together with the Roman Catholic Church – an evident allusion to the joint declaration on justification of 1999.”

He continued: “The criticisms of Cardinal Kasper and Bishop Algermissen, regrettable as they are, are consequences of a misunderstanding of the text, and the EKD will do all the best to clarify these irritations. The clear will of the EKD is to celebrate the reformation jubilee in a peaceful, ecumenical context.”

On Monday the Bavarian EKD Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm said he was “saddened by the sharpness of the discussion.
“You rub your eyes and ask yourself: what is happening?” he wrote, adding that he hoped “the waves flatten again in this case” and that the 2017 event is celebrated ecumenically as a “great Christ festival … as Luther would have wished, in my opinion”.



Trend: Young Evangelicals Becoming Catholics or Joining Other ‘High Church’ Traditions

Over at the Sacred Page:

… Now there’s an interesting piece on “The Christian Pundit”.

A friend of mine attended a Christian college where almost all of the students, including her, grew up in non-denominational, evangelical Protestant churches. A few years after graduation, she is the only person in her graduating class who is not Roman Catholic,  high Anglican or Lutheran…

Young Christians are going over to Catholicism and high Anglicanism/Lutheranism in droves, despite growing up in low Protestant churches that told them about Jesus. It’s a trend that is growing, and it looks like it might go that way for a while…

The kids who leave evangelical Protestantism are looking for something the world can’t give them. The world can give them hotter jeans, better coffee, bands, speakers, and book clubs than a congregation can. What it can’t give them is theology; membership in a group that transcends time, place and race; a historic rootedness; something greater than themselves; ordained men who will be spiritual leaders and not merely listeners and buddies and story-tellers. What the kids leaving generic evangelicalism seem to want is something the world can never give them–a holy Father who demands reverence, a Saviour who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality in their parents’ churches and not finding it.

But not all kids who grew up in American evangelicalism are jumping off into high church rite and sacrament: congregations that carefully teach robust, historic Protestant theology to their children are notably not losing them to the Vatican, or even Lambeth…

“He cannot have God as his Father who does not have the church for his Mother,” said Cyprian, nearly two millennia ago. Perhaps if Protestant churches began acting more like dutiful mothers instead of fun babysitters, there would be fewer youth leaving their ecclesiastical homes as soon as they are out of the house.

Read the whole thing here.



Why Did Protestants Stop Reading the Apocrypha?

Because they wanted cheaper Bibles.

In 2011 Ashland Seminary hosted a series of events celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Part of that celebration included setting up a museum in which we displayed various manuscripts and Bibles dating back over 2,000 years. Included among the items on display was a page from a 1611 King James Bible. But the page was not from an Old or New Testament book, but was from 1 Maccabees, one of the books contained in the Apocrypha. When people touring the museum saw this they were usually quite surprised. They didn’t realize that the Apocrypha was part of that Bible.  Today, most protestant Bibles do not include the Apocrypha and few have ever read the Apocrypha. But history reveals that the Apocrypha has been a part of what we call the “Bible” longer than it has not. For example, the earliest most complete Bible discovered at the monastery on Mount Sinai (Codex Sinaiticus) contained the Apocrypha as well as a number of other books that were and are, in general, not considered canonical. The evidence of the 1611 King James shows that while the Bible has expanded and shrunk over history, what we commonly call the Apocrypha was usually a part of the Bible.

Yet, the situation today is such that finding an English language Bible with the Apocrypha is the exception to the rule. But why is that? Was it because Protestants finally got their theological house in order and excised the spurious books? Nope! It appears that the decision was influenced more by economics than theology. Over at the Anxious Bench Blog Philip Jenkins has a good post on the history of the Apocrypha and how it was eventually removed from most Protestant English Bibles.

English-speaking Protestants lost the Deuterocanon not through any calculated theological decision, but through publishing accident, and at quite a recent date. Prior to the early nineteenth century, Anglo-American Bibles included the apocryphal section, but this dropped out as printers sought to produce more and cheaper editions. Increasingly too, during the nineteenth century, anti-Catholic sentiment encouraged Protestants to draw a sharp line between the two variant Bibles. If Catholics esteemed books like Maccabees and Wisdom, there must be something terribly wrong with them.

You can read the full post here.



Plans for First Mixed Catholic and Protestant School in Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland’s first shared education campus for Catholic and Protestant schoolchildren has been granted planning approval.

Up to six schools with 3,700 pupils are expected to be based at a former Army barracks in Omagh, Co Tyrone, Stormont’s power-sharing government revealed today. The relic of the region’s 30-year conflict is to be transformed into a 126-acre development to educate the next generation together…

SDLP Planning Minister Alex Attwood said: “The new campus will be at the forefront of shared education in Omagh and the North.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers this week said renewed efforts should be made to tackle sectarianism which has characterised much of the region’s past. The Stormont Executive is still considering a cohesion, sharing and integration strategy…

Rest here.



Anglicanism: Protestant or Catholic?

Writes Rev Dr Hassert on his blog:

That Anglicanism is wholly “protestant” is an extremely simplistic assertion and hinges on the meaning of the term itself. However, so too is the contention among some that the term “protestant” doesn’t apply to Anglicanism in even the slightest sense. If asked if we Anglicans are Protestant or Catholic some will say: “We are Catholic, but not Roman–we are not Protestants.” This is simplistic and historically erroneous, and any layperson with an interest in reading would soon find very Catholic sounding Churchmen of the 16th and 17th centuries embracing the term Protestant. (But my rector said it wasn’t so!) What to make of it then?

If we are using today’s terminology perhaps “Protestant” isn’t wholly accurate, but neither would be the use of the term “Catholic,” for in today’s use of the term this means Roman. Many Anglicans are happy to explain the historic and correct use of the term “Catholic” but do not wish to do so with the term “Protestant.” This is a selective use of logic–if the historic usage of one term is explained the other term ought to be likewise explained. “You see, you misunderstand the term Catholic dear friend. . .” The follow up should be they also misunderstand the historic use of the term Protestant. However, it needs to be noted that many Anglicans today have become Latter-Day Puritans, attempting to sweep the Anglican Church of any hint of “Romanism” (which may mean choirs robed in surplices, a priest wearing a coloured stole, or keeping the 1662 Prayer Book calendar of saints days): Many from this group do indeed wish to deny any “Catholic” character or nature existing within Anglicanism. This also is to deny history.

How do the Anglican divines use the terms? It is shocking to many that the terms are used together: Protestant Catholic, Reformed Catholic, etc. Again, as I say so often quoting Bishop Cosins: “Protestant and Reformed according to the principles of the ancient Catholic Church.” What does this mean? Well, it should be clear to most. The English Reformation was built upon removing erroneous beliefs and practices (the Mass not in the vernacular, the Bible not in the vernacular, Purgatory, indulgences, transubstantiation, doctrines about the excess merits of the saints, etc). All needed to be stripped away–reformation was needed, and the Church of England protested against the errors of the Roman Church.

To put it more concisely: “At the Reformation the Church of England became protestant in order to become more truly and perfectly Catholic.” William Van Mildert, Bishop of Durham 1826-36.

Let me turn to the good Father Moss for a fuller explanation (from Answer Me This):

“Remember, ‘Catholic’ means universal. Strictly speaking, only those doctrines and practices are Catholic which have always been believed and used in all parts of the Church. More loosely, the word is applied to practices and traditions (such as the observance of Christmas Day or the use of special dress by the clergy) which have a long continuous history and are universally accepted, even though they do not go back to apostolic times. The word also implies ‘orthodoxy,’ holding the right faith and worshiping God in the right manner as required by the Church.”

In answer to the question: Is the Anglican Church Catholic or Protestant? Moss replies

“Both; it is Catholic positively and Protestant negatively. It is Catholic in its essential nature because it maintains the Catholic and apostolic faith and order. It is Protestant, in the oldsense (emphasis added), negatively because it rejects the papal claims to supremacy, infallibility, and universal jurisdiction, and the decrees of the Councils of Trent and the Vatican.”

When one is confused as to the use of these terms, they ought to be clearly explained. Some will argue (as Moss actually does) that the term Protestant has changed so much that we should omit its use all together (many Lutherans argue likewise, in that the old use of the term Protestant only referred to Anglicans, Lutherans, and Presbyterians; now that it refers so loosely to almost anyone not Roman Catholic it has become meaningless). However, the same could be said of the term “Catholic,” since almost everyone means Roman when they say “Catholic” in the United States: Let’s just stop using the word since it is so easily misunderstood. In my opinion we should follow the language of the Anglican divines, using both terms correctly and explaining the meaning in a clear manner to avoid confusion.

Is Anglicanism Protestant or Catholic? Ideally it is both, in the best sense of both terms.




The Calamitous Condition of Contemporary Anglicanism

In Virtue Online:

If Holy Scripture and Reformational standards are to be our measure the present state of the Anglican Communion is lamentable. Discounting those rare exceptions in academy, diocese, and parish where the roots of Cranmerian and Augustinian doctrine and devotion are still firm, and are flourishing with Gospel witness and works, the Ecclesia Anglicana and its offshoots have taken a terrible tumble into a morass of confusion, vacillation, and imprecision in matters of theological and ethical principle.

Anglicanism is an entity where sound belief is minimal and anything goes. Centuries of gradual drift from historic moorings have suddenly hurtled us into rapids that carry us to a rushing watery precipice of destruction. Seemingly gentle meanderings into alternative streams of freer thought facilitated by Biblical criticism of a skeptical turn, and “innovation” allowed by a recapitulation of Roman thought and practice, markedly weakened the stance of an honored member of the Reformed family of Churches.

Classic Anglicanism has waned as an influence of any importance or effectiveness in the Anglican fold which has become so inclusive and comprehensive as to have become nullified as a force for the unambiguous representation of the message of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.

So far gone are we from the verities of the Word of God that we marvel at any mitred head that merely pronounces the name of the Saviour and mutters a feeble “Sunday School pupil’s” attempt at expounding disordered (re Ordo Salutis) and diluted elements (soften the matter of sin and its damning consequences) of the Christian faith.

How many public pronouncements of our leadership, especially on great festive occasions when more folk than usual nod towards the Church (and then nod off), would actually lead folk, as desperate and doomed sinners, to faith in the only Redeemer?

Behind the vagueness and moral and socio-political exhortation looms the specter of an easy-going, undemanding, fatally poisonous, notion of universalism, or a soul destroying confidence in sacramentalism and the mechanism operated by a priesthood now Scripturally obsolete (Letter to the Hebrews).

The tragic virus of irrelevancy neutralizes our Western sector of the Anglican Church as an agent of the good news of salvation, and more than that, our waywardness from truth, and into grievous error, imperils immortal souls. Our preoccupations are earthly and not heavenly. We are incapable of fulfilling the Mosaic mandate to “set before Israel life and death, good and evil” (Deut 39:19). We can no longer differentiate or declare these matters.

The seed of our defection is our initial concession to Arminianism (Archbishop Laud and all that) where ultimate choices are man’s and not God’s. Instead of ringing out the glorious, humbling, and encouraging fact of divine sovereignty we have a “god” wringing his hands over the control that recalcitrant men exert over him and his purposes. With God’s “wills and shalls” asserted in Scripture for us to receive (Spurgeon) unconditionally as absolute, Arminianism, as a humanistic philosophy that counters the Word of God,  always interposes the arrogant comment “if we concur”. It is the rebel cry of the usurpation of divine prerogatives. Once Arminianisn gains a grip all divine mandates become optional, all divine commands or utterances of desire become negotiable. Religion becomes man-serving, man-pleasing, and church life and practice becomes a hopeless melee.

Many Augustinians and Calvinists are cowed by the vitriolic accusations leveled against them. If we conscientiously preach and teach in faithfulness and love we cannot mute the express revelation of God on vital issues of sin and grace that address our consciences and inform our minds concerning self and a successful and sufficient Savior totally effective in carrying out his Father’s assignment. We have no right to trim the Word of God at the insistence of our critics, or question his wisdom in his disclosure of truth.

Truth is not our property but the Lord’s for us to handle with care and candor under his guidance and skill. We cannot negotiate its clarity and power away at the insistence of anyone – colleagues or controversialists. We must keep our nerve and do what is right with loyalty to God and charitableness to men (in so far as we are able). We are truth-speakers as well as peace-makers.

The present is dire, but from our vantage point the future is not fixed knowledge in our possession as it is in the Lord’s. We have a God who can and does raise up children from stones (Matthew 3:9 cf Ezekiel 36:26). We serve God with this hope ever in our hearts. We have numerous causes of inspiration and encouragement from the past in adhering to a worthy view of God and a salvation surely won for his people however much the Church defects and dithers e.g. ejected minister Christopher Ness (Antidote to Arminianism), energetic apologist Augustus Toplady (Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England, The Church of England Vindicated From the Charge of Arminianism), accurate preacher George Whitefield (“At least, I am sure, we are all Arminians by nature; and, therefore, no wonder so many natural men embrace that scheme”, solid advocate John Charles Ryle (Old Paths), and perhaps the most passionate of them all, the Church of England’s greatest preacher of the 19th century Hugh McNeile, about whom much more needs to be written and known (Does this character of God, this predestinating sovereignty, this distinguishing grace, this unchanging purpose, belong to the Being before whom we bend our knees? And are we indeed (so far as this truth is concerned) scriptural worshippers of the Lord Jehovah?).

A sovereign God can reverse the impending ruin of the Anglican Communion in our hemisphere. The message of prophet and apostle assures us of this. But it will not come through our editing of the edicts of heaven. It will come only through deliverance from compromise of truth and contention with it. We must not be hasty in settling for retreat or defeat but fervently trust that Scottish Presbyterian divine, William Hastie D.D., will be vindicated in his opinion that, “notwithstanding the vacillation and weakness of its doctrinal development” Anglicanism as a Reformed Church may attain its possible noble destiny in the brotherhood of Reformed Churches: “The ecclesiastical ideal of its Reformers was to make the Church of England the living centre and rallying point of all the Reformed Churches; and if its leaders and guides were to take up this splendid conception again and endeavour to realize it, they might be blessed in doing the greatest work for the Reformed Protestantism that the world has seen since the age of the Reformation” (Theology of the Reformed Church in its Fundamental Principles, T & T Clark, Edinburgh, 1904).

–  The Rev. Roger Salter