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LCC President brings greetings, discusses Reformation with Canadian Catholics

October 10, 2016 No Comment
President Bugbee addresses the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

President Bugbee addresses the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

CORNWALL, Ontario – The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) held its annual plenary assembly September 26-30, 2016 in Cornwall, Ontario, and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) President Robert Bugbee was present to bring greetings and participate in a panel discussion on the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Reflecting on the ecumenical dialogue currently underway between LCC and the CCCB, President Bugbee noted that LCC’s representatives “want me to convey to you their deep appreciation for the Roman Catholic approach to these sorts of conversations. For one thing, they treasure your commitment to talking and listening in a way that is profoundly theological,” he said. “They are impressed by the integrity of their Catholic dialogue partners, who make no apology for their faith-stance, but at the same time are full of goodwill and kindness in hearing confessional Lutheran voices affirm theirs.”

Bishop Gerald Paul Bergie (Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of St. Catharines in Ontario) is a member of the dialogue group, and had similar praise for the work accomplished thus far. “In all these discussions we were able to find common ground,” he wrote. “I was struck by the fact that so often our interpretation of theology was similar; the difference was found in its expression and terminology.”

LCC initiated dialogue with the CCCB in 2013. Discussions initially focused on marriage and family issues, topics which the two churches have much in common. “One area where there seemed to be a great deal of agreement was discussion about moral questions facing our society today,” Bishop Bergie wrote. “This was especially true regarding life issues and marriage.”

President Bugbee agreed: “Lutheran Church-Canada is deeply grateful for the leadership of the Catholic Church in defending traditional Christian marriage, your strong witness on behalf of the sanctity of unborn life, and more recently for the clarity provided by this Bishops’ Conference on the question of physician assisted dying.” On this last subject, President Bugbee highlighted LCC’s subscription to the Declaration on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, a 2015 document cosponsored by the CCCB and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Finding much agreement on social and moral issues, the dialogue group between LCC and the CCCB have moved on in recent years to other topics. They have discussed, for example, From Conflict to Communion, a 2014 document produced by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Unity Commission (which is affiliated with the Lutheran World Federation). That document has spurred theological discussion in a number of other areas, including liturgical matters and the subject of the sacrifice of the mass.

LCC’s national discussions with the CCCB are complemented by regional dialogues in Edmonton, as well as by international discussions taking place between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the International Lutheran Council (ILC), of which LCC is a member. At its most recent world conference, the ILC adopted a statement on From Conflict to Communion, writing that “confessional Lutherans are obligated to cooperate in overcoming the divisions within Christianity in the spirit of biblical truth and Christian love.”

The ILC further wrote that “we consider it a valuable fact that Lutherans and Catholics regard it necessary to come to terms with the history of their division” and to ensure that “the commemoration of the Reformation is realized in ecumenical responsibility.”

To that end, Bishop Bergie noted that a public event to commemorate the Reformation is being planned for 2017, with opportunity to bring Lutherans and Catholics into deeper dialogue.

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