Current Issue Article Abstracts
Spring 2017 Vol. 52.2
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Special Section: North American Academy of Ecumenists 2016 Conference: Commemorating the Reformation
Thomas F. Best
This essay takes up the subject of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It addresses the need to determine carefully how to note this event and points out the arbitrary choice of 2017. The essay indicates the danger of viewing this event only in a Lutheran-Roman Catholic context. The year 2017 places the Reformation in a new setting: 100 years of the modern ecumenical movement and fifty years of Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue. This dialogue has been one of the factors in the production of some significant ecumenical texts, including From Conflict to Communion and Declaration on the Way. The conclusion both stresses the need for reception of ecumenical work and the inadequacy of Declaration on the Way to achieve that goal.
Speaking of 1517 generically (representing also events that followed after that year), this essay consists of two main parts. Part I, relying on reports from international dialogues between the Catholic Church with Reformation churches, indicates several issues in sixteenth-century conflicts from which lessons can be learned today. Part II, "Shaping Our Ecumenical Future," emphasizes opportunities of the modern ecumenical movement. Dialogue since Vatican II has enabled Lutherans and Catholics to prepare a project for commemorating 2017 together. Continuing dialogues and harvesting their results can lead to further advances. It concludes with a suggestion for furthering Lutheran-Catholic relations.
This essay examines the significance of the joint commemoration of the Reformation by Lutherans and Catholics in 2017 as an opportunity for a healing of collective memories. It argues that the common re-reading of history proposed by the Lutheran-Catholic International Commission on Unity in From Conflict to Communion provides a corrective vision with consequences for identity-constituting memory and is key to a common future. The reception text of the U.S. Lutheran-Catholic working group, Declaration on the Way, takes stock of the cumulative effects of fifty years of dialogue, rightly arguing for a move toward a more generous mutual ecclesial recognition.
This essay identifies major lessons related to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation from the perspective of the Secretaries of Christian World Communions. Drawing on the invitation to all Christians "to come with us along the way to a deeper communion" (From Conflict to Communion, Lutheran-Catholic Theological Commission, 2013), it highlights several key conversations at annual meetings of the Secretaries. They stressed that this commemoration is not just a Roman Catholic and Lutheran event but also an opportunity for an ecumenical celebration of God's gift of unity to the whole church.
The distance from Pope Pius XI's Mortalium animos in 1928, forbidding Catholic participation in gatherings of non-Catholics, to the Joint Declaration on Justification signed by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999, beggars measurement. The landscape had to change, and it was a whole range of creative rememberings and prudent forgettings that altered the lay of the theological and ecclesial land. We need to be alert to the way memory works; its shape-shifting is influenced by serendipity, art, academic fashion, the counter-intuitive, chronological snobbery (and regret), and research itself. Denominational bones ache, while ecumenical hearts are strangely warmed.
This essay employs Catherine Cornille's conditions for a constructive interreligious dialogue theoretical framework with reference to the Islamic tradition as exemplified by the work of Reza Shah-Kazemi, a contemporary proponent of Islamic mysticism and the Islamic branch of religio perennialis. More specifically, it demonstrates how Cornille's "commitment," "interconnection," and "hospitality" conditions for constructive interreligious dialogue are very present in the Islamic tradition.
In Our Time: Nostra Aetate—How Catholics and Jews Built a New Relationship by James M. Barrens, and:Post-Holocaust Jewish-Christian Dialogue: After the Flood, before the Rainbow ed. by Alan L. Berger, and: Seeking Shalom: The Journey to Right Relationship between Catholics and Jews by Philip A. Cunningham, and: The Holocaust and Nostra Aetate: Toward a Greater Understanding ed. by Carol Rittner (review)
Eugene J. Fisher