It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by human beings, be observed everywhere.
(Article VII of the Augsburg Confession, German Text, from The Book of Concord, Augsburg Fortress 2000)
Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The ELCA and Roman Catholic church have made great strides towards unity recently as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaches next year. Theologians from both denominations have worked together and reconciled much of our theology and provided a roadmap to address remaining theological concerns. Pope Francis has openly proclaimed that the decision on whether to communion for Lutherans and Catholics in each other’s churches are a matter between the individual conscience and God. All signs point towards a greater unity between Lutherans and Catholics.
Will this result in a unification/merger between the ELCA and Roman Catholic churches? No, it will not. As far as I’m aware, that is not the point of the dialog between our denominations. Rather, we are seeking to uplift the unity which binds us together in Christ. Likely, we will never solve all of our theological disputes. We may never agree on the best way to administer Communion. We may never agree what style of worship is best. However, none of those things are necessary for the unity of the church. As the Reformers proclaimed in the Article VII of the Augsburg Confession: “[the church] is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel.”
True unity comes to us in Christ. No matter the differences in how we worship or the way we take communion or the cultural and traditional differences between denominations, we are all one in Christ. Christ was crucified and has been raised for the sake of the world – for all of us. Therefore, it is in Christ that we are all made one. The unity in Christ overcomes the differences that divide us. This enables us at all levels of our faith groups – denominational, congregational, and individual – to celebrate that which binds us together. We do not need uniform ceremonies and cultural heritage for unity; we just need Christ.
God’s peace be with you,