National Bishop Raymond Schultz

Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.

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Canada Lutheran, October/November 2004

Further Reading

More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.

National Bishop's Turn

Openness to the Spirit

October 31, 2004 marks the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) by Walter Cardinal Kasper on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church and (then) President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Dr. Christian Krause, in Wittenberg, Germany.

The signing of that document ended 470 years of mutual condemnations between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. It acknowledged that history and ecumenical conditions are so different from those of the sixteenth century that the old denunciations no longer apply.

This came as an answer to my prayers. I have always considered myself a catholic—an evangelical catholic. We Lutherans never intended to be a separate church body. We wanted reform of the medieval church, not expulsion from Rome. The unfortunate climate of Luther's day made debate and mutual accommodation impossible, so things went the way they did. Looking at the arguments from today's perspective makes it hard to understand why the differences could not have been overcome.

Lutherans and Roman Catholics do not understand grace in completely identical ways, but both sides have agreed that the reception of God's grace through faith is the way of salvation. Understandings of the reception process differ, but what is agreed is that the process of salvation begins with God and is granted freely by God through grace.

My experience with Roman Catholic understandings of grace occurred when I began to explore the prayer discipline taught by Ignatius of Loyola to the Jesuit Order. I discovered it to be an exercise in the reception of God's grace in which the one praying adopts an attitude of openness, allowing for the Spirit to take hold of mind, feelings and imagination. I once compared this way of prayer to public transit. The bus comes regularly to the stop. If you go to the stop it comes for you also. It is not God who needs the invitation to mutuality; it is we. Ignatius created his way of prayer because of his understanding of grace.

I was surprised, when re-reading Olaf Hallesby's volume on prayer, how similar the approaches are. So much tradition of Christian formation and the life of prayer was rejected in the Reformation wars. The retrieval of these family treasures into our practice is an enormous gift, as I see it. The ancestors of present-day Lutherans asserted the centrality of grace in justification at a time when it was abused in the history of the church. However, in better times it is humbling but joyous to know that there is more to grace than the confines of its Protestant understanding.

Jesus not only prayed for the unity of the church in John 17. He also prayed that humanity might have life in its God-ordained completeness. That cannot happen when we do not see the richness that the other brings to our portion of the gifts of life. We are much closer to the promise now.

Bishop Raymond Schultz

Canada Lutheran, October/November 2004