Lutheran and Catholic pastors, priests and laypeople gather to discuss differences, celebrate agreements

by Paul Braun | New Earth

TheoDay

(pictured l to r) The Most Reverend Michael J. Hoeppner, Bishop of the Diocese of Crookston, Minn.; Reverend Dr. Lawrence R. Wohlrabe, Bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Most Reverend John T. Folda, Bishop of the Diocese of Fargo; and the Reverend Terry A. Brandt, Bishop of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, lead an ecumenical worship service for healing, understanding and Christian unity at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, Minn. on April 20.(Paul Braun | New Earth)

Representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) from Minnesota and North Dakota joined their counterparts from the Dioceses of Crookston and Fargo for a Joint Theological Day at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead on April 20.

The Reverend Dr. Lawrence R. Wohlrabe, Bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was host of the event, along with the Most Reverend Michael J. Hoeppner, Bishop of the Diocese of Crookston; the Reverend Terry A. Brandt, Bishop of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and the Most Reverend John T. Folda, Bishop of the Diocese of Fargo. Nearly 200 clergy, priests, and laypeople attended the all-day event, representing almost 200,000 Lutherans and Catholics in Eastern North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota.

The day centered on joint discussions on the progress made in dialogue, agreements, occasioned by the joint publication on Christian unity entitled "Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist" (available for review at www.nwmnsynod.org/OnTheWay). This resource was created by the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA.

Leading a day of roundtable discussions were Father John Crossin, former Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the USCCB; and Pastor Mark S. Hanson, former Presiding Bishop of the ELCA.

These table discussions challenged the participants to find the similarities, but also acknowledge the differences between Catholic and Lutheran theology; look at where we’ve been and look to the hope our future brings. The day concluded with a traditional worship service jointly created by Lutheran and Catholic representation on the planning committee.

An evening event called “Can Lutherans and Catholics be Friends?” featured round-table discussions among Catholics and Lutherans on areas of agreement, along with items that are still up for further discussion regarding differences in theology among two of the area’s largest Christian denominations. Those attending were encouraged to talk about possible misconceptions they had growing up about the Catholic and Lutheran faiths, along with sharing stories about how positive encounters may have changed those misconceptions.

This event was the second collaboration between the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA, the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA, the Fargo Diocese, and the Crookston Diocese, following last year’s joint event “Creation Conversation: Care for Our Common Home.”

This year 2017 marks 500 years since the Protestant Reformation, and 50 years since the Catholic Church openly started to look at ways to further dialogue between the Church and Protestant denominations in an effort to find common ground and points of Christian unity.