In response to a document approved by Pope Benedict XVI and released by the Vatican July 10 that says that Orthodox churches “lack something in their condition” as churches because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope, and that other Christian denominations “cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense,” Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, July 12 responded that this declaration, with which Lutherans and other Christian church bodies obviously disagree, is nothing new.
“Similar statements and perspectives precipitated the 16th century Reformation nearly 500 years ago,” Kieschnick said. “At that time Martin Luther said, ‘Popes and councils can err.’ Apparently that is still true today.”
Kieschnick explained that even 500 years ago, the church was defined in the simple words of the Lutheran Confessions by those whose faith in Christ precipitated the Reformation, such as:
- “[The church] is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel” (Augsburg Confession Article VII).
- “Thank God, [today] a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. For the children pray thus: ‘I believe in one holy Christian church’” (Smalcald Articles: Art. XII; Triglot, p. 499).
Kieschnick concluded by saying, “We look forward to the continuation of our theological dialogues with Roman Catholic leaders in discussion of this very important matter and to strengthening our common witness on such matters as the sanctity of life.”
To read the entire Vatican statement, “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church,” click here.
Posted July 12, 2007