Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Practical Solution For Ending the Great Schisms

I have been, in my life, a Protestant, a Catholic, and now an Eastern Orthodox. As a result,  I believe I have a unique perspective on how to end, on a practical and achievable level,  the Schism between these Christian communities.

I was born and baptized into the Lutheran Tradition in 1966. In my adulthood, I came to believe that the Protestant movement, while sincerely intending the reform of Christianity, had largely erred through its Sola Scriptura methodology and wrongly rejected significant and legitimate aspects of historical Christianity.

And for that reason, I was received into Communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 1991. 

For reasons not pertinent to the point of this post, I entered the Eastern Orthodox Communion in 2003.

But the point I make is that I am a Christian. I fell in love with Jesus as a youth in the Lutheran Church. 

It is inappropriate to say that I "converted" to Catholicism or then to Orthodoxy. I converted to Christianity on a certain day in the Spring of 1985 when, reading the Gospel of Matthew, I truly met Jesus. And the Lutheran upbringing I had prior to that point, made it possible for me to find that faith. And I am grateful for my Lutheran heritage.

I'm not a "Convert" to the Orthodox Church. I am a Lutheran Christian through and through. I could never change what I am. It's in my blood. But I am a Lutheran Christian who believes that the Historical Church, as lived still through the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, is a more authentic experience of Christianity than what my Protestant forebears perpetuated. 

Even so, I left the Protestant Communion as a Christian. I entered other Communions as a Christian, not a convert.

And this is the key to ending the Schisms between the Catholic and Orthodox and Protestant Communions.

The theologians in charge of formal dialogue between the various ecclesial bodies will never achieve any meaningful rapprochement because their goals are inappropriately lofty.

As an example, the Catholic and Orthodox dialogue acts as though they need to fully solve and resolve all the issues that led to the Schism a thousand years ago. And since they can't do so, the Schism can apparently never end. 

But yet, the points of disagreement this dialogue studies were already in place within the Eastern and Western Churches for hundreds of years prior to the Schism. These points of disagreement were in place in the Eastern and Western Churches while they were still sharing Communion.

So why do we now think that we cannot restore Communion until these issues are resolved?

As one born a Lutheran, turned Catholic, and then turned Orthodox, it is evident to me that Rome is now bending over backwards to tell the Orthodox that they need not fear the terms of a reunited Church.

We Orthodox are actually in the sin of judgement over our ancestors who were willing to share Communion with the Western Church despite disagreements we now claim are impediments to unity.

So here's my proposal for we how can effectively end the Schism in a real and meaningful way without compromising the integrity of the beliefs of our individual Communions.  

Catholic Canon Law already declares that Catholic ministers can administer the Sacraments to members of Oriental Churches who approach of their own will (Canon 844.3) and other Christians in danger of death (Canon 844.4).

The Orthodox Church should, at the upcoming Council, adopt the following canon regarding non-Orthodox:

*Pastors are authorized, on a case-by-case basis, to administer the Sacraments to members of other Communions who are validly baptized, are legitimate members of their Orthodox parish, and who share the Orthodox belief in those Sacraments.

The Roman Catholic Church should adopt the following canon:

*Pastors are authorized, on a case-by-case basis, to administer the Sacraments to members of other Communions who are validly baptized, are legitimate members of their Catholic parish, and who share the Catholic belief in those Sacraments.

Now, you may wonder, who in the world is being described by this Canon?

Let me tell you, it fully describes two people at my little Russian Orthodox Church. It describes the Roman Catholic spouse of an Orthodox member and it also describes a Lutheran man who is Orthodox in heart but feels he cannot convert due to a vow to his late mother.

If the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches both adopted the Canon I describe here, it would be a significant measure that would constitute an end to the Schisms. 

It would not be a full end to Schisms on the level of the Churches. But it would be an end to the Schisms at a much more important level. It would be an end to the Schisms at the level of people and families...

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