Minister does not follow teachings of Lutheran Church

editorial image

I am beginning to think I will have to go back to Northern Ireland and start the One True Church of Martin Luther, one of my historical heroes.

It seems that some Protestant ministers do not follow the teachings of the Lutheran Church.

Exhibit A, in the latest instance, is the declaration by the Rev Eddie Coulter as to why he would not participate in the cross-community carrying of the Cross of Christ in the ‘Walk of Witness’.

He reasons thus: “because I have deeply held theological disagreements with Roman Catholic teaching about the Cross.” (“Lisburn Minister boycotts cross-community ‘walk of witness’” April 8).

I seem to be a voice crying out in the wilderness in pleading that all the followers of Martin Luther in Northern Ireland would acknowledge and recognise that the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation have reached a wonderful agreement on the Doctrine of Justification (Joint Declaration on Justification, October 1991 in Augsburg, Germany).

The Joint Declaration (with its Official Common Statement and Annex) formally and authoritatively declare the Doctrine of Justification is no longer a “Church-dividing” issue. Praise be to God!

See reply to this letter here

The wedge issue, the central cause of the Reformation, the “issue on which the Church stands or falls,” according to Luther — the mutual misunderstandings of the Doctrine of Justification — is essentially resolved in this binding and Holy Spirit-inspired declaration:

“In faith, we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent His son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ Himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.” (Number 15).

An agreement on the Doctrine of Justification is most assuredly an agreement on “teaching about the Cross,” Rev. Coulter’s phrase.

He says he has “deeply held theological disagreements with Roman Catholic teaching about the Cross.”

Well, he is in fact also saying he has deep disagreement with the Lutheran World Federation — and also with the Anglican/Episcopal Church and World Methodist Council which have welcomed and approved the Joint Declaration on Justification.

True Protestantism/Lutheranism is not by served by the statement of “alternative facts,” which misrepresents the teaching of the Catholic Church, misleading the good Protestants of Northern Ireland.

What Catholics believe about The Cross of Jesus Christ/Justification/Sanctification by the One Mediator is clearly and officially stated in the above quoted paragraph, Number 15, of the Joint Declaration on Justification.

I hope as we approach Holy Week that Rev Coulter will come to acknowledge that this is in fact what the Catholic Church teaches about “the wood of the Cross, upon which hung the Savior of the World.” (Good Friday Liturgy).

Rev Coulter’s unfortunate language, however intended, can amount in effect to what Dr John Brewer means when he speaks of “theology being used in social closure and stratification,” in Northern Ireland (Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, 1600-1998 : the mote and the beam).

Who can deny that the preaching of such “Otherness” has been a key tool for keeping Catholics in their place in Northern Ireland?

It had no impact on the Pope and the College of Cardinals — and it did not advance true Protestant theology and Biblical faith — but it certainly contributed to a culture of Protestant supremacy through British rule, and British rule through Protestant supremacy.

This Holy Week may all begin to see Northern Ireland as the “Beloved Community,” the term made famous by the other Martin — Luther King, Jr. ... A Community of non-violence, equality, justice, solidarity and forgiveness.

Fr. Sean McManus, President Irish National Caucus, Washington, DC

Reply to this letter: Justification is by faith alone