Thursday 22nd June, 2000

Well, the meeting with my District President went well. After I told him everything that had been happening and all that I had been thinking, he reacted by saying: “I’m not surprised”.

He then said he wanted to assure me first of all that the crisis in the LCA may well be addressed at this Synod. Firstly, he acknowledged that there is a crisis of authority in the church—in terms of the authority of scripture, of the confessions, of the ministry, and of the presidents. He then went on to say that he expects the Synod to deal with this fairly forthrightly in terms of 1) ordination of women, and 2) the General Presidency. In the first case, he feels that the days of the ordination of women’s ordination movement in the LCA are numbered, and that the Synod will give a resounding “No” to the question. Secondly, the of the three men who are currently standing for General President, the top two can be relied on to lead the Church in a confessional direction. Added to this is the new appointment of the President of the Seminary (who is also, fortuitously, Chairman of the Roman Catholic Lutheran Dialogue), and he thinks we have a good recipe for the ascendancy of Evangelical Catholicism in the Lutheran Church of Australia.

As an aside, it has been my opinion of late that the Evangelical Catholic interpretation of Lutheranism cannot claim to be the only faithful version of Lutheranism, because it has only ever been championed by a few among the many. However, it now occurs to me that never-the-less, we, the LCA, are free to determine what sort of Lutherans we wish to be, and if we decide—as a church—that Evangelical Catholicism is the way to go, we can work at making the LCA an Evangelical Catholic Church. It won’t make it the Catholic Church, but it will put us in a position better to accept the necessity for reunion with Rome.

The District President went on to say that when he signed, together with those in charge of the Australian Catholic University, the agreement on the Lutheran Education unit to be taught at Ballarat, he repeated to the Catholic brethren what Herman Sasse always used to say to his students:

“Gentlemen, if there were no Lutheran Church, where would you go? You would go back to Rome. But why go back to Rome? Is it not full of evils? Yes, but they have preserved the sacraments.”

As an aside again, I am aware that this was Sasse’s view—only I would go further: they have preserved the episcopacy, the continuity with the apostolic church, the teaching magisterium of the church, holy orders, etc. etc.—ie. the very things we have lost in terms of ecclesiology and doctrine of ministry.

Then he said, and I have recorded this word for word:

“I intend, and I have every confidence, that the alignment of the LCA will be with the Roman Catholic Church, and those other denominations (eg. Anglican Bishop Silk of Ballarat) that stand in the Catholic tradition. That’s our future.”

He made the interesting observation (not really to do with my journey, but I’ll stick it in anyway) that the visiting lecturer was very impressed with our Continuing Education for Pastors Conference back in May—and is telling everyone “back home” in Adelaide that the path that Victoria has taken is the way to go!

When I raised the question concerning the issue of Eucharistic hospitality with the Anglicans and UCA. Wasn’t this going the wrong direction? He answered that—given the new turn of events in our Anglican and UCA dialogues—the RC dialogue has to change tack as well. He said that he has already spoken to the Chair of the Dialogue regarding this change in direction: ie. away from simply pursuing individual doctrinal matters toward pursuing the issue of intercommunion. He said that what has put us off track with the Romans is the old idea that before we have altar and pulpit sharing, we must have full agreement in every doctrine. This will never happen, he said. But if we start worshipping together, we will be confronted with the need to do our theology. He also added that we can only have a proper dialogue about authority with Rome, since it is non-existent in the Anglican church or in the UCA.

I then said that this was all very nice, but where did it leave me personally? I mean, it gave me hope that indeed the rudders of the LCA could be so manoeuvred that we could turn the ship back in the direction of Rome—and this would mean that my conscience (in the long run) could be appeased—but what of the short term? I am still in a position where I believe that the claim of the Roman Church that the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic... Church, constituted and organised as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” [as in Lumen Gentium 8]. How do I continue, with good conscience, in the Lutheran ministry, especially when I am resolved not to keep this belief private?

He said that I had two options: an official one and an unofficial one.

The first option, the official one, is to invoke the “in statu confessionis” provision in the church. This would mean making a public announcement both to my congregations, and to a synod (possibly the October District Synod), outlining my “confession” and staying with the LCA under duress. David stressed that I should not take this line until I know the direction that the church is taking after Synod. He said also, that I should not do it alone, because there is sure to be others (eg. P.—although he did not name him--and quite possibly a number of others) who would join me in this action. He actually said that he had been considering whether he could pastorally and responsibly lead the entire Victorian District into an “in statu confessionis” position over against the rest of the LCA, “identifying the confessional divergence we have with a significant element” of the church. However he does not feel that this is the point in time in which to do this, and is also waiting to see the outcome of the synod. He advised me to do the same.

The other possibility is the same, but without being so official and without invoking the “in statu confessionis” line. In other words, to my make beliefs public, but without making an official statement. He further said that this would be a good way to go, because I would probably find a good number of brothers in the Victorian District who would stand with me on this.

Either way, he feels it is necessary for me to wait and reflect upon what happens at the General Convention. In the meantime, I should continue the dialogue, and then ask myself what is best to do corporately and individually. Also, that I should not deny, but confirm, what I believe when asked.

I asked what the consequences of taking the “in statu confessionis” line would be. He answered that there would be none as far as he was concerned, but that I probably would not receive calls from certain presidents to their districts—however, he said this was already the case, as I know. But it would put the issue up front where the church could deal with it.

He also asked about how Cathy was dealing with this issue.

All this has left me with a little confusion. I guess it will become clearer as time goes by, and especially after the Synod meets. I think that what it does point to is that I can confess my beliefs, and challenge the church to address this issue, while at the same time working toward making the LCA a truly evangelical catholic church and moving it closer to reunion with Rome. If I can set myself this goal, and apply myself to it honestly and openly, then I think I could, in good conscience, remain in the LCA. For instance, I could find a role in helping the church deal with the fact that we are only 17 years off the 500th anniversary of the 95 theses and 30 years off the 500th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession. If I was looking for a goal that would last for the rest of my ministry, reconciliation between Rome and the LCA could well be on this timetable!!!

I told David that, given my ability to handle the process emotionally, I would continue to work toward the annulment of my first marriage with the Tribunal for two reasons:
1) I did not want the issue of first my marriage clouding my decision
2) I believed that the process would be pastorally healthy for me