Thursday, 6th July, 2000

I didn’t see P. yesterday, because he was at a camp, but I did go round to Peter Holmes’. Susie was at home too, and I had lunch with them. Peter debriefed a little about the Church Planting Conference he had been too (I had some sympathy, because I had been to the first one that was held last year—it played no small part in preparing me for my current direction), and then we talked about the matter at hand.

I asked Peter (who is seeing our District President today) if he could join me in a “in statu confessionis” move. He was reluctant, not because he did not believe it was the correct thing to do, but because to do so would be to lose the confidence of his congregation—at least at this point. He has built up a reputation for being confessional, and of that which is “catholic” which he has managed to achieve he has done so on the basis of the Lutheran Confessions. To now take a position that is contrary to the clear statement of the Confessions seems to him to be undermining our position, rather than strengthening it.

Oddly, this is the same comment that Fr D. made when I met with him for coffee before the Victorian Council of Churches Executive meeting yesterday evening. He was interested in the direction I had chosen, glad that I was not “acting precipitously”, interested also to hear how the marriage tribunal meeting went (I think he expected the interviewer to be a little more empathic—but I assured him that this was probably not what I needed), and then we talked about the current state of the Lutheran Church of Australia. He wanted to know if there was a way I could base my current position on the confessional statements of our church.

So that is what I am now thinking. While I have recognised that the big problem with being pro-papal is the clear statements in the Smalcald Articles and The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope that the papacy can only have authority de iure humano, probably not much is going to be gained by simply taking a position that denies this. We have to find a way forward, and we have to show that the way forward is not in conflict with the confession of faith contained in the Book of Concord.

Indeed, it will require a bit of a “John Henry Newman/39articles” job. But surely it can be done. After all, the three of us, P., Peter and I, and our supporters, are all among the most confessional of the Lutheran Pastors in the LCA. If the confessions have led us to this position, then there must be a thread within the confessions that can lead the church that way—if they are willing to go. It seems to me that if we can do this (and it will require much more than a simple statement of belief, but pages of carefully thought out and logically worded argument) we will be leading off on the right foot.

For instance, since the CTICR [Commission on Theology and Interchurch Relations] could revisit The Treatise on the question of “Is the Pope the Antichrist?”, and come to an opposite conclusion to that which The Treatise itself came to, and since this was accepted by the LCA, surely a similar thing can be done with the de iure terminology.

For instance, we could point out that this language is that of the medieval law courts—it is jurdicial, rather than pastoral language. We could point out that The Treatise viewed the pope as primarily a magistrate rather than as a pastor, and because of this they were able to follow the sixteenth century doctrine of “the resistance of magistrates”, which was particularly relevant to the political situation of the Smalcald War (Nb. I did a study of this at University—it is very, very relevant). We could point out that the same documents support the authority of kings and princes as being established in scripture, and therefore of divine right, although the passage of scripture on which this is based is very tenuous.

So much for The Treatise. The rest of the Confessions, especially the Augsburg Confession, will be a mine of support for the point of view that the intention of the Reformers, at least before the Smalcald War, was for reunion with Rome. If we are true to the very nature of the Confessions themselves, we must hold this up for all to see.

On matters like that of bishops, we need to show how the teaching that apostolic succession lies only in faithfulness to the teaching of the apostles is just a Lutheran opinion, and is nowhere clearly supported in the Confessions, since the question of apostolic succession (defined as it has been by the Anglican church) had not arisen at that point. Much has been made of the point that the confessions regard the office of pastor as equal to the office of bishop. The opposite therefore must also be true—the office of bishop is as important to the church as the office of pastor.

Other issues, such as the essential nature of the liturgy and of authority in the church, can also be argued on the basis of the Confessions. Perhaps, therefore, this is the way to go, even though it will not be an opinion or interpretation shared by all, yet it will have the maximum swaying power. Simply getting up and saying: “I believe in the Pope” will not, in the end, be very helpful.

Wednesday, 5th July, 2000

I didn’t record in the last entry that I met with my spiritual director at the Wantirna Pub to tell him where things stand at the moment. It was a good time together, and he was confident and pleased that I had been led to work this out “in communio”. He said that he had the feeling of being present at something historic. Well, I don’t know about that.

I also met with P., as usual, last Wednesday, and an interesting insight came out of that. I have been pushing him to come down on one side of the fence or the other, and he has been reluctant until he is able to speak to our Seminary mentor at Synod. However, he says that our mentor will not be able to “argue him out of it” since his argumentation and logic are all correct as far as he can see (Peter Holmes is still having doubts on this score). He said “My head is there already, but my heart isn’t”. And then I realised that for me it has been exactly the other way around: My heart has been there for ages--these last two months have simply been trying to build a line between where I am and where my heart is. Peter Holmes is still “line-checking”. Anyway, I am meeting with them both today.

Two friends from Cathy’s parish came for tea last Friday night. I told them about my journey as Cathy was putting Maddy to sleep. I think she understands a little more than he did. He was quite scornful--he said I am only seeing things through the eyes of history, rather than through the eyes of present reality. Personally, I think to really understand present reality, we have to understand history. Time is not one dimensional.

I also had a good “trial run” discussion with Cathy’s parents on Sunday. They were both still at the dinner table (at Cathy’s brother’s place) long after everyone else had left, and somehow we got onto the topic of the papacy. I played “devil’s advocate” (or is that “Rome’s Advocate”) without disclosing my current beliefs. I think it went fairly well, with Cathy’s father conceding that the papacy was perhaps more reasonable than he had previously supposed.

Cathy asked last night if I was doing anything about the annulment. I said, not for now, although I am thinking about it a lot. I will do something after Synod.

I am hanging out for the national Synod in South Australia. Really. I am especially looking forward to the motorcycle ride there and back. Some thinking time.

Monday 26th June 2000 - In which I have a conversation with Jaroslav Pelikan!

Mum and Dad came to stay for a few days on the weekend. I had not intended to tell them of my “decision” since I hadn’t made one, but I think that now I can say more definitely that I will not be “swimming the Tiber” straight away, and so I thought I would share my concerns with them.

They were not surprised either, although their interrogation was similar to that which I received from the pastor’s wives. They acknowledged the problem of authority in the church, but they were judging the Catholic Church by some of its worst proponents: catholic lay people they knew. They especially cited the case of my sister-in-law’s mother, who prays to St Anthony every time she loses something! But there was no great anxiety about it.

G. rang yesterday, and was glad to know that I was not going over straight away either, but that I was going to try to be “noble” but not “selfish”. That was a good and reassuring talk.

Cathy and I had tea at P.’s home last night, and talked further. P. is not yet at the stage, he said, that he can call himself a Roman Catholic (as I say I am a Roman Catholic by conviction, if not by profession—although I am still a Lutheran in my theology [I am not sure what I meant by that – David, 09-08-06]). Yet he is wondering how long he can continue to hold this position, because he is quite clear about where the logic of his arguments is leading.

I finished reading Pelikan’s “Riddle of Roman Catholicism”, and especially appreciated the last chapters on the “Way of Conversion”. There he tries to point out that while this is an option that some feel compelled to take because of conscience, it is at best a “short-cut”, that, although it arrives at the destination desired, it misses out on the benefits of the journey, and at worst it is a blind alley. And yet he himself, in March 1998, at the age of 74, did convert--not to Rome, but to the Orthodox Church in America.

So what was the answer to this. I decided to try and get in contact with him and ask. I was looking for his email, but in actual fact, I found his telephone number, and phoned him in New Haven, Connecticut! It was thrilling to be talking to the great man himself, but disappointing in the end, because he declined to talk about his personal journey. He said that he doesn’t do email. I told him my situation, and he declined to go any further with his own comments. He says JH Newman converted at 44 years, and wrote a 600 page book; whereas he converted at 74 and would require a 1000page book to do my query justice. He also said that he had had between 750 and 1000 calls similar to mine. I apologised for interrupting his evening, but he was very gracious about it. I said that if he ever did write that book, I would definitely buy it, and he said, “Yep, I think it will be a best seller!”.