Seventh-day Adventist responses:
Adventist Church leaders said the statement merely clarified the Catholic Church’s traditional position.
“There’s nothing surprising here,” said Kwabena Donkor, associate director of the Adventist Church’s Biblical Research Institute.
“Following Vatican II, the modernization meetings of the Catholic Church in the 1960s, some people had the impression that there were some significant changes in the Catholic Church,” Donkor said. “But there hasn’t been.
“As Seventh-day Adventists, our understanding of the church is completely different,” Donkor said. “We don’t identify the church as being Christ with the pope as the head.” …
“Such statements from the Vatican do not disappoint or affect Adventists,” said John Graz, director of the Adventist Church’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department.
Graz said the Adventist Church has always been reluctant to join in the ecumenical movement but believes in “unity of spirit, unity of the scriptures and unity in love.
“Adventists favor good relations and religious freedom for all,” Graz said.
Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA:
The Vatican’s statement, “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church” (“Responses to Questions”), does not appear to change previously stated positions. It does, however, restate known positions in provocative ways that are before us in the ongoing U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic bilateral dialogue….
…the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recognizes no deficiency in our self-understanding as “Church.”
The anguished response of Christians around the world to the Vatican’s statement, however, clearly indicates that what may have been meant to clarify has caused pain. Now is the time for our thoughtful and measured response. The question all Christian people should reflect on today is how best to exercise forbearance and love for one another.
Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President of the LCMS:
According to an Associated Press report, “Pope Benedict XVI approved a document … that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and that only Roman Catholicism provides the true path to salvation.”
This declaration, with which Lutherans and other Christian church bodies obviously disagree, is nothing new, similar statements and perspectives having precipitated the 16th century Reformation nearly 500 years ago. At that time Martin Luther said, “Popes and councils can err.” Apparently that is still true today.
Even 500 years ago, the church was defined in the simple words of our Lutheran Confessions by those whose faith in Christ precipitated the Reformation:
- [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)
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod looks 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.
Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary, Lutheran World Federation:
The Lutheran World Federation learns with dismay of the “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church,” issued from the Vatican this week by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This document clarifies for Roman Catholic theologians that the title “church” is not properly to be extended to “Christian communities” like the member bodies of our Lutheran communion, which were shaped by the crucible of Reformation. While this position is not new to us, we are saddened and disappointed that it is reasserted again for our current context, in which the work of ecumenical partnership has produced such significant results. …
Lutheran churches do not accept the understandings of church or the description of our lived reality of faith which are found in the “Responses.” Understanding ourselves to be fully church, where the gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered, we remain committed to ecumenical dialogue, including continued conversation with our partners in the Roman Catholic Church. We understand Christian unity to be both God’s gift to the one Body of Christ and the task of the People of God. We will continue to pursue our vision of Christian unity as willed and prayed for by Christ himself.