Unity and reconciliation - ett tal under TLIG Pigrimage 2015 i Rom av Fr Bo Westergaard.
The two keys to unity, according to the Messages is - Love and Humility. If we are to follow our Lords command, to love each other, we need to get to know each other, for the sake of unity. That is one of the reasons why we are here, to meet each other. It is my experience, however, that the knowledge of "Protestantism" - the many different traditions and denominations that stem from the Reformation era - is not so good.
I will not be able to give even a brief introduction to that in 20 min. But I will say something about its nature.
When Martin Luther almost 500 years ago started what later became known as the Reformation his purpose was NOT to start a new church. He wanted to renew his own Catholic Church, and he criticized certain things and certain leaders. He saw himself as a good catholic, yes, even a better catholic than those he criticized. He wanted to restore the image of God, emphasized the need of a personal faith, giving his people the Scriptures and the liturgy in their own language, and more. In certain sense we could say he was a prophetic person, although he never refer to revelations or so. He was prophetic in character. His desire to renew the church was prophetic to its nature.
The same thing we could say about many of those who inspired new movements, eventually leading to new denominations, new churches, within this thing called ”protestantism”. I would say that protestantism, at least in it's origin, is prophetic to its nature. Of course I am aware that several divisions within protestantism are the resultat of disagreements and egoism, more than anything else. So I am speaking in very generel terms.
If we can understand the nature of Protestantism (or with the name I prefer: Evangelic Christianity) as prophetic, then we also can appreciate it for what it is. All of us here know the importance of a prophetic call - we are all part of it. We know that it is necessary for the life of the Church. A prophetic call contains a call to return back to God, to restore the image of God when it has become distorted, it contains a call to lead our lives according to God’s will. This is also the nature of evangelic Christianity, at least in its origin.
So, next time you meet a protestant - and you need to look carefully because the look very much the same as Catholic and Ortodox - realize that you are sharing the same experience of living in a prophetic call.
But the question is: are prophets called to start new churches? The answer must be no. The role of the prophet and the prophetic call is to renew the existing church. It is when these movements started to organize themselves as new churches we can talk about a real division. The reason why the divisions came to be is usually a complex history, and who’s guilt it was is not always easy to say. But the divisions came, and with that also another effect.
A prophetic call has its place in a certain time, and a certain context. Its purpose is to focus on what is important in that specific time and context. Exactly because it is focusing on some aspects it is also limited in it's content. No prophetic call or revelation, not even such a rich revelation as TLIG, can claim to have the full revelation - simply because it has not the purpose to replace the full revelation of the church.
So what happened when these, originaly prophetic calls became their own bodies, and they started to organize themselves as new churches or denominations? Quite naturally, they brought these limitations with them. Of all the gifts that Christ handed on to the church, some were left behind. That is why, from the perspective of the Catholic and Orthodox side, protestants seems to lack elements, more or less. And likewise, this is why, from a protestant perspective, Catholics and Orthodox seems to have added things, that was not there from the beginning.
On the other hand, as the Catholic theologian Jaques Maritain says: "What does it help to have the full revelation ("all the gifts") if you use it as a pillow". Sometimes protestants have been better to use the gifts they have. The reading of the Bible in daily life, evangelisation, a rich tradition of hymns and worship songs, a trust in Gods work in us, the emphasize of the common priesthood (meaning: laypeople's important role) are some examples.
Protestantism has undoubtly important virtues to contribute with, and no church unity would be complete without that.
But then also, for protestantism, a need to taste the whole and rich Tradition of the Church, the fullness of gifts that Christ has passed on to His Church. (Also remind itself of its profetic nature).
Vassula sometimes say that "every church has to die from its ego". But no church needs to to die from its soul. No church will loose anything through unity. What is autentic will remain.
From conflict to communion
To end with: just an example of what is being done in the ecumenical work between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation.
In two years time there is a jubilee. In 2017 it is 500 years since the reformation started. The division this eventually led to is nothing to celebrate. Instead, what they are doing, is to write the history of the reformation era together, calling it "From conflict to communion", a small book for anyone interested to understand the Reformation.