The Convocation of Bishops of The LOC meeting on April 20th, 2013 at Slatington, Pennsylvania have released the following draft to clarify the use of terms and wordings as applicable to the Denominational Fellowship known as The Lutheran Orthodox Church.
A Definition of Terms:
Bishop Bradley Varvil, Tacoma Diocese, drafting
Lutheran, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Catholic notes from the Bishops of the Lutheran Orthodox Church
April 20th 2013
Given the nature and use of these terms, both over time and in contemporary circles, we thought it good and helpful to provide definitions of these terms as we use them in our fellowship. The following notes are meant to be guidelines to understanding the way we walk together in the Lutheran Orthodox Church, and to help clarify any confusion for those who may inquire.
There are literally dozens of groups out there, who claim the mantle of “Lutheran,” and many of them define the term differently. Historically, particularly in Germany and Scandinavia where the Lutheran Reformation took hold, and from whence the Lutheran churches of America find most of their roots, what made a church Lutheran was subscription to the Lutheran Confessions. The Lutheran Confessions made clear doctrinal statements regarding the teaching of Holy Scripture, reflected the teaching of Luther during his time, and the generation immediately after his death.
The Lutheran Confessions are traditionally bound together in the 1580 Book of Concord. While not every Lutheran church places the same emphasis on all of the documents within that corpus, these have traditionally defined the way Lutheran Christians walk together under Holy Scripture. The most central of those documents, are the Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian,) which are the ancient symbols of Christian unity from the 4th and 5th centuries AD.
The Augsburg Confession and the Apology state Lutheran positions on the controversies of the early 16 century, placing the Holy Scriptures as the sole canon (or rule) of Christian faith, and declaring the centrality of the Doctrine of Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ Alone. The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, The Smalcald Articles, and the Formula of Concord present clarifications, explanations, and extensions of the doctrines declared at Augsburg.
The twoCatechisms of Martin Luther (Small and Large) form the daily piety and instruction of the Christian faithful.
As Lutheran Christians, we receive the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions as normative in our churches, because they are clear and true expositions of Holy Scripture, and the historic Christian faith.
The term “orthodox” is used in its historic sense, to identify right teaching. We define right teaching (or orthodoxy) as that which accords with the canonical Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. In this sense, we also consider the Lutheran Confessions to be orthodox teaching.
In a more contemporary sense, we also recognize that the Apostolic Succession of our Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, flows in part through several of the historically identified Eastern Orthodox Churches. Therefore, the canonical orders of our pastors follow from an unbroken chain of pastors, going all the way back to the Apostles, and Christ Himself. The Lutheran Orthodox Church shares close relationships with various Orthodox Churches.
The term “evangelical” was initially applied to the Lutheran Reformation, by the Lutheran Reformers themselves, to identify their theological focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ—particularly the doctrinal emphasis of Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ Alone. We use this term in the same sense among us. We are focused on the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ alone, and we acknowledge with the Lutheran Reformers, that it is the central doctrine upon which the Church of Jesus Christ stands or falls.
Wehold and use the term “catholic” in the same way that St. Vincent of Lerins used the term in the 5th century, noting that we “take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all—that is truly and properly catholic.”
Such teaching is summarized in the ancient Creeds and Councils, and expounded in our Lutheran Confessions. We hold the Church Fathers in high regard, though we always hold them under Holy Scripture. We hold the ancient canons in high regard, as do our Lutheran Confessions (i.e., canons for the ordination of pastors, canons of the Mass, etc.) though we always hold human canons under the authority of Holy Scripture. Thus we share a kinship with all other catholic churches who walk according to the same historic teachings and practices that have always and everywhere marked the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which we confess in the Nicene Creed.
It may also be noted, that the Apostolic Succession of our Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, also flows in part through Roman and Old Catholic Churches, and is recognized as such by them. Hence the catholicity of our pastors is not questioned by the other catholic churches, when we are called upon to serve them in times of need.
It is in this way that the Lutheran Orthodox Church is very much an Evangelical Catholic Church. Or, as we often reflect, we are a Lutheran Rite Catholic Community, with a heavy emphasis on Holy Scripture and the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.