JDDJ After Ten Years

Journal CoverHoly Trinity 2009, Volume XVIII, Number 3Table of Contents

(Introduction by Scott Murray)

One Sunday in early November 1999, as I was preparing for early service at the parish I serve, I heard shouting across the street from our church. When I emerged to see what the fuss was about I was greeted by the sight of a large man with a floppy Bible draped over one hand gesticulating with the other and howling about the capitulation of the truth the “Lutherans” had just perpetrated through the “signing” of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ).

Before I could gather my wits (a daunting task at the best of times), he got into his idling getaway car and sped off, never to be heard from again. I wanted to shout back, “We aren’t those Lutherans!” And of course, ironically all Lutherans are not “those Lutherans,” since no one actually signed the Joint Declaration itself, only the Official Common Statement (OCS). Later, it occurred to me that if the JDDJ so unhinged the floppy Bible crowd, maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

By now, however, it appears to be a moot point. What was to be an ecumenical turning point has catalyzed both theological and ecclesial second thoughts about the method of arriving at this point of uncertainty and ambiguity. Reconciled diversity may have been interred by the Joint Declaration and its aftermath. Ten years ago, there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the ecumenical process that generated the JDDJ and its officially more significant evil twin, OCS.

This issue of LOGIA is dedicated to a reevaluation of where the JDDJ experience has ended up ten years later. If, in fact, the so-called reconciled diversity of late twentieth-century ecumenism has come to a bitter and abrupt end, it remains to ask what are the lessons to be learned for the ecumenical process and where might those lessons lead. Is there a way to resurrect the process that will be truly fruitful to the Lutheran and Roman Catholic communions?

What the aftermath highlighted among other things was the ambiguity of the ecclesial structures that act like or call themselves “church” in the modern context. The Lutheran World Federation, which as Kurt Marquart said is neither Lutheran, worldwide, nor a federation, was handicapped by its inability to herd the various segments of its membership into an adoption of the JDDJ. It was a bit like pushing on a string. Rome was frustrated by this apparent ecclesial confusion among the Lutherans, who were acting like autonomous Protestants. However, as it turned out Lutherans had not cornered the market on ecclesial ambiguity. The various curial forces ripe with Romanitas all put their own political spin on the (non)agreement: Cassidy, Kasper, and Ratzinger, just to mention a few, all took their swings at the knuckle ball pitched by the signing. Finally, no one was sure if we were reconciled or diversified and what that might mean. We have returned to the most basic question, “What does this mean?” It is a matter of abiding grief that no one is quite sure how to answer.

Our authors present their own unique viewpoints. Pr. Gottfried Martens characteristically points out that the JDDJ does nothing to resolve the content of the proclamation in the ecclesial communities involved in its production. For Martens the question is this: How is Christ proclaimed so as to free the hearer from the fear of death and divine judgment at the consummation of the age?

Pr. Mark Menacher looks at much of the same material handled by Prof. Theodor Dieter, but from a much more polemical perspective. Menacher’s article is a biting condemnation of the ecumenical politics of Chicago and Geneva.

Professor Theodor Dieter provides an excellent recitation of the way in which the JDDJ was used in the last ten years, especially in Europe.

Msgr. James B. Anderson is a Roman Catholic priest and professor. His article recites some of the history of the JDDJ and its reception by Rome from the Roman perspective. The most helpful aspect of his article may be the material on John Adam Moehler, which documents Roman ecumenical method’s roots in nineteenth-century dialecticism.

So, enjoy the read. Where to from here? There may be hints of that in the assessment of ten years of aftermath. Wherever that is will be just fine as long as it continues to unhinge the floppy Bible crowd.


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