|tirsdag 21. mai. 2013|
Faith and Order Statement
THE RESPONSE OF THE CHURCH OF NORWAY TO THE FAITH AND ORDER STATEMENT ON "BAPTISM, EUCHARIST AND MlNlSTRY"
1. Introductory remarks
1.1 The Church of Norway has received the so-called Lima document from the Commission on Faith and Order (FaO) on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM), with great satisfaction. The document has been avail able in Norwegian translation since spring, 1983, and has contributed to an increased interest for and a more positive evalution of the international ecumenical work among the members of the church. The document has also been the subject for study and reflection in a number of clergy groups in which a total of 400 pastors have participated.
The document has, in addition, shown itself to have a positive influence on the inter-church climate on the national, as well as the local, level. The document is also the basis for conversations in a dialog group with official representatives from a total of seven church bodies.
In our estimation, the document bears witness to a sound and adequate approach to the problem of church divisions in that it takes theological matters seriously and attempts to build bridges across the doctrinal differences between the churches. We have always attached great importance to this methodology in the Church of Norway.
BEM will also be useful in the task of defining our identity and integrity as a church, within a state- and folk-church context, such as is evident in some of the following remarks.
Against this background, we wish by way of introduction, to thank FaO for the valuable work which has been invested in the document under discussion. It is our hope that this work will be followed up within the FaO Commission as well as the World Council of Churches on the whole.
1.2 FaO requests that the individual churches give as official an appraisal of this text as possible. The Church of Norway is faced with the problem of determining in such matters what is the church's "highest authoritative organ." In line with earlier practice, we have found that the Bishops' Conference as the organ which up to now has, to a great extent, dealt with doctrinal issues, ought to speak-on behalf of the Church of Norway. But this statement has also been presented to the newly-established General Synod of the Church, which, in the future, can become the organ which best speaks on behalf of the Church of Norway also in matters of this nature. The statement of the Bishops' Conference has come about on the basis of an extensive process of hearings within the Church of Norway, where, inter alia, the theological faculties and the Church of Norway Council on Foreign Relations through its Commission on Theology, have given their evaluations.
2. The nature and intent of the document.
2.1 BEM is characterized by a valuable concentration on matters which are the chief cause of church divisions. A future church unity can only come about when these matters are taken seriously. Behind this concentra tion we see an essential differentiation between what is central and what is peripheral in the ecumenical endeavor.
This differentiation complies with the Lutheran criterion for unity expressed in A rticle 7 of the Augsburg Confession: "For the true unity of the church it is enough to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the admini stration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions or rites and ceremonies, instituted by men, should be alike everywhere."
Such an approach to the question of unity, which puts emphasis on what is central and basic, also complies with a conviction that unity is not identical with uniformity in opinions and structure. Unity cannot be expressed only in a set of doctrinal statements, but must be realized as a binding commu nity in faith, which, at the same time, reflects the richness and variety of God's gifts. When there is agreement about what is central (i.e., doctrine/ preaching of God's Word and administration of the sacraments), there is, in and by itself, no necessity for full agreement concerning all specific theological issues.
2.2 According to the understanding of our church, it is precisely those elements which have been selected for concentration in BEM which consti tute the church and thus, also form the basis for church unity. The unity is attached first and foremost to the Means of Grace: God's Word, baptism and the Lord's Supper, and to the ordered and public administration of these Means of Grace. The fact that BEM concentrates on these central ecumenical issues, in our view, gives the document a valuable basis for continued ecumenical effort and for further doctrinal conversations between the churches.
In this connection, we would like to express our joy at the fact that BEM has come into being as the result of cooperation between representatives from virtually all churches. There can be no doubt that this fact, in and by itself, is an expression of essential ecumenical progress. Even though some critical remarks may be made about certain points in the document, BEM is an encouraging sign that the work with the many bilateral and multilateral doctrinal discussions, and corresponding work within FaO, has not been in vain. The further follow-up of the texts before us, should, in our estimation, follow these same lines.
2.3 An essential condition for our response is the self-understanding BEM itself expresses in the document 's preface. Here, the concept "conver gence" plays a key role. Seen from one perspective, this concept, at certain points, can seem to be somewhat unclear. This is especially true concerning the document 's ecclesiastical status and the concrete consequences for the life of the church which may possibly be drawn from it. We understand the "convergence" concept to be an adequate characteristic of BEM as a docum ent which does not pretend to function as a manifesto of full consen sus between the churches involved and, consequently, is not thought of as an adequate basis for organizational church unity. At the same time, how ever, the convergence achieved makes possible a stronger emphasis and manifestation of the unity which is apparent in a number of basic questions. We find that the document contains many positive stimuli towards a streng thened visibility of this unity between individual churches in the future.
BEM is therefore presented as a link in an extensive ecumenical process, and as an important part of a doctrinal discussion among the churches which is not yet concluded. We wish in this response to take as our main point of departure the document 's self-understanding as this, among other things, comes to expression in the use of the word "convergence". We therefore view the document as a significant, but also preliminary, ecumenical document. We are aware of the fact that the document concentrates on what we have in common and seeks ways to common views. This opens the way to deeper understanding, while, at the same time, there is a danger that certain formulations can conceal actual differences. We look forward to the follow-up and processing of the material which will come in through the responses from the various churches. We are happy that a new world conference for Faith and Order is being planned for 1989 which shall take this material an important step further.
2.4 Regarding the formulation of our reaction to BEM, we have placed much emphasis on the important question raised by the Commission: " ...the extent to which your church can recognize in this text the faith of the Church through the ages." We find this to be a very vital question, also because the Lutheran Church considers itself to stand in an indissoluble connection with the universal Christian faith from earliest times.
This point of view specifically implies that we, in the first place, have attempted to assess the document in light of the testimony of Scripture as the authoritative norm for the church. In the next place, we have wished to comment on BEM on the basis of our own ecclesial identity and self understanding as a Lutheran church. We, too, regard the confessions of the early church to be a vital part of our doctrinal foundations. When we take the main elements of Lutheran Reformation theology as our point of de parture, it is because Reformation doctrine intended to promote true, apostolic Christian faith on the basis of Scripture and the universal ecu menical confession in the symbols of the Early Church. This also gives the Lutheran confession its ecumenical dimension.
3.1 In all essentials we find it possible to give our endorsement to the section on baptism in the Lima document. We recognize in this section a number of the central elements for the understanding of baptism which are generally emphasized in our own doctrinal tradition and in our liturgical practice.
3.1.1 This concerns, in the first place, what is said about the chris tological and trinitarian basis for baptism (cf. § 1 where it is stated that "Christian baptism is rooted in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, in his death and in his resurrection" and that baptism is "administered in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit"). We are also pleased with the emphasis that baptism implies "incorporation into Christ," and "entry into the New Covenant between God and God's people" (§ 1). Such an emphasis on the christological and ecclesiological dimension of baptism is an essential element also in the baptismal theology of our own church.
3.1.2 We further regard what is said about the benefits of baptism as being very positive. It is emphasized that we share in Christ's death and resurrection (§ 2), and that the baptized are "pardoned, cleansed and sanctified by Christ" (§ 4).
3.1.3 The Lutheran tradition has stressed the necessity of baptism for salvation. This, according to the doctrinal tradition of our church, means that God has emphasized baptism as being necessary for us, even though baptism does not thereby place any limitations on God's own sovereign ability to deal with persons. When § 11 of the document stresses that "All churches baptize believers coming from other religions or from unbelief who accept the Christian faith and participate in catechetical instruction," we consider this to be an important reminder that the church cannot give dispensation from baptism. We also find this to be in harmony with our understanding of the teaching of the church throughout the ages.
3.1.4 In our church tradition, special emphasis has been placed on baptism as the expression of God's supreme action toward human beings. Baptism's primary character as an action by C~od is an essential point of view. We do not find this objective aspect of baptism as clearly expressed in the text as it is in our own tradition, but we understand the text such that it does not wish to play the subjective aspect of baptism against the objective expressed in God's gracious action. The act of baptism has God as subject and the human person as object.
3.1.5 Our church, just the same, shares the document 's emphasis that "Baptism is related not only to momentary experience, but to life-long growth into Christ" (§ 9). Our church is a folk-church which practices infant baptism. For us, therefore, BEM 's emphasis on the fundamental relationship between baptism and faith is an essential ingredient. We share the document 's understanding that this faith, as trust in Jesus Christ, must be personal in nature (cf. § 8).
3.2 The document's understanding of baptism also challenges our church to renewed reflection:
3.2.1 The strong emphasis that baptism aims at follow-up in personal commitment and specific Christian conduct will be an important supplement to a one-sided preaching on baptism as a Means of Grace (cf. § 4 which speaks about baptism giving "a new ethical orientation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit"). When the document asks the large folk churches to be aware of the danger of an apparently indiscriminate bap tismal practice (§ 16), this is a challenge which also our church ought to take seriously. The renewal in recent years of the catechumenate is evidence that, to a certain degree, this has also been the case.
3.2.2 In the actual church situation, with a downward trend in the total number of baptized children, we must expect that continually greater numbers will seek the baptism of the church as adults. That will be a vital challenge to us to work against the tendency to make baptism exclusively into a "children's sacrament," while "conversion" is reserved for the adults. Baptism is of vital importance for all of God's children, irrespective of age. And it is the same baptism which takes place, whether in the case of adults or children.
3.2.3 In several places the document points to baptism's ecclesiological and ecumenical implications. This builds on the fundamental idea that baptisrn in essence is one, and that it is anchored in the spiritual fellowship which is the church of Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:4-6). Baptism is characterized as a "basic bond of unity" (§ 6). This also agrees with our view of baptism as a being grafted into the body of Christ, and thereby is actually the primary bond of unity in the church. In the profoundest sense, there is only one baptism. "Therefore, our one baptism into Christ constitutes a call to the churches to overcome their divisions and visibly manifest their fellowship" (§ 6).
3.2.4 The question of a mutual recognition of baptism is therefore of fundamental ecumenical importance with consequences in a number of areas. In our opinion, BEM provides a good basis for a mutual recognition of baptism in the variour churches, and thus, for greater ecumenical community on the basis of baptism. We hope, therefore, that the appeal for such a mutual recognition (§ 15) will be followed up. This especially concerns the relationship between churches which baptize infants and churches which practice believer's baptism, but also the relationship between our church and churches which place greater emphasis on the special sacramental authority of the one who administers the sacraments than has been customary in Lutheran tradition.
3.2 5 The practice of the so-called re-baptism has been one of the most obvious and most painful signs of church division. Seen against this back ground, we find what has been stated in BEM 's § 13 to be a source of great joy. Here it is said: "Baptism is an unreapeatable act. Any practice which might be interpreted as "re-baptism" must be avoided." If this appeal is accepted and implemented by the implied churches, it will have significant ramifications for ecumenical progress. What is said in § 13 ought therefore to be made more specific and be given more depth in the continuing ecumenical conversations. On the basis of the view held by our church, namely, baptism 's objective validity, no form of re-baptism will come into question as long as the act of baptism has been performed in the name of the Triune God and in agreement with Christ's founding of the sacrament and his commission.
3.3 The section on baptism also contains viewpoints and formulations which we question or against which we raise criticisms:
3.3.1 This regards, first of all, the description of the relationship between baptism and faith. It is said in § 8 that "Baptism is both God's gift and our human response to that gift." If we understand this statement as being expressive of a full understanding of baptism, both from the objective side and as a human surrender to God's action which implies that baptism aims at personal faith and attitude toward life of the baptized individual, this can be compatible with the teaching of our church. But it is a question whether what is said cannot also be understood as though "our human response" is brought into the definition of baptism itself and is given a constitutive importance. Against such an understanding, we must assert that what constitutes baptism is the fact that God, in accordance with his word of promise (promissio), acts towards and with us and thereby makes us his children.
3 3.2 In this connection there also appears to be some lack of clarity in the understanding of faith and its position in relation to baptism. Even if the human faith-response is necessary, this has to do primarily with receiving the benefits of baptism and not with baptism's objective efficaciousness and validity. It is thus the subjective receiving of the objective gifts of salvation which God bestows upon us in baptism which occurs through faith. It is therefore not faith which constitutes the sacrament of baptism. Faith, on the contrary, is itself to be understood as a part of the gift and is dependent on Christ being offered to us in the sacrament. Faith, in this context, has the quality, first and foremost, of trust in God's promise.
3.3.3 From our understanding, it is unclear if the BEM text in fact puts too much stress on faith as a function of human consciousness, and conse quently, is in danger of operating with a psychological concept of faith. As mentioned, we, in our tradition, understand faith to be a gift of God which is given and created through the administration of the Means of Grace (Augsburg confession, Article 5).
3.3.4 These problems may be related to the fact that it is difficult to find an unambiguous anthropology in the material. It is evident not least in the understanding of baptism that different anthropological positions gain importance for the concept of baptism. The Lutheran tradition has more strongly emphasized that humankind, by nature, stands under the law of sin and death, and that this "Original sin" also effects the personality of the individual and results in guilt. Consequently, as human beings, we have nothing in ourselves with which to meet God in baptism. It is this which according to the Lutheran understanding makes baptism necessary. The sacrament of baptism must therefore find its basis outside ourselves, in God's gracious act toward us. Against this background, it is difficult to see that "our human response" to God's gift can be given any constitutive importance for baptism. An anthropological clarification would, in our estimation, also be necessary as a basis for a further consideration of life in baptismal commitment. Here the Lutheran church also regards the baptized person as being "righteous and a sinner at the same time." The bap tismal life is lived as a life of repentance with a daily returning to baptismal grace as the totally decisive factor. It would, on the whole, be helpful for further dialog if the anthropological aspects both regarding the view of baptism, the understanding of the eucharist, and the view of ministry, were dealt with more explicitly.
3.3.5 Finally, we wish to define our understanding of the document's description of baptism as a visible "sign" of God's invisible grace. Also in the Lutheran tradition the definition of the sacrament as a "visible sign of God's invisible grace" has had significant importance, but it is important that our understanding of the word "sign" cannot be pitted against the understanding of baptism as a sacrament. We fear that "sign" is too vague as a sacramental-theological concept. The concept may become obscure when combined with a purely spiritualistic and non-sacramental understanding of baptism. We cannot understand baptism as just a symbolic sign, but regard it as the effective Means of Grace which gives us participation in all the benefits of baptism when the water and the Word are united and used in a sacramental action towards and with the individual. But we recognize that the term "sign" does not have to be understood in its most symbolic meaning, and that it may therefore be useful -- together with more precise formulations -- in ongoing ecumenical discussions regarding baptism.
4.1 We also recognize in BEM 's text on the eucharist a number of posi tive elements which are in harmony with our church's understanding of eucharist:
4.1.1 We think here, first of all, of the clear emphasis on the Christo logical basis for eucharist. It is a sacrament, which, every time we cele brate it, makes us partakers of the fruits of Christ's death and resurrection. Further, it is of value that the document emphasizes the fact that it is God who deals with us in the eucharist. This we understand in such a way that the sacrament of the eucharist first and foremost is to be understood as God's effective Means of Grace, and not as a human act of confession or exclusively as a meal of human community.
4.1.2 We would also like to point out in this connection that we are satisfied with what is said concerning the benefits of the eucharist. Here it is said, inter alia, that the eucharist gives us a share in the "gift of salvation through communion in the body and blood of Christ." Those who receive communion receive "the assurance of the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28) and the pledge of eternal life (John 6:51-58)." We see it as being of importance that the gifts of the eucharist are anchored in the whole meal. "In the eucharistic meal, in the eating and drinking of the bread and wine, Christ grants communion with himself" (§ 2). This, in our opinion, is a necessary underscoring of the aspect of the meal, i.e., that the gifts of the eucharist come to us in and with the very eating and drinking of the bread and the wine. It is important to maintain this emphasis against a possible spiritualizing of the eucharist.
4.1.3 We also share the document's emphasis that the church, as the body of Christ, is rediscovered and made manifest first and foremost in the eucharist-celebrating congregation. Together with the useful pointing to the sacrament's collective dimension (as communio, community meal), this is a good actualizing of the sacrament's ecclesiological importance. But the communio aspect has a further significance. It also refers to the church as a comprehensive and inclusive fellowship between women and men, young and old, across political, cultural, and racial barriers. We are happy that the document also underscores this social and human dimension in the celebration of the eucharist (§ 20).
4.1.4 In various ways the BEM document says that Jesus is present in the sacrament of the eucharist. We note as positive the fact that mention is made several times, both explicitly and implicitly, of the actual presence of Christ in the eucharist. § 13 states: "But Christ 's mode of presence in the eucharist is unique. Jesus said over the bread and wine of the eucharist: "This is my body ... this is my blood ... " What Christ declared is true, and this truth is fulfilled every time the eucharist is celebrated." We understand these statements such that they are closer to a realistic than a symbolic interpretation of Jesus' presence in the sacrament.
4.2 The BEM document at this point also has challenges to our church. In its full listing of the various eucharistic themes, it adds to the perspective of our church's tradition, understanding, and practice of the eucharist:
4.2.1 We acknowledge that these themes have their basis in the witness of Scripture and in the eucharistic practices of the early church, and that they challenge our church to a greater degree to draw from this wealth of themes in our celebration of the eucharist. This has also taken place in some degree through liturgical revision in our church. We point here especially to what is said about eucharist as thanksgiving, its importance as a memorial of Christ and his deeds (anamnesis), and to what is said about the role of the Holy Spirit in the celebration of the eucharist (epiklesis) -- both as the one who mediates Christ to us in the eucharistic meal, and the one who actively creates a community of Christians in faith and spirit. In this way the trinitarian structure and character of community in the eucharist has, inter alia, received greater expression than has been customary in our tradition.
4.2.2 We acknowledge that our church has much to learn from this exposure of the breadth and richness of the eucharist. It will contribute to a positive eucharistic renewal and a richer eucharistic practice. Such renewal is always needed in every church. As far as we are concerned, this will help make it possible for us to reach beyond our often onesided foun ding of the eucharist in the crucifixion of Christ, even though in our tradition this will continue to be the very central motif of the eucharist.
4.2.3 It is important for us to emphasize that in the eucharist we participate in Christ and all his work in and with the eating of the bread and wine of the eucharistic meal. The eucharistic meal does not only give "assurance of the forgiveness of sins" (§ 2), but implies that we for Christ's sake partake of forgiveness itself. This implies that Christ's Atonement has a totally decisive importance for the eucharist. When this central truth is kept in position, we see no difficulties in supplementing our traditional understanding of the eucharist with the themes which are emphasized in the document.
4.2.4 It is essential in our tradition that the Spirit be connected to the specific Means of Grace -- God's word and baptism and eucharist. We readily acknowledge that our church has not found a natural place for the epiklesis in its tradition and its liturgies. It is, however, reasonable for us to connect an epikletic motif to the eucharist, and we do not disregard the fact that this can be expressed through an epiklesis prayer -- with the reservations which will be indicated below (4,3.3, page 9). An epikletic component in the eucharistic liturgy will enable us to see more clearly the trinitarian structure of the eucharist and the necessary connection between the church's Means of Grace and the Holy Spirit.
4.2.5 With regard to the understanding of the eucharist as the remembrance of Christ 's sacrifice on the cross (anamnesis), the BEM document connects this thought with the traditional understanding of the eucharist as a sacrificial act. We have, in our tradition, been inclined to place one sided emphasis on Christ 's sacrifice which was completed once and for all on the cross (cf. § 5). We have not managed to reflect the fullness of the biblical material which also speaks about a sacrificial dimension to the sacramental act. We find it of value that the congregation's presentation of its prayers and the offering of its hymns of praise be emphasized in this context, and we appreciate that the document consciously wishes to avoid an understanding of the sacrificial aspect in the eucharist which could imply meritorious action before God. We believe, however, that it will be beneficial for the relationship between anamnesis and the aspect of sacrifice to be further clarified and deepened in the ongoing work with the document.
4.2.6 With regard to the formation of eucharistic liturgies, we acknowledge that we still have much to gain from the wider ecumenical tradition surrounding the eucharist. We will also endorse the BEM document's emphasis which says that the eucharist is a central expression of the life of the church, even though we feel it is difficult in our Lutheran tradition to move away from the priority position which the Word holds as the central element in worship life. We are in agreement, however, that it is desirable to give the eucharist a greater place in the life of the congregation. At the same time we agree with the statement in § 28 which says that a certain amount of liturgical variety is reconcilable with the understanding of the eucharist which we hold in common (cf. 2.1 above).
4.3 We have also found reason to raise critical questions about some of the formulations used in the BEM document with regard to the eucharist:
4.3.1 It has been important in our church's tradition not only to connect the presence of Jesus to the celebration of the eucharist and the eucharistic meal as a whole, but in a specific manner to the elements of bread and wine which the faithful receive in the eucharist. This understanding, from our point of view, has its basis in the Words of Institution, such as they are referred to above. They emphasize the sacramental realism which, according to Lutheran thinking, clear away any doubt about the effect of the sacrament: It is precisely in eating and drinking the bread and the wine that we receive Christ's body and blood and thereby the fruits of his atoning death. The meal aspect is therefore emphasized as strongly as it is in our church to be a safeguard against a spiritualizing of the eucharist which can lead to indifference to what happens or to doubt about the sacrament 's efficaciousness.
4.3.2 To our way of thinking, the BEM text has not fully managed to convey an adequately clear expression of this sacramental realism which implies that the communicants receive, in and with the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ which was given for the atonement of all our sins. We see in this connection a danger of unclarity when the concept "sign" is also used with reference to the eucharist. Just as with baptism, we believe there is an important theological distinction, which is expressed when the benefits of the sacrament are directly attached to the visible elements. This, to us, is also an expression of a creation-realism which it is important to maintain.
4.3.3 We have mentioned that we have an appreciation for the document's strong emphasis on the work of the Spirit in the sacrament such as this finds expression through the epiklesis. On the other hand, however, we, in our tradition, have difficulty accepting an understanding of the epiklesis which turns it into the consecration factor in the eucharistic liturgy. Our church has maintained that the Words of Institution are the decisive words of promise which constitute the eucharist as sacrament, and we have emphasized further that the entire meal be held together as one unit and that the eucharistic act not be divided up into separate elements which in a special way can be attached to the Holy Spirit, e.g., through an epiklesis prayer. We can therefore not see that a formal epiklesis prayer is a necessary condition for Christ to be present in the eucharist. Against this background, we find the statement in § 14 to be somewhat unclear, which says: "The Spirit makes the crucified and risen Christ really present to us in the eucharistic meal ... " According to our understanding, Christ 's actual presence depends, in and with the elements, on God's word of promise and Christ 's Words of Institution. It is here we find the genuine basis for the sacramental reality and efficaciousness of the eucharist.
4.3.4 As to BEM 's suggestion that there be increased mutual approachment between the churches as regards eucharistic practices, we find that the document 's section on eucharist, in itself, bears witness to a significant convergence between the churches. It provides a good basis for further discussions on the eucharist and ought to make possible a number of practical, concrete expressions of community at the communion table. We do not, however, feel that what is stated in the BEM document yet provides an adequate basis for full eucharistic community between the churches involved. But we agree that it must be possible to consider certain "inter mediate solutions" in this area.
4.3.5 We, for our part, have long practiced the principle of open communion, which means that members from other churches are admitted to our church's celebration of the eucharist. We think that such a practice will be a witness that the churches mutually recognize each other's baptism as that which constitutes basic unity, and that the community around the Lord's Table is a natural expression for this unity on the basis of baptism. A more extensive inter-celebration between the churches must, however, be conditioned by the churches' mutual recognition of the sacrament, duely administered by a properly called minister, to be a valid sacramental practice (act).
5 . Ministry
5.1 We also recognize in BEM 's section on ministry, many valuable viewpoints regarding the service in the church:
5.1.1 BEM makes a praiseworthy attempt to pull together the various results from a long series of bilateral and multilateral dialogs on the ministries and offices in the church.
Our impression is that the FaO Commission has been successful in bringing forth a number of essential factors, about which there will be wide consensus also in our church. Just the same, it is in this section that some of the most difficult problems are dealt with which need still greater clarification before there can be real convergence regarding the teaching and practice of the churches. There is much to indicate that there is still a relatively long road ahead to a full mutual recognition of the office of ministry across church boundaries.
5.1.2 We see it as positive and vital that the BEM document anchors the understanding of the office of ministry in the description of the calling of the whole people of God: "The church is called to proclaim and prefigure the Kingdom of God. It accomplishes this by announcing the Gospel to the world and by its very existence as the body of Christ" (§ 4). There is also a valuable emphasis on the Spirit's work in the church, both as regards equipping and calling to service: "The Spirit calls people to faith, sanctifies them through many gifts, gives them strength to witness to the Gospel and empowers them to serve in hope and love" (§ 3).
5.1.3 The basis and starting point for the theology of ministry lies, according to our understanding, in the dialectic between its institution and commission/service. The ordained ministry has been instituted by God to serve in the congregation and in the world. This dialectic is reflected in a fine way in the first six paragraphs of the BEM text. The office is here given a Trinitarian basis, while, at the same time, it is placed within the context of the calling which is given to and comes from the whole people of God. The office is also placed in relationship to the manifold gifts of the Spirit, which all members of the congregation are called to use.
5.1.4 In this context it must be said that we also place great emphasis on the concept of the priesthood of all believers which must be seen especially in connection with the basic equipment which the Spirit gives to the church and the believers through baptism. We agree with the document's emphasis that the office of ministry in the congregation must never be isolated from the priesthood of all believers (cf. § 12): "All members of the believing community, ordained and lay, are interrelated." And further: "On the other hand, the ordained ministry has no existence apart from the community. Ordained ministers can fulfil their calling only in and for the community."
5.1.5 It is also in compliance with the general understanding of our church when the BEM document emphasizes that there is a difference between Jesus' apostles and ordained ministers who have received their office on the basis of the ministry of the former (§ 10). We can also subscribe to the list of functions of the office-holders as herolds, leaders, teachers, and shephards in the congregation. Simultaneously, the BEM document also emphasizes that ordained ministers have as their chief re sponsibility the administration of Word and Sacrament. We, in our tradition, place still greater emphasis on preaching and teaching as the primary task of ordained ministers.
5.1.6 We find it also positive that the office's mission dimension and its service in the world is so strongly stated in the beginning of the text (cf. especially § 4). The office of ministry must always be understood in relation to the objective it is meant to serve. It is a ministry in the congregation and in being sent to the world. In this context, the diaconal aspect of ministry is stated such as it, inter alia, is referred to in BEM 's § 13.
5.1.7 With regard to the understanding of apostolic succession, we note with satisfaction that BEM, together with a number of other ecumenical documents, places heavy emphasis on underscoring the apostolicity of the whole church (cf. § 35: "The primary manifestation of apostolic succession is to be found in the apostolic tradition of the Church as a whole"). We see apostolic succession expressed in the common faith of the church down through the ages, in its worship life, and above all in the communication of the Gospel from generation to generation. In our understanding, the apostolicity of the church has to do, first and foremost, with a continuity of teaching attached to the transmission and passing down of the Gospel. We find this same view expressed in the BEM document, § 34: "Apostolic tradition in the church means continuity in the permanent characteristics of the church of the apostles: witness to the apostolic faith, proclamation and fresh interpretation of the Gospel, celebration of baptism and the eucharist, the transmission of ministerial responsibilities, communion in prayer, love, joy and suffering, service to the sick and needy, unity among the local churches and sharing the gifts which the Lord has given to each."
5.1.8 Regarding the importance of ordination for the task and ministry of the church, we can agree with most of what is said about ordination's character of consecration and commitment to a task (cf. §§ 39 and 45). We also share BEM 's understanding of ordination as an act in which the whole believing community shares and assumes responsibility, and we regard it as valuable that there prevails a certain amount of variety when it comes to the shaping of ordination in the individual churches.
5.2 The BEM document also holds challenges for our church regarding a more extensive ecumenical understanding of ordained ministry:
5.2.1 In our tradition there has been an especially strong emphasis that the ministry has been instituted with the administration of the Means of Grace in mind, i.e., the public proclamation of God's Word and the administration of the holy sacraments. The office can be characterized as a preaching office which aims to create faith among the listeners and thereby give them a share in God's justifying action. With this understanding we also -- in agreement with BEM -- figure that the office has an objective founding, and that such a ministry of Word and Sacrament is necessary in the church so that faith can be created and the church be brought into being ever anew.
5.2.2 The BEM document seems to put a more heavy emphasis on determining the nature of the office of ministry and underscores the importance of the office as expression (focus) for the unity of the community in life and witness (§§ 8 and 14, and the commentaries on §§ 13 and 14). We may need to do more thinking about this dimension of unity in the ordained ministry. Our church also has cause to discuss further how we are to arrive at a proper understanding of the office of ministry as a representation of Christ (cf. § 10 and 17). At the same time, we agree with the emphasis of the BEM document that the authority of the office has "the character of responsibility before God and is exercised with the cooperation of the whole community" (§ 15).
5.2.3 Our church disassociates itself in the same way as BEM from a purely functionalistic understanding of the ordained ministry. It is a matter of persons who are set aside and consecrated for service (cf. § 15). We can therefore also give our approval to the statement in § 8: "The ministry of such persons, who since very early times have been ordained, is constitutive for the life and witness of the church." But, for us, it is more important to emphasize that it is this ministry as a service which is constitutive, than that it is performed through a certain type of office.
5.3 Our church also raises critical questions on the ministry section of the BEM document:
5.3.1 Even if it is true that we need to discuss further what role the ordained ministry plays for the unity of the church, it seems to us that this aspect is strongly over-dimensioned in the BEM document (cf. above). It appears as though the aspect of unity is stressed as the essential feature of the office to which one is ordained in the church. Here it is also stressed that this unity finds its clearest visible expression in the celebration of the eucharist under the leadership of an ordained minister (cf. § 14: "It is especially in the eucharistic celebration that the ordained ministry is the visible focus of the deep and all-embracing communion between Christ and the members of his body"). As we see it, the ordained ministry is first and foremost the office of God's Word such as this Word is proclaimed in preaching and the administration of the sacraments. Unity is a oneness in the Gospel, and the outward form of the ministry can only express the oneness of the task: to preach the Gospel. Moreover, it is the eucharist-celebrating congregation in all its diversity gathered around the one table and the one Lord which, together with the presiding minister, manifests the unity of the church.
5.3.2 We also find that the BEM document's discussion of the relationship between the different ministries of the church does not correspond with our traditional understanding. In the first place, we would like to have seen a yet clearer presentation of the relationship between the priesthood of all believers and the ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament in the church. In the next place, we would like to have seen a more in-depth discussion of the various ministries in the church in relation to the ordained ministry. The historic threefold division of ordained ministry into the categories of bishops, presbyters, and deacons is foreign to our way of thinking. According to our Lutheran understanding, there is only one ordained ministry, and this is expressed chiefly in the ministry of Word and Sacrament.
5.3.3 On the other hand, it is, from our point of view, not a matter of decisive importance what the relationship is between the various ministries as regards structural organization. What is of chief importance is the principle that the ordained ministry, as a ministry of the Word, is one, and that it has been instituted to serve the congregation through an ordered and public proclamation of the Word and administration of the sacraments. It is into this ministry, according to the tradition of our church, that certain persons are ordained.
5.3.4 We do not, however, overlook the arguments of a historical, theological, or practical nature which speak for a threefold pattern of e.g. bishop, presbyter, and deacon. Our church has also preserved the tradition of bishops, even though the office was given new content following the Reformation; and the diaconal work of the church is to an increasing degree being done by specially consecrated deacons.
5.3.5 Such distinctions within the framework of the one ministry of the church, and a corresponding structuring of the pastoral and diaconal ministry of the church rests, however, in our view, primarily on the basis of practical-theological considerations. We therefore cannot see that the threefold division of the office of ministry can be ascribed any principal theological importance. It is not intrinsic to the nature of the church that its ministry be divided into the three categories of bishop, presbyter, and deacon.
5.3.6 Add to this the fact that our church has also established other ministries which respond to the practical needs of the church and which do the work of the church in specific areas. Thus, in recent years, there has come into being an organized ministry for catechists in the church who have special responsibility for the educational work of the congregation.
There are also other tasks in the areas of evangelism, church administration, etc., which, in our view, ought to have a more definite position in the life of the church. We are therefore uneasy that too strong an emphasis on the threefold division of ministry, in the Lima document's understanding, will hinder the rich variety of ministry in the church and give an unclear hierarchical model which we do not find sufficiently justifiable. We must also add that the threefold division hardly exists in any uniform or identical model in the several large churches which use this structural pattern.
5.3.7 As mentioned, our church has preserved a special office of bishop. With the support of tradition and in our church's confession (Augsburg Confession, Article 28), the bishops are given duties and special areas of authority with reference to the pastoral concern for the congregations and their called ministers, the defense of church doctrine, and administrative functions on the regional level in the church. It is, however, important for us to point out that the episcopate in principle and from a spiritual point of view, which is not a church office, qualitatively different from ordained ministry, but must be understood on the basis of, and as an extension of, pastoral ministry.
5.3.8 Within this frame of reference, however, we find it possible to add our approval to what BEM says about the bishop administrating church discipline and authority in a special way. We also place importance on the ecumenical role of the episcopate which serves " ... the apostolicity and unity of the Church's teaching, worship and sacramental life" (§ 29). We see value in the BEM document's strong emphasis on the pastoral functions of the bishops as a positive balance against a tendency to turn the office of bishop into a predominantly administrative office.
5.3.9 At the same time, we wish to point to the danger in BEM 's strong emphasis on episcopate together with the threefold division of ministry as possibly leading to a hierarchical concept of ministry. Against such a hierarchical understanding of ministry, we will adhere to our tradition which maintains the basic unity of the ministry of the church, and the central importance of pastoral ministry as a ministry of Word and Sacrament.
5.3.10 In this context, we also have critical questions concerning the discussion of succession. The matter of a personal succession of the so-called "historical episcopacy" can never be anything more than a sign of doctrinal continuity. We will guard against an emphasis on formal succession which we fear may be at the expense of the importance which ought rightfully to be given to content and doctrine.
5.3.11 The matter of succession ought therefore, first and foremost, to serve as a call to continuous reflection on the apostolic integrity and doctrinal continuity of the church. We cannot see that the validity of ministerial acts performed by ordained persons are dependent on being able to trace back to the first apostles a formal succession of the laying on of hands. The question of a church's apostolicity, and thereby the validity of its ministry, depends rather on the extent to which it has pre served the apostolic witness to Christ and apostolic teaching. Its' validity does not depend on whether or not it has maintained an episcopate within the framework of apostolic succession. We are, against this background, pleased that the Lima document specifically states in § 37: "In churches which practise the succession through the episcopate, it is increasingly recognized that a continuity in apostolic faith, worship and mission has been preserved in churches which have not retained the form of historic episcopate. "
5.3.12 Regarding ordination, we feel it belongs to the freedom of the Gospel to formulate such rites in the manner which best suits the local situation. Even if the ordination liturgy of our church has the epiklesis, we find that this element is perhaps somewhat overemphasized in the BEM text. We therefore find it difficult to place so much importance on the epiklesis as a part of this rite as is the case in the BEM document. We also raise a question mark concerning the designation of ordination as a "sacramental sign" (§ 41). According to the tradition of our church, it is difficult to ascribe a sacramental character to this act.
5. 3.13 We would like to have seen that the BEM document had laid a better foundation for a mutual recognition of the ordination practices of the individual churches, as long as these are performed on behalf of the church and by persons who have been given the task to administer such an act, whether it be called ordination or something else. Here it is essential if the churches could be in agreement in approving the validity of the administration of the Means of Grace performed by ordained persons in other churches. For our church, it would not be so difficult to recognize the ministries of churches which stand in a different historical tradition. We would, however, find it reasonable that these churches recognized the ministry which, among us, historically, has preserved the administration of Word and Sacrament in our church for centuries. We would like to mention in this context that our church places men and women on an equal basis when it comes to being admitted to the ordained ministry. We are therefore of the opinion that a mutual recognition of ministries must also include an acceptance of this actual situation.
5.3.14 The question whether it is necessary or desirable to work for a widened mutual approval of the episcopate in all churches is a matter with which our church will have to deal further. We can see what signifi nance the episcopate can have as a concrete sign of unity between the churches, but we see this as a practical ecumenical matter which cannot be resolved apart from there being a genuine mutual recognition of the historically developed offices in the respective churches. In this connection, the question of papal authority must also be the object of more thoroughgoing discussions. If the unity of the church is tied too closely to the episcopate, or possibly the papal office, it will easily pave the way for a hierarchical, monolithic understanding of the church which we do not find beneficial for ecumenical fellowship.
6.1 In spite of the fact that we have found some imprecise and problematical formulations in the Lima document, of a semantic as well as of a theological nature, we have reason for saying that the Lima document represents a promising convergence among churches who earlier, in part, have stood very far from each other with regard to doctrine. We therefore view the document as a good tool in the ongoing ecumenical work, internationally, nationally, as well as on the local level.
We have, in the preceding, pointed out that we recognize the faith of the church through the ages in a great number of statements in the Lima document, such as this faith has been developed on the basis of Scriptural witness, also in our tradition. We would especially underscore that what is said in the document concerning baptism and the eucharist ought to be given decisive importance for the realization of a greater church unity. We continue to have a number of critical questions to the text, especially when it comes to the ministry. We would especially underscore the importance of room being given to a certain amount of variety when it comes to the development of ministry in the churches.
Finally, we would once more point out that the Lima document provides a good basis for conversations between the various churches in our land. It is our hope that the BEM document will lead to an increased ecumenical awareness which can result in greater fellowship between the different churches in Norway. In this context, we would like to point out that the so-called Lima liturgy has already provided valuable impulses in this direction. It is important for us that this achieved convergence can also be manifested in practical liturgical activity and a working community among the churches.