Browsing by Subject "teologia, Systemaattinen teologia, Ekumeniikka"

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  • Zitting, Heidi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    The episcopal office, apostolic succession, and the apostolicity of the church have played an important role in ecumenical discussions of the late 20th and early 21st century. These topics are often presented in ecumenical studies as divisive church issues. Furthermore, the Lutheran understanding of episcopal office has often been presented as diverse and inconsistent. This study shows that the Lutheran understandings of episcopal office have in fact become more uniform and more coherent over the course of the late 20th and early 21st century. In the five articles collected here, I examine how the episcopal office is understood in contemporary Lutheranism based on textual sources from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Lutheran World Federation. The evidence presented in these articles form a picture of shared development between these two varied members of the Lutheran family. The tendency in the understanding of the episcopal office by these two organizations changes from one of a pluralistic tolerance of diverse episcopal structures, titles and understandings to a more uniform and distinct understanding of the episcopal office as a personal, collegial and communal spiritual office. The concept of apostolic succession, in turn, develops from a narrow interpretation of apostolic succession as a ‘mechanical’ or ‘external’ chain of laying on of hands in episcopal ordination to a broader understanding of apostolic succession as the apostolic continuity of the church, where episcopal succession is a part, or a ‘sign,’ of this broader continuity. As the concept of apostolic succession broadens and episcopal succession comes to be understood as being in service of apostolic succession, Lutheran attitudes towards episcopal succession likewise become more positive. The articles also demonstrate that some in the church considered this emphasis on the role of the episcopal office or episcopal succession to threaten certain fundamental Lutheran insights—for instance, the fundamental priority of the gospel, the oneness of ministerium and the validity of the ordained ministry in cases where the priest/pastor has not been ordained by a bishop or is ordained by a bishop without formal episcopal succession. As the articles explore, the insights relating to episcopal office became easier for Lutheran thinkers to accept, once these concerns had been sufficiently addressed—namely, broadening the concepts of successio apostolica and episkopé such that these concepts were understood to be served and carried out not only by episcopal ministers but in various ways by all ordained and non-ordained Christians. Thus, the episcopal task, episkopé, was not as such understood as necessitating a hierarchical structure or undermining the equality of all Christians. Furthermore, apostolic succession as a broader concept meant that churches without episcopal succession had nevertheless maintained apostolic continuity and thus continued to enjoy an authentic ministry. Additionally, episkopé and apostolic succession, through various means, were considered as serving the mission of the church and the gospel. Thus, the priority of the gospel was no longer seen as threatened in such instances; rather, the episcopal structures were accepted as necessary, even as God-given structures of the church, so long as they serve the gospel. While episcopal succession came to be considered a valuable concept, it could not be seen as a feature that guaranteed faithfulness to the gospel or the validity of the ordained ministry. The episcopal office was considered a distinct, albeit not entirely separate, part of the ordained ministry—that is, all bishop are pastors, but not every pastor is a bishop. This distinction was even more profound than that between pastor and vicar, since a bishop has his/her own calling, consecration/installation and distinctive tasks, such as the ordaining of clergy and representing the church in public. Nevertheless, the ordained ministry as such was understood to be one interrelated and intertwined entity, comprising both episcopal and other ordained ministers. Thus, episcopal ministers came to be seen as important instruments of episkopé, while their leadership position was not taken as indicating an underlying hierarchy, as all Christians remained of equal status. Overall, these five articles reveal not only the significance of the impact of the ecumenical movement on the theologies of these members of the Lutheran Family but also that, although their theologies have evolved, Lutherans have remained loyal to their own confessional characteristics: the principle of equality, the emphasis on the oneness of ministerium and the fundamental priority position of the gospel.