Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2008
Lutheran bishop seeks end to human barriers to unity
Traditions, history, keep us apart, he says
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"Christian unity is a possibility but we have to let the Holy Spirit lead us into this unity."
- Lutheran Bishop
There are 42,000 ELCIC Lutherans in 152 parishes across Alberta/NWT, served by nearly 250 professional church workers, including pastors, chaplains and deacons. Another, smaller, group of Lutherans belongs to the Lutheran Church-Canada.
Most Lutheran pastors are married and those who are single do not necessarily have the gift of celibacy, noted the bishop.
Mayan and his wife Dianne have been married 35 years and have two grown sons. "I can't imagine what my ministry would be like without my wife as a partner," he said. Dianne is one of his most trusted advisors.
Mayan, who has been involved in the ecumenical movement since his ordination as pastor, believes ecumenism is happening from two directions: from above - church to church - and from below - person-to-person.
He considers both valuable but has greater hope in the one happening in the grassroots. "My experience is that (ecumenism) is all about relationships," he said. "When people share their faith stories, pray together, read Scripture together and engage in common work in the world together (they are actually paving the way for Christian unity)."
Christians will not be one until they are united in the Eucharist, Mayan said, stressing the need to remove the barriers that stand in the way of the desire for unity at the Table of the Lord.
Unlike Catholics, Lutherans practise "open communion" and often enter into eucharistic sharing before they have all their theological disagreements resolved.
"We believe that sharing the Eucharist helps us to become one," the bishop said.
But eucharistic sharing is currently not possible with the Catholic Church "because we cannot commune together," lamented Mayan. "Roman Catholic altars are reserved for Roman Catholic people."
Protestants in general are prevented from officially receiving Communion in Catholic churches because the Church believes eucharistic sharing indicates a unity in belief that does not yet exist.
But Mayan is hopeful, drawing encouragement from the tradition of serious study and exchange which characterizes Catholic-Lutheran relations.
The signing of the Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification eight years ago removed a major impediment for unity between Catholics and Lutherans "and showed us that it's possible for us to work on controverted doctrines and come together," he said.
Signed Oct. 31, 1999, near the cradle of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, the document asserts Catholics and Lutherans share the belief that Christians are saved by God's grace through faith alone, rather than by their own efforts.
"Christian unity is a possibility but we have to let the Holy Spirit lead us into this unity," Mayan said. "We must open our hearts to this; we have to incline our hearts to the Spirit and let the Spirit lead."
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