Lutheran Catholic Covenant

A Covenant Between the Minneapolis Area Synod and the Saint Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

November 4, 1990

In the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit.

We believe that it is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ that we “all may be one” (John 17:21). We also believe the words of Paul to the early church: “Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all, and with all” (Ephesians 4:2).

Encouraged, also, by the movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our people, we, Archbishop John R. Roach, Bishop Lowell 0. Erdahl and Bishop David W. Olson, in the name of the members of our respective communions, solemnly and joyfully enter this Covenant.

The Reverend Lowell 0. Erdahl

St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Reverend David W. Olson

Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Most Reverend John R. Roach

Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Historical Prologue

The history of Lutheran-Catholic ecumenical relationships in the Twin Cities area dates from 1965. Previous to that time there were some instances of cooperation, primarily institutional. For example, Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities agencies made joint efforts for legislation to recognize the religious background of children who were candidates for legal adoption. The Minnesota Private College Council was established in the late 1940s and included Lutheran and Catholic colleges among its members. Occasionally there would be a joint appearance of a Lutheran pastor and a Roman Catholic priest on the same speakers’ platform. Further, a few dedicated and farsighted persons of both communities were engaged in ecumenical dialogue and activities.

The Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church concluded its work in 1965. One of the Council’s sixteen official documents was the Decree on Ecumenism. This document encouraged greater ecumenical involvement by Roman Catholics. One of the official Protestant observance at Vatican II was Dr. Warren A. Quanbeck of Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul. His comments at the Council in Rome helped shape the Decree. After his return he worked tirelessly in cooperation with his Roman Catholic counterpart, Reverend Jerome D. Quinn of the St. Paul Seminary, to promote Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in the Twin Cities and beyond. Both Dr. Quanbeck and Father Quinn died un timely deaths and are remembered as pioneers in Lutheran-Catholic dialogue.

In 1967 the seminaries of the Twin Cities sponsored a joint course in Reformation history to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Nine-five Theses. Faculty members and students of Luther, Northwestern, and St. Paul Seminaries were represented in this joint venture.

One of the earliest and most successful efforts at cooperation on the parish level took place in Minneapolis in the 1960s. Interstate highway construction and the University of Minnesota’s West Bank expansion project forced the parishioners of both Trinity Lutheran Church and St. Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic Church to abandon their buildings to the bulldozers. They sought sanctuary in various places before finding a common place to worship in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and later on the Augsburg College campus. Another noteworthy instance of cooperation occurred between Hob Trinity Lutheran Church and St. Albert the Great Catholic Church. Since the late 1970s they have engaged in pulpit exchanges, adult Bible studies, and joint summer vacation church schools. In 1987 Fairview Hospital in collaboration with Health Care Services and Carondelet Lifecare.

Corporation developed a joint venture agreement, unique in the United States, enabling Fairview Riverside and St. Mary’s hospitals to operate as one ecumenicd health care setting, Riverside Medical Center. The Center is the second largest heath cure campus in the Twin Cities. These are only a few examples of the many local instances of Lutheran Catholic cooperation. Also in the late 1960s the Religion Department of St. Olaf College, Northfield, began its “St. Olaf in Rome” program which has brought to Rome in the ensuing years over 3000 faculty members and students, many of them from the Twin Cities. he department established a tradition of observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rome in January. This observance takes place in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican. In turn, St. Olaf College twice welcomed Cardinal Jan Willebrands, President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, to the Northfield Campus.

In the 1970s a Lutheran “Consultation of Twelve Pastors” recommended to their various judicatories that the annual Lutheran Reformation service in the Twin Cities be transformed into a Lutheran-Catholic celebration of unity. The 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession (1980) was the occasion of this celebration. Archbishop John R. Roach preached in Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, in October 1979. Subsequently, the “Consultation of Twelve Pastors,” along with four Roman Catholic priests, helped form the Twin Cities Lutheran-Catholic Resource Committee. The Committee promoted parish conversations focusing on the book Exploring the Faith We Share. They planned a Prayer Service on All Saints Sunday, 1980. This service was held in the Cathedral of Saint Paul with Dr. David W. Preus, Presiding Bishop of the American Lutheran Church, as preacher. A joint prayer service has been celebrated each year since 1980 and alternates between Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and the Saint Paul Cathedral. When held in Central Lutheran Church a Roman Catholic is invited to preach; when held in the Cathedral, a Lutheran preaches the sermon.

In 1977 Lutheran and Catholic bishops of Minnesota began the practice of an annual retreat together. They viewed the retreat as an opportunity for common prayer and for extended discussion of such topics as “Life Issues,” “The Farm Crisis,” and “Ministry and its Cultural Context.” On occasion these discussions resulted in common statements sent out to their churches.

These and other experiences of common faith and hope, of common witness and prayer by individuals and congregations, pastors and bishops, bring us to this moment. For in this moment we publicly express together our thanks to Almighty God whose Spirit is at work in all Christian Churches and Who draws us closer to the unity which is the Divine Will.

We affirm …

  • That the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, whom we worship and praise, is the source of the baptismal unity we share and seek to manifest in our common life.
  • That Christ Jesus, “the first born of the dead” and the living center of our faith, is Redeemer and Savior of the world (Colossians 1:18).
  • That our common prayer is the prayer of Christ Jesus for the unity of the church called by the Holy Spirit from the tapestry of peoples, tongues, and cultures.
  • That the life we share is a result of our common baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection: “That as Christ was raised from the dead we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
  • That led by the Holy Spirit, we acknowledge the Scriptures as authoritative for our common faith and life in this world.
  • That we celebrate both “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” church as the mystery of the presence of God in the world and the richness of the Catholic and Lutheran traditions.
  • Our common mission to witness: to bear witness in word and deed to the Christ and his work, and to strive for the common good of all the world.

Therefore, we commit ourselves to …

  • Confess to God and to each other our past and present prejudice against each other’s traditions, practices and beliefs, and allow God to forgive our sin against each other and God.
  • Give thanks for the unity God has given us, celebrate it in joint services, and pray for the day when we celebrate the Eucharist as one community.
  • Pray for one another in our public worship, that the Holy Spirit continue to heal brokness that now exists in doctrine, sacramental life and church order, and enable us to work energetically for healing.
  • Listen to the Holy Scriptures and together be instructed by them.
  • Strengthen our common witness to the Christ and our quest for peace and justice.
  • Give special support to those who live a Lutheran-Catholic covenant in their families.
  • Struggle together, and with all other Christians, to resist and transform whatever in our society and culture would erode our common faith.
  • Study jointly the public conversations of the national Lutheran-Catholic Dialogues, and act jointly on recommendations of our respective churches in response to the official dialogues.
  • Urge our congregations, pastors, priests and lay ministers to cooperate in common matters wherever possible, and encourage joint programs and common use of facilities on all levels of church life.
  • Celebrate and renew this covenant each year.

Covenant Commission

  • Pastor Jack Kelly, Co-Chair St. Mark Lutheran Church, Circle Pines, Minnesota
  • Diane Haines, Director Spiritual and Pastoral Care, Rosemount, Minnesota
  • The Reverend Dr. Arland Hultgren, Professor of New Testament Luther-Northwestern Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Professor Lynne Lorenzen, Professor of Religion, Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Pastor Albert Neibacher, Christ Church Lutheran, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • The Reverend Dr. Arthur L. Kennedy, Co-Chair Chair, Department of Theology, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Deacon Peter D’Heilly, Director Division of Outreach, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Mary Margaret Deeney, CSJ Spiritual Growth Resource Facilitator, Bloomington, Minnesota
  • Doris Ohlsen-Huspeni, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Reverend James Perkl, Parochial Vicar, Church of St. John Neumann, Eagan, Minnesota
  • Reverend John P. Sankovitz, Professor of Theology, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota