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The Wittenberg Concord: Creating Space for Dialogue

Author: 
Gordon A. Jensen (Author)
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Description

One of the mostly forgotten gems of the sixteenth century Reformations is the Wittenberg Concord. Signed in 1536 by representatives of evangelical southern German imperial cities and territories and the Lutherans, the dialogue that led to the concord provided space for the participants to have a meaningful dialogue that led to the recognition of each other's understanding of the sacraments as orthodox. This was remarkable, given the very public failures at Marburg in 1529 and Augsburg in 1530. The lack of agreement threatened the unity of the evangelical estates and made them, along with the Reformation teachings, vulnerable to attack by the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church.

The dialogue participants created enough space in their own understandings of the sacraments of baptism, absolution, and the Lord's Supper to allow the agreement to occur--and function reasonably well, at least until the beginning of the Thirty Years War in 1618.

The final two chapters explore how this concord has impacted the church since its acceptance, and how the lessons learned from this dialogue can assist churches today in providing healthy spaces for ecumenical dialogue to discuss controversial issues.

ISBN: 
9781506431567
Price: 
$34.00
ISBN: 
9781506448770
Price: 
$31.99
Release date: 
August 1, 2018
Pages: 
235
Width: 
6
Height: 
9

Endorsements

A challenge for thinking through vital issues of sacramental theology in our day.

"Jensen’s meticulous examination of the documents leading to the 'Wittenberg Concord' of 1536 and his careful presentation of the ways in which Luther and Melanchthon in Wittenberg and Bucer and Capito in Strassburg sought agreement illuminate a too-often ignored aspect of the search for a proper formulation of the doctrine of the sacraments in the Reformation. Jensen insightfully assesses the inter-connectedness of baptism, Lord’s Supper, and absolution for these theologians and emphasizes that not only Christ’s presence but also the power of the Word of promise in the sacraments occupied a key position in sixteenth-century debates. A challenge for thinking through vital issues of sacramental theology in our day."

Robert Kolb | Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis

A fresh account of the background, contents, and long-term impact of the Wittenberg Concord.

"Gordon A. Jensen has given us a fresh account of the background, contents, and long-term impact of the Wittenberg Concord, an attempt by the leading reformers to restore Protestant unity that has been unjustly neglected in English language scholarship. Although agreement concerning the Lord’s Supper was at the heart of the Concord, Jensen highlights the discussion of baptism and absolution as well, and he points to the failure to agree on the role of the magistrate in church reform. His book draws some important lessons from the experience of the sixteenth-century reformers that are still relevant for anyone involved in ecumenical dialogue today."

Amy Nelson Burnett | University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Jensen’s work thus makes important contributions both to our understanding of the Lord’s Supper in the Reformation and to potential ecumenical discussions today

"If Lutheran and Reformed churches are ever to engage in truly fruitful ecumenical dialogue, then differences over the Lord’s Supper need to be directly and honestly addressed. Can history help here? The Marburg Colloquy, where Luther and Zwingli clashed so bitterly, casts a long shadow and seems to represent a dead-end for dialogue; but it was not the only time the Lutherans and the Reformed discussed the matter. Yet there is more to the history of the debate than that unfortunate clash. The less well-known Wittenberg Concord of 1536 is a key moment in ecumenical history and, while certainly not the result of easy or straightforward discussion, provides a basis for thinking about the matter of the Eucharist in a way which prioritized purpose over presence, sought to overcome the division and points back to earlier, less controversial emphases in Luther's own Reformation thinking on the sacraments. Professor Jensen’s work thus makes important contributions both to our understanding of the Lord’s Supper in the Reformation and to potential ecumenical discussions today."

Carl R. Trueman | Princeton University

A remarkable achievement, and a lasting contribution to Christian ecumenism!

"In The Wittenberg Concord, Gordon A. Jensen attends with care and insight to the complex internal Protestant negotiations that led to the Lutheran-Reformed agreement on the Lord’s Supper, the 'Wittenberg Concord,' in 1536. This important ecumenical event has long been under-appreciated and is still too little known. As one might expect, Jensen offers a thorough review of events and controversies preceding the Concord, including the Eucharistic debates of the 1520s, and the almost-agreement reached at the Marburg Colloquy in 1529. But he goes well beyond these much-discussed events to lay out the historical contexts and consequences of theological disagreement, especially the political vulnerabilities of the Protestant authorities in the period leading up to the Diet of Augsburg (1530). Attending to the slow progress made between Martin Bucer, Martin Luther, and Philip Melanchthon in the early 1530s, Jensen shows how Bucer’s tenacity and Luther’s flexibility paved the way for their eventual meeting at Wittenberg in 1536. This face-to-face meeting succeeded in producing an agreement on the Lord’s Supper, and much more. The agreement itself focused upon what was most important, that is, the consoling presence of Christ as offered “in and with” the bread and the cup. Jensen also explores the Concord’s after-history, showing how it provided a new model for Christian unity, and examining the ways that model was imitated, or rejected, in ecumenical discussions from the confessional period down to the present day. Connecting the Concord with its more recent successor agreements, e.g., the Leuenberg Concord, Jensen makes the case for its abiding significance today. A series of appendices provide translations of key documents, as well as a helpful glossary of major players in the event. For students of Reformation history and theology, and indeed for all of us who work for the unity of the churches today, this should be mandatory reading. A remarkable achievement, and a lasting contribution to Christian ecumenism!"

Mickey L. Mattox | Marquette University

A precisely and sympathetically written book rich with historical narrative and lucid theological analysis

"What could have been, and what (still) could be! The 1536 Wittenberg Concord–signed by the 'giants' of Wittenberg theologians, Luther, Melanchthon and Bugenhagen–presents a model for a 'sufficient' and gospel-spirited sacramental unity among the different reformation traditions. Jensen’s focused study of one of the ecumenically most inspirational documents reveals the first-generation reformation theologians’ deep desire and tireless colloquial, international labor for unity for the sake of effectively conveying the gospel of grace for the terrified consciences, and particularly so with the sacraments. The lesson for contemporary ecumenical negotiators across the board is this: a 'differentiated consensus' seems to serve the gospel proclamation the best when there is both specificity of the doctrinal issues at stake, and willingness to not let (human) wording and grammar stand on the way of grace. A precisely and sympathetically written book rich with historical narrative and lucid theological analysis, this study is an excellent tool in both ecumenical work and in classroom."

Kirsi Stjerna | Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary