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English bishop to take leading role in Catholic-Lutheran dialogue

By on Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Bishop Kenney is pictured during a visit to Gaza (Mazur/

Bishop Kenney is pictured during a visit to Gaza (Mazur/

An English bishop has been appointed co-president of the International Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity chose Bishop William Kenney, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, for the role.

Bishop Kenny’s Lutheran counterpart is Bishop Emeritus Eero Huovinen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. The two have successfully collaborated previously on Nordic dialogue commissions.

Earlier this month, the commission published a report on “the Apostolicity of the Church”. Bishop Kenney and Bishop Huovinen will launch a new phase of dialogue for the commission in August. The dialogue will concentrate on “baptism and growing Church communion” and will be held in Japan.

Bishop Kenney studied sociology and psychology at the universities of Vaxjo and Gothenburg. He worked as a parish priest and academic sociologist within the Catholic Church in Sweden, before pursuing doctoral studies at the London School of Economics from 1977 to 1979.

He then lectured in the sociology of religion and was director of Studies at the Department of Religious Studies in the University of Gothenburg between 1979 and 1982 and from 1984 to 1987. He was a general councillor of the Passionist Congregation, resident in Rome, from 1982 to 1984.

He is the spokesman on European affairs of the Bishops of England and Wales and represents the Bishops’ Conference at Comece, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.

The Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Commission was established in 1967 and aims at the full, visible unity of the two communions.

  • bluesuede

    Let’s keep Catholicity in Apostolicity.

  • Guest

    “The dialogue will…be held in Japan”

    Was Scunthorpe fully booked then?

  • NatOns

    One can hope and pray, as one ought, for a miracle – be it a sign and not so much of a wonder. Yet to demand the impossible of God, and then blame Him for not giving it, is vain beyond all vanity – in fact, it is to put the Lord our God to the test: a very grave sin.

    I suspect we cannot expect the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to see attempts at unity with wrongdoing as sin – no, perhaps not even from our beloved Pope Francis – yet we can hope. Nonetheless, there is already an excellent witness to the form of a real, true and substantial unity in Christ that can be the basis for any groups of Lutherans who do still desire full communion with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church following the Living Faith AKA Sacred Tradition (even if the Sovereign Pontiff did not see it as necessary in the past).

  • John Morrison

    Since the Lutheran church is not one but many of differing theologies (high and low etc} how can the Finnish bishop speak for all>. I concede there are many quasi crypto Catholics in the Evangelical Church, but hey have there radicals also as we have post the Jesuitical disastee of Vat II.John Morrison

  • Clinton R.

    Why do Lutherans have “bishops”? I thought they believed in the priesthood of the faithful, ie everyone is a priest. I thought Prots were against any kind of hierarchy. Having bishops is downright Catholic, isn’t it?

  • Benedict Carter

    “The two have successfully collaborated previously on Nordic dialogue commissions.”


  • Julian Lord

    This is not well-known, but the core of the Lutheran church has been slowly edging its way back towards a kind of semi-catholicism.

    And it’s good news !!

  • AlanP

    What, exactly, is the ‘wrongdoing’ you refer to?

  • Peter

    One of his wings is missing.

  • Benedict Carter

    Not in Norway, Sweden, Denmark. There they are very much on the Episcopalian wing of post-Christian paganism.

  • An onlooker

    We are not in a position to decide what is impossible for God. All we have to do is be open to the possibility of unity and then it could happen. If we limit in advance HOW it could happen, we are imposing our limited and imperfect vision on God. Never a good idea!

  • PaulF

    Exactly. God himself has told us that nothing is impossible to him. The only condition he sets is that we give him alone the glory. If we honour idols and demons, he cannot answer our prayers because he cannot give his glory to another or his honour to idols.
    Christian unity is humanly impossible. And as long as we are honouring other gods we place a road block in its way.
    But Christian unity is not impossible to God. On the contrary, Christ prayed for it, and the Father is not in the habit of rejecting his prayers.

  • PaulF

    Let’s stop talking in riddles and say what we mean.

  • James M

    Luther explains somewhere that the priesthood of all the faithful does not rule out external Church order. If there is a contradiction (IMO, there isn’t) it is found also in the OT & (for that reason) in the NT. The Israelites are to be a “holy nation”; yet there is also the Levitical priesthood. The same verse is quoted in the NT.

    To put things in words Luther did not: the priesthood of all the faithful is a theological fact arising from their being “in Christ”, whereas having ordained clergy is a theological and sociological fact, by which some those Christians, and not others, are ordained as ministers in the churches.

    There was a wing of Reformation Protestantism that did have no place for distinctions between clergy and laity – Luther, who in many ways very traditional, was strongly opposed to it. And the Plymouth Brethren today have no clergy. Another solution to having no ordained ministry is the Quaker one; that is a result of their rejection of outward forms generally, and is not a direct result of the 16th century ferment. There were pre-Reformation groups, mostly pretty marginal to society at large, which were given a new lease of life by the Reformation; not so much the Waldenses or the Moravians (though they were affected), as the smaller ones; these smaller ones in England paved the way for people like the Levellers & Ranters. Quite apart from the semi-Gnostic sects.

    FWIW, Calvinism had at at least one bishop – & Calvin was less traditional, and more of a Christian humanist (of a certain kind & in some ways) than Luther. Calvin’s theology of the Christian ministry is presbyteral – but in a way different from that of the CC. Calvin’s theology of it does not accommodate doctrinal development beyond the end of the NT period; that of the CC, does. So although the starting-point is the same, the results differ considerably.

  • bluesuede

    Stay 100% Catholic. To be true to Jesus Christ and His teachings through the apostolic succession of the clergy and the Pope as its head.

  • PaulF

    Oracularly oracled the oracular oracle.
    You’re still not making sense.

  • Julian Lord

    I’m not surprised at this concerning Sweden and Denmark, but that’s a little odd for Norway, a country which still has some underlying conservatism… (though I’m well aware of the existence of its own lunatic fringe)

  • Julian Lord

    Calvin was … more of a Christian humanist

    erm, really NO, Calvin’s ideas consist of the submission of men and women to an ideological and theocratic utopian model which is the exact opposite of the ideals of the Catholic Humanists, and the contemporary Humanists strongly rejected Calvin’s extremely church-centric heresy.

    16th Century Catholic Humanism was a religious and political ideal focussing on individual men, women, and children as always remaining at the heart of prayer, shared worship, thought, and action, in the face of the monastic or church-centric utopianisms that were prevalent in 15th and 16th century European thinking. Pope Francis could be described as a Catholic Humanist in this sense of the word, and John Calvin clearly represents one of its antitheses.

  • aspiring lay capuchin

    Excellent news we hope for the best outcome and quickly unravel all the outstanding issues

  • lawrence

    These Lutheran if they wish to come back to the flock,they are welcome.
    Of course they are aware that they are like the prodigal son who ran away from home.

  • Lee

    Blah blah blah, more heretical nonsense, more loss of souls to lies and distortions but last but not least, more chance that this Pontificate is an Chastisement.

  • AlanP

    Blah blah blah, more traditionalist nonsense, more picking and choosing as to which bits of Papal teaching you accept or reject.

  • Lee

    Boniface VIII Unam Sanctam, Eugene IV Cantate Domino, Fourth Lateran declaration on Salvation in tha Church all withstand this modernistic and wasteful exercise in intellectual and soulful selfmurder. If thou wilt anymore, let me know.

  • AlanP

    CCC paras 820-22.

  • Toshi quaraba

    Once again we have missed the point, we are creating a simulating Christian unity on the basis of hierarchical agreement – where are the foundations? Visible Unity? How can we achieve it.
    At the Mass? One believes in transubstantiation the other in consubstantiation
    Priesthood? One has celibate men the other married men and married women
    It is one thing to have a dialogue, and I strongly believe in dialogue and mutual respect as well as agreeing to disagree. BUT visible unity. Let us be more honest, let us stop this nonsense. It is more honourable to be divided on the basis of theological and dogmatic differences and have still Christian love towards other brethren – after all we will all to give account to God if we have lacked love towards our neighbour. It seems to me a kind of playground game where the two teams are trying to play rugby without any physical contact – that hurts and changing the rules of the game during the development of the game. Again I want to emphasize my believe in dialoguing with separated brethren and helping them – if need arises – practically as a demonstration of Christian love, but visible unity at the price of compromise it is not my kettle of fish.

  • Hermit Crab

    It’s not impossible to think of “Paradise Lost” as both humanist and Calvinist. I think Milton and Calvin would have got on reasonably well.

  • NatOns

    But God is in a position to decide what He can and cannot abide, and His approval of wrongdoing – i.e. sin – is impossible to Him as God (not because it pleases or displeases man). That man does not see sin in doing his own favourite wrongs, or even accept that his deeds are wrong, cannot change God’s character: He and sin do not mix. Any unity of wrongdoing with righteousness while quite possible to fallen man is – given the divine character – entirely, unthinkably, ineluctably impossible for God as God .. or we make a nonsense of the Cross (and call Him a liar besides, although His mercy extends there .. to those who desire it: on His terms).

    “Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing; why do you look on the treacherous, and are silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they?” Habakkuk 1 : 13.

  • NatOns

    He sets more than giving Him alone the glory as part of His grace-filled, merciful, atoning covenant in Christ – He requires us to be holy as He is Holy.

    “Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God.” 1 Jhn 3 : 9.

    Christian unity is not impossible, no one has said that it is, but that righteousness can seek unity with wrongdoing in God is not possible – He just is not that kind of Being (even if we like to make Him appear so as made in our own image).

  • NatOns


    “If you see your brother committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one — to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal.” 1 Jhn 5 : 16-17.

    Mortal or venial, sin is the wilful doing of wrong – disobedience toward God; so making irredeemable demons of men and women with same-gender attractions is to do wrong, it is sin; to blind-eye the wrong done in making marriage no more than another human contract is wrongdoing, it is sin. It is impossible to make God the form for any such vainly imagined “unity” of wrongdoing with justice, even if Christians like to imagine there is no sin in their wrongdoing. Sin in its disobedience separates us from God, and the Catholic Church, Christ in Person, cannot be brought into unity with those who like deny it .. however much its pastors may toy with the image they have make of it.

  • Lee

    So dogmatic bodings of tha Church over an Dodgy Catechism that brooks dodgy words, especially in those paragraphs thou hast quoted. The whole fad that the Truth ‘subsists’ rather than ‘is’ tha Church is one of great insult to tha Church Militant. I would reckon better sources than the CCC !

  • AlanP

    You obviously reject the Catechism which the great majority of ordinary Catholics accept as the official teaching of the Church, including all those who have joined in the past 20 years. Did they join under false pretences? Should they now leave?

  • Julian Lord

    I’ve no idea why you think that a 17th century pantheist was a humanist by any definition, nor a Calvinist !!!

    Calvin would probably have liked Bunyan (also not a humanist BTW), but Milton ??

  • Julian Lord

    I thought you said you were “leaving”, didn’t you “phil” ?

  • AlanP

    You previously referred to “attempts at unity with wrongdoing” as sin, implying that the Lutheran Church is somehow “wrongdoing”. You have now switched to “gay marriage”, and nobody is suggesting that the Catholic Church should accept that. So, just what is it about ecumenism that you regard as “wrongdoing” and “sin”?

  • NatOns

    Household management is not a sin, but it can be mishandled – or simply done wrong; hence with oecumenism, the management of God’s household. All too many Lutherans today (and others, even within the Roman Rites) have – once again – sought to discard the Living Faith and its discipleship .. that is, Sacred Tradition .. in favour of their own beliefs. That disregard is a grave wrong in doing what the Lord has commanded of His body, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church; so where the pastors of the Lord’s sheep seek to find unity with such wrongdoing (e.g. worldly beliefs, fleshly doctrines, ephemeral prayers), even seeking to call it just, then the wrong done is magnified: it is sin, not oecumenism.

    “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” 1 Jhn 2 : 16.

    And that type of desire for reunion is the only real Oecumenism, the good care of God’s Household – however miniscule its beginnings.

  • James M

    You’re overlooking the continuity between the Calvin of Seneca’s “De Clementia”, and the Calvin of Geneva. It’s there. It’s not as prominent in the Calvin who is a theologian, pastor, preacher, & ecclesiastical statesmen as during the period before he threw in his lot with the Reformation, but if one ignores it one misses a good deal. The Catholic humanists included people like Olivetan, Castellio, Melanchthon, Peter Martyr Vermigli, & Stephanus; as well as Pico della Mirandola, Erasmus, More, Vives, & company (themselves a pretty varied lot) – Calvin, like the first five, became a Protestant. So one cannot separate Catholic humanism – of whatever kind – from Protestant humanism, anymore than one can separate the atheistic or loose-living type of humanism from that of humanists like St. Thomas More.

    Whether one notices Calvin the humanist scholar is a matter of emphasis. (I didn’t use Wikipedia to write the other post or this.) There is a lot more to him than the usual stereotype. Mentioning some of the theological ideas he had after the mid-30s or so, does not make those he formed earlier any less any important, even though those others may not be instantly familiar.

    There is a very good Catholic study of the young Calvin ( = up to 1539) by Fr. A. Ganoczy, here:

  • James M

    Pantheist ? No. His beliefs are recorded pretty fully, in a book he wrote that was lost until 1825, then translated into English, which can be found here (& downloaded for free):

    He may have been Arian, but the part taken by Messiah in the story in P.L. Book 3 & others does not require an unorthodox interpretation, even though it does not exclude it. As C. S. Lewis points out, in “A Preface to Paradise Lost”. Alistair Fowler’s edition of the poem:

    - has a stack of notes, which discuss this issue and others pretty fully – it gives plenty of references to other commentators too. A pantheist Milton could not have written “Paradise Lost”, any more than a Gnosticising Milton could have – the story in the poem makes those positions impossible.

    Calvin & Milton would have had a lot in common doctrinally, but probably not seen eye to eye.

  • James M

    “I suspect we cannot expect the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to see attempts at unity with wrongdoing as sin…”

    ## Probably because the emphasis has changed. Instead of the glass being only full, and lacking half of its contents, it is now apt to be seen as, not full, admittedly, but half-full at least. This is Rorschach blot thinking – it is valid, if one’s understanding of reality is that it is a Rorschach blot; not so valid, if one’s model for understanding is one that is not confined to that way of perceiving reality.

    It is very unlikely that the “hierarchy of the Catholic Church” thinks about ecumenism in the terms given in the quotation.

  • Julian Lord

    the atheistic or loose-living type of humanism from that of humanists like St. Thomas More


    It’s true that several of the Humanists did get involved in the Protestant movement, but you seem to be falsely claiming that simply being an intellectual of some kind in 16th century Europe is sufficient to qualify as a “humanist”. This — again !!! — is to pander to the revisionism of atheistic so-called “humanist” types in late 20th early 21st century, in their false pretensions that humanism is merely some kind of mental attitude against some kind of religious statu quo ; whereas humanism is in fact a moral ordering of one’s thought and actions to consider all things in their human considerations.

    Whereas neither Calvin’s very church-centric idealism, nor the monastic utopianism of some who wanted to extend the Rule of a monastic life as an ordering of the whole of society, nor the desires for hierarchical strictness of the Sorbonne theologians, nor many other intellectual and/or religious movements and idealists of the 16th century could be accurately described as humanisms, nor indeed can Protestantism itself, nor Catholicism for that matter — though each religion had and has its Humanist adherents.

    Simply showing that Calvin had an interest in this or that Antiquity is irrelevant — given that the trivium and quadrivium of any significant 15th and 16th century education required an interest in these things in the first place — it merely tells us that Calvin was an educated man. But you see — to simply equate humanism with the presence of a liberal education is AGAIN to fall prey to the false representations of our contemporary so-called “humanist” atheists and secularists, and their false claims that education might mechanically lead to “humanistic” atheism.

  • Toshi quaraba

    I do not understand what are you referring to. Why are you calling me “Phil”? And why are you talking about “leaving”?

  • Toshi quaraba

    I have followed your profile and read all about “Phil”. Regrettably I must inform you that I am not the individual you describe nor I am an Anti-Catholic. I come from a very strong Roman Catholic family and I have relatives in religious orders. Probably you have not understood the jist of my comment on the Catholic-Lutheran dialogue. I grew up also with Lutherans, though myself I am not one, and I believe that this “Nordic” approach to certain issue is rather disappointing and inconclusive. Allow me to inform you that as a Christian you should be very careful is “denouncing” people. Your “Phil” may be the kind of man you describe, but be careful about labelling anyone “Phil” just because “you think” that individual is similar. Jesus taught us not to judge without having fully considered the matter. No offence taken I assure you, only concern that you may defined a “phil” by other bloggers on this page. I extend to you the hand of fellowship and peace in Christ. Many blessings Toshi

  • Hermit Crab

    I don’t think “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained” are pantheist. And “Comus” is delightfully humanist.

    If Milton is out, then how about Calvin and Spenser?

    I think the definition of “humanist” implied by James that of someone with a renaissance education, someone like Spenser, (or Milton).

  • Julian Lord

    Oh, Spenser, sure.

  • Julian Lord

    OK thanks then, sorry for the confusion, but it’s part of the destructive nature of his trolling that every single person on a web forum that he decides to infect with his presence can become suspect.

    No malice intended to you, and thank you for correcting my mistaken impression.

  • Toshi quaraba

    I hope in the future we can have – in this blog – a positive and constructive influence. Many blessings in our Lord. Let us aim to foster peace without compromise, truth without fear, love without hypocrisy.