Religious leaders plan for the next 500 years

The Rev. Scott Woods, associate pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church, hopes local Catholic and Lutheran leaders will continue coming together in prayer, study and fellowship. “This community needs the Christians to come together and work together,” Woods says, citing existing efforts like Christian Clearing House. (Photo by Kevin Bean)



This is the second of two local stories talking with religious leaders about the Reformation. The first article ran last Saturday, Aug. 26, and focused on Catholic and Lutheran leaders reflecting on 500 years of division, and their commitment to working together in the future.

As Catholic and Lutheran clergy in our area work toward celebrating what the denominations have in common, friendships have formed. Many are already looking forward to what might happen in the future, long after the upcoming 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s protest against the Catholic church which launched the Protestant Reformation.

The Rev. Steve Ramsey, pastor at Good Hope Lutheran Church in Arlington, hadn’t known The Rev. Scott Woods, associate pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Findlay, until he made his acquaintance through the discussions pastors are having to plan shared activities and discuss what they have in common.

“Five-hundred years ago we had one of the biggest church fights of all time,” Ramsey said. “And out of that fight has come many, many blessings.”

Both denominations have carried on and done great things. So if God could use a fight like that and have good come out of it, “what could God do if we actually worked on reconciliation?” Ramsey asked.

“From Conflict to Communion: Together in Hope,” a joint commemoration of the Reformation led by both denominations’ bishops, will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 10 at St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church, 750 Bright Road.

Another service will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 29 at First Lutheran Church, 109 E. Lincoln St., featuring couples in which one spouse is Lutheran and the other Catholic, and clergy who started out in one denomination and now belong to the other.

Oct. 31 marks the actual 500th anniversary of the Reformation. When northwestern Ohio Catholics and Lutherans wake up Nov. 1 — or in 2018, or in another 500 years — where do they want to be?

Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo hopes the Sept. 10 event might “bear further fruit.” He said both denominations are “encouraging local communities to continue the dialogue” with each other.

“The 500th anniversary will come and go,” Ramsey said, but religious leaders don’t want to just go back to the status quo after it passes.

“Some decisions are above our pay grade,” but there are things local pastors can do, Ramsey said.

Unity and division

The Northwestern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America does have good relationships with the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, but “when you get to Rome” it gets more complicated, said the Rev. Roger Giese, a retired Lutheran pastor from Carey.

After all, Ramsey said, the Roman Catholic church is worldwide, and any changes that may happen in relations between faiths need to work not only in northwestern Ohio, but in the Philippines, and in Paraguay.

“It takes a long time for institutions to change,” said the Rev. Ralph Mineo, pastor at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in North Baltimore and St. John’s Lutheran Church in McComb, and dean of the synod’s Central Conference.

But the Rev. Bob Cochran, pastor at First Lutheran Church in Findlay, notes that there is a lot of energy among local pastors, citing the ministerial association, begun by the recently retired St.

Michael’s pastor, Msgr. Michael Hohenbrink. The backyard mission trip involves churches all over the community and serves 1,000 people in one day.

“Mission is the one place we can always come together,” Cochran said.

One place where the denominations are not together is communion.

“On my bucket list is to have communion in a Catholic church someday,” Ramsey said.

He said the two deniminations don’t need to be structurally united, but “just to be able to commune together” is important. Cochran said they do have shared communion in the Episcopal, Presbyterian and Methodist churches.

Mineo said Catholics can take communion in a Lutheran church, but some choose not to.

Everyone is welcome “who is baptized and believes,” Cochran said.

Bishop Daniel Beaudoin of the Northwestern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, too, said his hope is “sometime in my lifetime, that happens” — that they will be able to share the Eucharist.

Thomas acknowledged hearing of desire for Lutherans’ communion in the Catholic church.

“Obviously, it’s something which is spoken of” in both Catholic and Lutheran circles, he said.

But he said they are doing what they are doing this September because there are differences. There are differences in the understanding of what each denomination believes the Eucharist is, he said.

Small changes

In families and in churches, though, changes are happening.

When it comes to the 500th anniversary, there are families that have a “personal stake in it,” Ramsey said. His own son married a Roman Catholic.

Often in the past, if you married someone from another faith, it would cause a rift. So many families have been torn apart by religion, Woods said.

“The rubber meets the road in families that have dealt with the pain of this division firsthand,” Woods said.

Beaudoin’s paternal grandmother is Catholic. He was raised Lutheran but, as a child, would visit his father’s family in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where they would go to Mass four times a week.

“I grew up with my feet in both traditions,” he said.

Beaudoin said he’s mindful, when he walks into a Catholic church, that it’s part of something bigger than that congregation. And going to Mass brings back memories of his grandmother, kneeling in prayer.

As he talks with clergy of both denominations about the ecumenical efforts going on he hears “how joyful it is” and “life-giving, I think, for both pastors and priests. … It delights me also to see our lay folks doing it,” Beaudoin said.

The pastors who have met to plan these events hope to keep the momentum going.

Ramsey would like to see regular services together, perhaps for Advent or Lent.

And Woods said he’d love to see the group that has been meeting to plan these services brainstorm, “What’s next for us?” They can’t set policy or legislate theology, but they can come together for prayer, study and fellowship.

Woods said perhaps they might find topics to study, or create an ecumenical service at Thanksgiving including churches of different denominations.

The Rev. Kent Kaufman, pastor at St. Charles Borromeo in Lima and coordinator of ecumenical and interfaith relations for the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, noted that northwestern Ohio is not only made up of Catholics and Lutherans. He hopes, in the future, to build closer relationships with other denominations and faiths.

“This community needs the Christians to come together and work together,” Woods said, noting there are efforts, such as Christian Clearing House.

In the future, “My hope would be the hope of Jesus the Lord,” Thomas said. “And that would be a hope for unity in the church.”

Beaudoin said a theologian, Phyllis Tickle, had said that about every 500 years, something major happens in Christianity: “We have this great garage sale” in which we “take the old out.” About the year 1000 there was a split between Eastern and Western Christianity, then 500 years later the Protestant Reformation occurred.

And now, 500 years after that, something is happening, Beaudoin said.

He said people are moving away from the institution of church, and many churches are seeing a decline in membership.

“But faith seems to be growing, and interest in Jesus seems to be growing,” he said.

So, he wonders if it’s a sign it’s time for church to be outside its four walls.

Beaudoin said we as a society are on the precipice of “some major change in the church.” Some are wringing their hands, but “I’m excited about it.”

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Church studying Reformation’s effects on economics, art, politics


Members of Concordia Lutheran Church have been studying the Reformation’s effects on everything from economics to art, using films to learn more about this period of history.

While most area Lutheran churches are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Concordia is part of the Missouri Synod, the only church of its synod in Findlay.

The Missouri Synod started in 1847 in St. Louis and is most prevalent in the Midwest, but there are “pockets” elsewhere in the country, said the Rev. Matthew Shive, Concordia’s pastor for the past five years. Nearby, there are Missouri Synod pastors in Toledo, Perrysburg and Tiffin.

Concordia itself dates to 1960. The church, Shive said, has “a real strong desire to learn and to grow in God’s word.” English as a Second Language classes are offered, using the Bible to teach and presenting documents such as Luther’s small catechism in Japanese.

The Missouri Synod is “very much a teaching church,” Shive said.

As to the Reformation, Shive said it isn’t just about reforming the church, but the significant impact it had on the world as a whole.

Shive loves movies, and has shown several for his congregation. Earlier this year, they discussed “Question 7,” set in East Germany. The movie led to thoughtful reflection and discussion of “This is our story. This is how it’s still relevant,” he said. The congregation also watched the documentary “The First Rosa,” about Lutheran educator and church planter Rosa J. Young and her work in the South.

It’s been a process of “awe and discovery,” learning new things through this study, Shive said.

The church is also using a DVD set, “A Man Named Martin,” learning about Luther personally and what his struggles were, Shive said.

Then there is “500: The Impact of the Reformation Today,” which looks at how the Reformation impacted many other aspects of life including economics, art and politics. Shive is showing clips from this documentary and is talking with people at the church who are creative, looking at how what they believe impacts their art and poetry.

On Oct. 29, Reformation Sunday itself, the church will welcome a guest preacher from a seminary in Fort Wayne.

The 500th anniversary offers an opportunity to “be reminded of who we are” Shive said.

And he said a sign in the church’s narthex is telling — people talk about Luther but, as the sign says, “500 years later, it’s still about Jesus.”


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