Lutherans have been thinking about the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation for a couple of years, but the Rev. Dave Fulton says he’s more interested in the next 500 years.
“My own thought was, you know, yes we’re Lutherans, something happened 500 years ago, but what is happening now?” he said last week. “I’ve got great collaborative relationships with many in the Catholic community and I said let’s get together and pray.”
In addition to Bishop Carl A. Kemme and Father David Lies, Fulton has been working with other non-Catholic ministers to gather to discuss matters of unity, rather than of division. They will discuss those matters at an ecumenical prayer service at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.
The Rev. Fulton, the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wichita, said Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians are involved in the event “and the sense that this is the right path forward for us is really, really strong – especially if you look at it in contrast to the American culture, which is becoming increasingly divisive.”
The idea of peaceful conversation based on prayer and common ground spiritually makes sense, he said, adding that the tone set by Pope Francis makes it even easier.
When the conversation is over, the Rev. Fulton said, he hopes a spiritual movement will emerge in the community that will bring prayerful people together who will work towards consensus on matters in the community.
“I see this as the opposite of political action,” he said. “It may play out politically, but it’s really intended to be more of a conversation that brings people together. The direction forward will emerge as we are in conversation.”
Father Lies, vicar general for the Diocese of Wichita, said efforts at overcoming the differences that separate Christians will fail if we don’t follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and entrust those efforts to him.
“As Christians we have to make a leap of faith and move beyond our stereotypes and the narrow view of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that keep us from truly wanting to engage in the work of unity, of becoming one, as Jesus prayed that we would do,” he said.
Father Lies said he “agreed to adopt his vision” after Pastor Fulton contacted him about a prayer service to mark the event and to pray about the Reformation’s divisive effects on the Body of Christ.
“I have, at best, been lukewarm about seeking better familiarity and cooperation with Christian leaders of other denominations” he said.
“But, given today’s increasingly secular climate and the exclusion of God and all things religious that we see occurring in our culture, I recognize more and more that we Christians must bear better witness to all people that true fulfillment of human desire and meaning comes only through a relationship with God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Father Lies added that, personally, the “Listening for Peace” gathering of prayer is a renewed effort on his part to recommit to seeing God’s presence and work in all bodies of believers in Jesus.
“I pray that, even if it is a small start, a mustard-seed sized gathering of Christians, the Holy Spirit will give it the growth into that sheltering tree of faith in which all persons of good will can find shelter and sustenance for their journey through this earthly life.”