Sunday evening saw Holy Innocents' Church filled with many people from several Christian denominations of Orpington Churches, for a special ecumenical service of worship marking the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. It was a spirit-filled time of worship.
The event was filmed and is available on youtube.
See link to ..... United for Mission RRR500
Jon Ehlers, the Minister of the Lutheran Church Poverest Road, presented a framed print of a painting of Martin Luther to Father Victor Vella.
Message from Father Victor
1. This meeting has been promoted under the general theme of Reconciliation with particular emphasis on three cognate words: RE-VISIT, RE-PENT, RE-FORM.
2. We are not celebrating the division of Western Christianity. No one who is theologically responsible can celebrate the division of Christians from one another. Many Catholics associate the word “Reformation” first of all with the division of the Western Church, while many Lutheran Christians associate the word “Reformation” chiefly with the rediscovery of the gospel, certainty of faith and freedom; they are not thereby celebrating the division of the Western church.
3. What happened in the past is unalterable, but what is remembered of the past and how it is remembered is alterable. As we commemorate together the beginning of the Reformation, the point is not to tell a different history, but to tell that history differently.
4. It is the first commemoration to take place during the ecumenical age. Therefore, the common commemoration is an occasion to deepen communion between us. The church is the body of Christ. As there is only one Christ, so also he has only one body. Through baptism, human beings are made members of this body.
Today Catholics and Protestants enjoy a growth in mutual understanding, cooperation, and respect. We have come to acknowledge that more unites than divides us: above all, common faith in the Triune God, the revelation in Jesus Christ, as well as recognition of the basic truths of the doctrine of justification, namely that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ and his finished work. Martin Luther’s struggle with God drove and defined his whole life. The question, How can I find a gracious God? plagued him constantly. He found the gracious God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. “True theology and the knowledge of God are in the crucified Christ.”
ByVictor Vella, Parish Priest of Holy Innocents’ Catholic Church And
Nelson Pallister, Chairman of the Churches Together in Orpington (CTO)
This United Service, marking the 500th years since the beginning of the Reformation, has been promoted under the general theme of Reconciliation with particular emphasis on RE-VISIT, RE-PENT, and RE-FORM.
What is the Purpose?
The purpose of “purification of memory” is the glorification of God. The “confession of the faults of the past” is a “confession of praise” addressed to God, before whom alone it becomes possible to recognise the faults both of the past and of the present, so that we might be reconciled by and to him in Christ Jesus, the only Saviour of the world, and become able to forgive those who have offended us and to be forgiven by those whom we have offended.
This “purification of memory” aims at liberating personal and communal consciences from all forms of resentment and violence that are the legacy of the past, through a renewed historical and theological evaluation of such events. This should lead, if done correctly, to a corresponding recognition of guilt and contribute to the path of reconciliation. Such a process can have a significant effect on the present, precisely because the consequences of past faults still make themselves felt and can persist as tensions in the present.
The “purification of memory” is thus “an act of courage and humility in recognizing the wrongs done by those who have borne or bear the name of Christian.” It is based on the conviction that because of “the bond which unites us to one another in the Mystical Body of Christ, all of us, though not personally responsible and without encroaching on the judgement of God, who alone knows every heart, bear the burden of the errors and faults of those who have gone before us.”
In Daniel chapter 9 we see him confessing his sins and those of his people as he pleaded for God to restore the people to the land. We, as members of Churches Together in Orpington (CTO), wish to take the same ground, confessing our own sins and that of our separate denominations in failing to recognise the authority of scripture and, when we have recognised it, in treating others who have not arrived at the same conclusion as though they were our enemies. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of the whole world, we want to acknowledge our own failures and sin and plead with God that he will reform his Church here into the likeness of Christ. Together we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us”.
We therefore acknowledge before God and before those offended by our actions, the faults which we have committed. We do so without seeking anything in return, but strengthened only by “the love of God which has been poured into our hearts” (Romans 5:5).
Mutual Love, Key to Unity
We believe that unity and love are central to the law of life of the Trinitarian God revealed to the world by the Son (John 17:21), who, in the power of the Holy Spirit, loving until the end (John 13:1), communicates this life to his own.
Jesus prayed that His people would be one “as the Father and the Son are one, so that the world will believe that the Son was sent by the Father” (John 17:21) and “everyone will know that these are His disciples” (John 13:35). Unfortunately, it has not happened this way, particularly in the last millennium in which great divisions appeared among Christians, in open contradiction to the explicit will of Christ: “Certainly such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, is a scandal to the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature.”
The principal divisions during the past millennium are the eleventh century schism between the Eastern and Western Churches at the beginning of this millennium, and in the West the laceration caused by those events “commonly referred to as the Reformation.” In recent years and especially since the Second Vatican Council in 1965 there have been strong statements from International Christian leaders of repentance and forgiveness in respect of both these divisions, both of which suffered from a lack of supernatural love, of agape.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of [other people’s] sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The basis of new memory, for the Church in the East and in the West, cannot be other than this commandment of mutual love or, better, the renewed commitment to live it. In such a way, memory frees us from the prison of the past and calls Catholics and Orthodox, as well as Catholics and Protestants, to be the architects of a future more in conformity with the new commandment. To the extent that some Catholics and Protestants remain bound to the separations of the past, doing nothing to remove the obstacles that impede unity, one could justly speak of solidarity in the sin of division (1 Corinthians 1:10-16).
We do not believe that we have the authority or right to represent all facets of the divisions of the past. We recognise that it would need months and possibly years of discussions before we could bring our communities to a common mind. However we are each individual members of Catholics and Protestants and, as such, we want to acknowledge the following. At the end we will say, “Amen”. If you wish to associate yourself with what we say, please say, “Amen” yourself in as strong a way as you feel able.
Whilst accepting that there are a number of doctrinal differences between us, we want to:
a) acknowledge that in the past we have regarded those of a different persuasion to ourselves as though they were not proper Christians;
b) consequently we have been slow to talk to one another and slow to treat one another with the love that our Lord Jesus told us to show to one another;
c) deeply regret the things that have been done in the past and believe that the Lord Jesus can reach back into the past to purify us and our wider communities and together ask Him to roll back the effects of these sins, past, present and future, through his cross and resurrection and form us into a new body in him;
d) together we praise him and worship him.
One of the reasons given by the Lord Jesus in his prayer in John chapter 17 for seeking his Father’s help in promoting unity among his followers was “that the world might believe”. We therefore want to commit ourselves to the following:
a) present a united stance of unity both to believers in general and to the public;
b) work together to bring people to faith in our Lord Jesus;
c) promote increased fellowship between members of our churches.
Orpington Churches Ministers
Left to Right… 7 Ministers from Orpington Churches
Nelson Pallister, David Gillman, Jon Ehlers, Wendy Swan, Victor Vella, John Presdee; Yvonne Presdee.
David Gillman, Methodist Church, Sevenoaks Road
Jon Ehlers, Lutheran Church Poverest Road.
Wendy Swan, United Reform Church (URC)
Victor Vella, Holy Innocents’ Catholic Church
John Presdee, Baptist Church Green St Green
Yvonne Presdee, Baptist Church Green St Green