Oct 14, 1998
The issuing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification last year by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church elicited great rejoicing. It appeared that an historic consensus had been reached on the central issue that has divided Protestants and Roman Catholics since the 16th century.
Sitting on the four corners of an intersection in the town where I grew up are the public school, the library, the town hall and my home church. Every morning an American flag is raised in front of each of the four buildings. The church, however, sits on a hill above the other public buildings, as if presiding over all of them. The church is built of stone, and its sturdy Norman architecture seems to rise out of the massive rock formations that mark the earth throughout the town.
Seattle's Plymouth Congregational Church could be described as an "old first church." Founded in 1869 when the population of the city was 1,000, the church conceived of its mission as one of civilizing this rough-and-tumble city on the nation's western edge. Members of the congregation have served at one time or another on the City Council and school board and as mayor. At the turn of the century Plymouth members led the effort to close down Seattle's thriving brothels and gambling establishments.
He was sitting quietly, almost impassively, as I talked to a group of people gathered in Zagreb at the launching of the Croatian translation of my book Exclusion and Embrace. The forcefulness and impatience with which he asked his question as he brought the book to be signed took me by surprise. "But where does that will come from, that will to embrace the enemy?"