Where Do Lutherans Fit?

I personally have some pretty strong opinions on the Lutheran church (imagine that!). For example, I believe that the confessional Lutheran church fits in the group of ancient church bodies, along with the Orthodox and Catholic churches. After all, when Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation, he didn’t set out to create a new church; rather he wanted to fix what was broken in the old church. And since we still use his writings as guidelines, and his writings were inspired by an understanding that was getting back to the original church, doesn’t it stand to reason that we are still one of the ancient churches?

It has recently come to my attention, though, that the other ancient church bodies don’t see us that way. It’s not a total surprise to me–I think it’s more their vehemence that has caught me off guard. But I’ve read more and more that suggests that people who belong to the “original” ancient churches view us as interlopers, people who could not possibly understand the history they have. It doesn’t matter that we share their liturgy, their liturgical year, their respect of the early church fathers, and so on. All that matters to them is that some of our key writings come from a man who lived “only” 500 years ago, so what could we possibly know of history?

And then there are other Protestant denominations. They might consider “us” to be one of “them,” but then again, because of our historic liturgy, our adherence to a liturgical year, and our view of the Sacraments, they don’t really “get” us. And frankly, I don’t really get them, either, because they’ve thrown away history in an attempt to *not* be Catholic.

I know it doesn’t really matter. Who cares how Orthodox, or Catholics, or Baptists, or whoever, view us? But whenever I come across discussions like this, I have the unsettling feeling that I don’t really fit in. I see myself as part of an ancient church body, but there are others who turn up their nose at that, and claim that I can’t possibly be. And then there are others who look at my views on the Lord’s Supper, my love of the liturgy, and think that I’m bordering pretty close to those “unchristian” Catholics. I guess it’s hard for Lutherans to properly fit in with other denominations in these kinds of discussions, because we manage to have the best of both worlds!

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