Lutherans as catholic but not Roman Catholic


19th Pastor Wilhelm Loehe of Neuendettelsau, Bavaria, Germany, was an “unofficial” founding father of the Bavarian side of the LCMS.   The LCMS was founded in 1847 as a coming together of northern German Lutherans with Bavarian Lutherans.    In a book that was often used by early LCMS pastors before the establishment of regular LCMS publishing Loehe wrote of Lutheran identity and the Divine Service:

The Lutheran Liturgy is an outgrowth from the Roman. The Lutheran Church itself is not a new building, but the old, cleansed from the unauthorized additions. For more than three centuries the Church has advanced no new doctrines, but on the contrary has been purifying the old systems from added perversions. In a liturgical way, likewise, no new path has been marked out; but after the removal of inexpedient innovations, that which has proved valuable from the beginning has been preserved. It is for this reason that our Church possesses in common with the Roman the principal parts of the Communion Service. For the same reason it was possible for the framers of the Augustana [Augsburg Confession] to assert: –“Nor has any perceptible change taken place in the public ceremonies of the mass.” Also: — “It is well known that the mass is,

without boasting, celebrated with greater devotion and sincerity among us than among our adversaries.” If anyone is inclined to charge this Order with a Romanizing tendency, the same must then be brought against every Lutheran Order, if not against the whole Church. It would, however, be more correct to say, that the Romish Church had a tendency to Catholicize in those parts of the Liturgy which it holds in common with us, because in those parts the Romish Church stands high above its own standard, and agrees with that which is truly universal [catholic]. [Wilhelm Loehe. Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith – Third Edition. Translated by F.C. Longaker (Newport, KY, 1902 – Reprinted by Repristination Press, 1993); p.ix]

Johann Gerhard, 16th-17th century Lutheran father on Lutheran identity

It is not we who call ourselves Lutherans. Rather, our adversaries call us that. We allow this to the extent that this title is an indication of the consensus that our churches have with the orthodox and catholic doctrine that Luther set forth from Holy Writ. Therefore we allow ourselves to be named after Luther, not as the inventor of a new faith but as the asserter of the old faith and the cleanser of the church from the stains of Papist dogmas. Consequently, we also do not reject the names “Christian” and “catholic,” nor do we render ourselves unworthy of them by the approval of any heretical dogma, as did the Arians, Nestorians, Eutychians, etc. Rather, we are called “Christians” from Christ as the only Author and Teacher of our faith. We are called “catholics” from our consensus with the catholic faith. We are called “Lutherans” from Luther as the asserter and defender of that faith, but especially as the reformer whom God raised up.

+ Johann Gerhard, On the Church (Theological Commonplace XXV), § 156.