Donald Trump’s running mate Mike Pence describes himself as an “evangelical Catholic.” By which he means that he is a Catholic who attends an evangelical megachurch. There are quite a few of those, including another presidential candidate, Marco Rubio. (Megachurches don’t make such a big deal about “membership,” unlike other Protestant churches, so it would be easier to maintain both identities with the megachurch model.)
Catholic apologist George Weigel has called for an “evangelical Catholicism,” by which he means Catholics evangelizing non-Christians.
Political pundits are using the term to group together conservative Catholics who agree with evangelicals on moral and social issues.
But, historically, the term refers to LUTHERANS. Read the two articles excerpted and linked to after the jump.
After all the the press attention dedicated to Donald Trump’s wooing of evangelicals, it’s time to get down to what really matters in American politics – the never-ending battle over Catholics who regularly or semi-regularly visit church pews.
Yes, it helps Democrats if evangelical Protestants are not terribly excited about the GOP nominee and, thus, are more likely to vote with clenched teeth or even to stay home. This time around, Trump has strong supporters among the Religious Right old guard, but he also has strong, strong critics among solid, conservative Christian leaders (as opposed to the small, but press-friendly, world of progressive evangelicals).
But the big game is among Catholic voters. While lapsed and cultural Catholics are solidly in the Democratic Party camp, along with those in the elite “progressive Catholic” camp, the real question is what happens among millions of ordinary Sunday-morning Catholics and the much smaller number of traditional Catholics who are even more dedicated, in terms of participation in daily Mass, Confession and the church’s full sacramental life. This is where the true “swing voters” are found. Does Trump have a prayer with those voters? We will see.
What does this have to do with the “evangelical Catholic” tag that has been claimed by Gov. Mike Pence, who got the VP nod from Trump? Hang on, because that connection came up during this week’s “Crossroads” podcast conversation with host Todd Wilken. Click here to tune that in.
The Augsburg Confession states:
…one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.
In Lutheranism, the term evangelical catholic has a specific meaning. Lutheran Protestantism differs historically from most other kinds of Protestantism in that Lutheranism is the only historical Protestant denomination that confesses belief in the efficacy of the sacraments: regenerationin Holy Baptism, Confession as the sacrament of Absolution, and the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Eucharist. In Anglicanism there has also been a sacramentalism similar to that in orthodox Lutheranism, especially in the high church movement. The Book of Concord states, contrary to “Enthusiast” belief, that salvation can be received only through the means of grace: God’s Word and sacraments. The Augsburg Confessionstresses that “in doctrine and ceremonies nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Catholic Church.”  Article XXIV of the Augsburg Confession “Of the Mass” states: “Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence.” Some Lutheran church bodies claim to also have retained the historical episcopate and apostolic succession.
In early Lutheranism, the Gnesio-Lutherans compiled the first modern critical history of the world, the Magdeburg Centuries, to show that the Lutheran Church was a continuation of the Christian Church throughout its history, though stripped of abuses originating from the pope. Gnesio-Lutherans like Joachim Westphal and Andreas Musculus had a ‘high’ understanding of the sacraments, and therefore were strongly opposed to any compromise with Calvinism and Zwingliism, as well as with Roman Catholic doctrine. In the era of Lutheran orthodoxy, theologians Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard (especially in his Confessio Catholica) made extensive use of patristic sources. They saw the continuity of the pre-Reformation Church in Lutheranism, which they understood not as a re-formation of the Church, but rather a renewal movement within and for the Christian Church, from which the Roman Church did truly represent.
The evangelical feature of Lutheranism is justification by faith, as defined by Law and Gospel and simul iustus et peccator. The term evangelical has a different origin and meaning in Lutheranism than in “Evangelicalism“. (In German, there is a difference between evangelisch and evangelikal; in Swedish, there is a corresponding difference between “evangelisk” and “evangelikal”). In the Lutheran tradition, evangelical (evangelisch) refers to the gospel, with the specific meaning of “grace centered”. The opposite of evangelical is not “catholic” or “liberal”, but legalistic.
In the 19th century, “Evangelical Catholicism” was seen as a vision for the Church of the future. The term was used by Lutherans such as Ernst Ludwig von Gerlach and Heinrich Leo within the post-Prussian Union church in Germany who were inspired by the church of the Middle Ages, and by neo-Lutheran Friedrich Julius Stahl.
The term Evangelical Catholic is often used today instead of the term “High Church Lutheranism” because it is a theological term. It is comparable to the term “Anglo-Catholic” within Anglicanism. Evangelical Catholic Lutheranism is not strictly defined, and can mean, for example, the theologically, biblically, and socially conservative ultra-high church Lutheranism of the strongly Roman Catholic-oriented Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church and the more Eastern Orthodox-oriented Evangelical Catholic Church, those within the Confessional Lutheranmovement who follow the late Arthur Carl Piepkorn, the Evangelical Catholic Orthodoxy of Gunnar Rosendal, the more theologically liberal high ecclesiology of Carl Braaten, the very liberal Evangelical Catholicity of Nathan Söderblom, or even the more liberal Catholicism of Friedrich Heiler, and the ecumenical vision of Hans Asmussen and Max Lackmann.
In 1976 Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, suggested that the Augsburg Confession might be possible to recognise as a Catholic statement of faith. This did not happen due to differences in understanding of the theology on justification.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada defines its doctrinal basis as such: “We derive our teachings from the Holy Scriptures and confess the three ecumenical creeds of the Christian church. We hold to orthodox catholic theology as enunciated in the ecumenical councils of the first five centuries of Christianity.” Some small “Evangelical Catholic” church bodies include the Evangelical Catholic Church, Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, Lutheran Church-International and the Lutheran Episcopal Communion. The Nordic Catholic Church in Norway has roots in High Church Lutheranism.