1. The breakdown of denominational identity is a terrible ecumenical occurrence and further inhibits the visible unity of the church. For all their flaws, denominations offer structural and institutional forms which can facilitate ecumenical dialogues. As to date there is no other protestant proposal that could fulfill this function better. The multiplication of non-denominational evangelical churches only furthers the fracture of the protestant churches and is parasitic on the church’s call to unity and mission.
2. Protestants came from the Roman Catholic church. As such their primary ecumenical responsibility is to the Roman church. Aside from very specific issues of theological conviction and conscience, protestant Christians have no business converting to Eastern Orthodoxy in order to be rejoined to the historical apostolic churches. We are part of a very specific division in the body of Christ and we must be faithful to address that division. Bypassing the necessary struggle with Rome by fleeing to Constantinople does not further the cause of Christian unity. The same could be said of the recent evangelical trend toward Anglicanism.
3. Protestant churches and Christians who remain separated from Rome must have a clear theological articulation why they must persist in their separation for the sake of the gospel. For all protestants we must have specific theological conditions in mind which, if met would mean that we must return to the Roman Catholic church. Given the diversity of protestantism, there is no reason to assume that these reasons would be uniform, but regardless, it is incumbent on all protestants to be able to give an honest articulation about why faithfulness to the gospel requires their ongoing separation from Rome.
4. Protestants who believe that there are no conditions under which they could be reunited with the Roman Catholic church have become schismatics and should be treated as such. Schism is sin and protestants must be ever-vigilant against it.
5. That Catholicism continues to deny that protestant churches are truly churches denies the manifest work of the Spirit of Christ and falsely locates the criterion of the church’s ecclesiality in its institutional structure rather than in the grace of God in Christ. It is prima facie false and ecumenically tragic to admit that the Holy Spirit is present in protestant communities which are vehicles of “sanctification and truth” (Lumen Gentium, 8) and yet deny that such communities are churches. As Irenaeus said “where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace”. (Adversus Haereses, 3.24). Protestants must work with all rigor and effort to manifest in the lives of their congregations the presence of the Spirit in his ecclesially-constitutive activity even as Rome continues to deny their proper ecclesial status. We must live in hope that the tree will be known by its fruits.
6. Protestants must continue to immerse themselves in the Great Tradition of the church and the fullness of its history. For the Reformers, the Reformation was an exercise in ressourcement, a return to the patristic and biblical roots of the Christian faith for the sake of faithfulness to the gospel. The ahistoricism of protestants today is unfaithful to the essentially patristic and indeed, catholic intentions of the Reformers. To that end, the protestant church must continually read afresh the patristic witnesses to the faith, not only to help illumine and enrich current church practices and theology, but to aid in discerning ecumenical and ecclesiological reasons for persisting in separation from Rome and what criteria should be held for a full reunion.
7. Similarly, protestants must re-engage the writings of the Reformers themselves in a new and fresh way. Most protestants today are woefully ignorant of Luther’s works, Calvin’s Institutes, and the writings of other key figures in the Reformation. The biblical and patristic vision of these vital theological treatises and texts are essential for protestants today to retain their reformational identity and the essential sense of historical and ecclesial continuity with the church catholic.