Anglican and Lutheran views on Forgiveness of Sins

I am trying to understand both the Lutheran and Anglican perspectives on Matt. 18:18, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

What in your theology is the Power of the Keys?

Is the Visible Church necessary for the Forgiveness of Sins?

What about the role of both Public and Private confession, as well as absolution?

Is it essential to confess your sins, at least publicly, to obtain reconciliation?

Is the Visible Church the sole dispenser of salvation?


I’m an Anglican/Episcopalian, but keep in mind that Anglicans are a diverse lot, however, I will be broad in my answer:

I’m taking “private confession” to mean confessing to a priest and I’m taking “public confession” to mean “general confession.” I wanted to make that clear, so my post will make sense.

Anglicans believe that both public and private confession has a role in the church. That said, you will generally only find private confession in high-church or Anglo-Catholic Anglican parishes. That being the case, most Anglican priests will hear private confession if one asks. We have a saying in the Anglican Church about confession: “all may, some should, none must.” It seems to work for us. Also, public confession and general absolution is done almost every Sunday in an Anglican Church.

Most Anglicans tend to believe that confessing your sins directly to God is sufficient.

You asked “Is the Visible Church the sole dispenser of salvation?” I’m not sure I completely understand the question, so I will leave this unanswered for now.

Very good answers so far! Thanks!

Now, let me post this question to both denominations: imagine that a person is baptized but then decides not to join any church; he says that he will “fellowship by himself”. Now, let us imagine that this man commits a very serious sin (say adultery or some other mortal sin): he does privately repent and confess his sin to God, but still refuses to attend Church, maintaining that private confession is all that is needed. And then this man dies, baptized and not in a state of sin, but having never taken Communion and never received absolution from the Church.

What happens to this man after death?

Ultimately, we would leave that to the mercy of God in Christ. However, such a person should not publicly be recognized as a Christian because they are in rebellion against God’s word. Their attitude should be confronted by the Law of God until they repent of excluding themselves from the church. They should be warned that as they wish to be separate from the church militant, in death they will be separate from the church triumphant.

So, when the Pastor pronounces Absolution, is he merely comforting and strengthening his brothers and sisters in Christ like any other Christian might do, or does he in some manner grant the forgiveness of sins, through Christ? Is Absolution something that any Christian can factually give to a repentant sinner, or is it something that only one in the office of the priesthood can give?

Yes, it actually grants it in the same manner that Baptism and the Eucharist grants it. The second part of the question would be that it is not that any Christian “can’t” give absolution as if they lack a supernatural ability. Rather, they cannot because they are not called by the church to do so. The office the keys belongs to the church and is given to those called by the church. It doesn’t belong to Christians individually.

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