Ecumenical News International

Steering Committee issues theological message for the Reformation anniversary

March 31, 2016

Wittenberg (epd). In a short theological message, the steering committee for the 500th Reformation anniversary has summarised what will be celebrated next year, and how this will happen. It states that the Reformation heritage is a "force for freedom and reconciliation" and "substantially contributes to social cohesion, the European integration process and 'just peace' in the world". The document was issued by the Reformation anniversary 2017 association in Wittenberg. Furthermore, "the churches shaped by this heritage" want to engage in dialogue with all those "taking responsibility for the future".

In compact form (one page), the authors summarize the history and relevance the Reformation, and list the main events planned for 2017 - in Germany and many European countries - to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of his 95 Theses.

Freedom and conscience

The message states that Luther (1483-1546) again made the Bible the spiritual yardstick and "Christ the centre of life and hope". Under the heading "Guilt and opportunities" the authors contrast Luther's revolutionary concept of freedom and his appeal to personal conscience with negative results of the Reformation such as uncompromising confessionalism, anti-Judaism, fanaticism and an "incipient over-emphasis on the individual".

The invitation to events in 2017 prioritizes ecumenism. Through concentrating on Jesus Christ "we can and will celebrate the year 2017 together with our sisters and brothers in other churches as a Festival of Christ". This way of describing the Reformation celebration has arisen in the last few years through the dialogue between Protestants and Catholics.

Reformation anniversary 2017 is a nonprofit association supported by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the German Protestant Kirchentag. It was founded to plan major events marking the 500th Reformation anniversary. A high point will be a service on 28 May 2017 on the banks of the River Elbe near Wittenberg.

The steering committee consists of representatives of the EKD, the Kirchentag, German regional churches, the Council of Christian Churches in Germany, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, the Lutheran World Federation and the Central Committee of German Catholics. Its chair is Gerhard Robbers (SPD), minister of justice in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.



extended search