The synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has discussed ecumenical perspectives on the legacy of Martin Luther and the Reformation he set in motion.
The image of Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg "is a powerful symbol for an entire historical process,” said the Rev Dr Walter Altmann. He said this “process is a theological rediscovery of God's amazing grace, which is to be received in faith for our salvation.”
Altmann, a Brazilian Lutheran pastor and moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, was speaking at the synod on 5 November 2012 in Timmendorfer Strand, Germany.
Altmann was referring to the Theses written in 1517 by Luther, a pivotal figure of the Protestant Reformation in Europe.
Speaking about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Altmann noted that the celebrations might be more robust in Germany but the global Christian community accompanies their agenda, with similar interest and a spiritual communion.
Altmann also shared Protestant perspectives derived from the 500 years of reformation, which he said responds to diaconal and spiritual challenges.
He stressed the importance of the “quest for unity amid growing competitiveness and religious fragmentation, as well as the need for affirmation of evangelical freedom faced with systems and mechanisms of exclusion.”
“Service to others in need is a response of gratitude to God's free gift,” he said.
Altmann also made a reference to the report presented by the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC General Secretary, at a recent Central Committee meeting in Greece.
He said, in the context of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, that Dr Tveit reminds us “what we should celebrate together is the renewal and the re-discovery of the gospel. We should celebrate that the ecumenical movement and dialogues have helped us to see this as a treasure for all of us, regardless of which church tradition or identity we might have.”
Altmann pointed out that the WCC will reach another milestone in contributing to the theme of “renewal” by considering the possibility of convening a World Conference of the Commission on Faith and Order.
“Renewal is a practical necessity, an experience and a reality. It is also a fertile ground for theological reflection, deeply linked to mission and ecclesiology,” Altmann concluded.
The session addressed by Altmann also included a speech from the German chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Reformation is recognised as setting in chain valuable currents of Christian freedom, but it also led to religious conflict, the persecution of Anabaptists and strains of anti-Judaism that cast dark shadows in later European history.