Christians urged to find common agenda for Reformation jubilee

By staff writers
29 Mar 2009
Bishop Margot Kaessmann

The bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover in Germany, Dr Margot Kässmann, has issued a strong plea for a clear emphasis on common Christian witness and service during forthcoming jubilee of the European Reformation.

On 26 March 2009, in one of the main presentations at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) consultation ‘Theology in the Life of Lutheran Churches: Transformative Perspectives and Practices Today,’ the regional bishop insisted that despite their disagreements and their specific identities, the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches have more things in common than things that separate them.

Bishop Kässmann is also well known in the world-wide ecumenical movement and as an inspiration for women in the churches and in theological formation.

“In a secular society, a common witness of Christians is of eminent importance,” Dr Kässmann told consultation participants. The closer the church is in its presentations to the public, the theologian asserted, the better it is listened to as a church.

With regard to the 2017 Reformation jubilee, Bishop Kässmann feels it is extremely important that the event is used as an opportunity for critical reflection. “I am convinced the churches of the Reformation in Germany, as well as Lutheran churches worldwide, are strong enough not to blind out the dark sides of their great founder,” Kässmann explained – a clear reference to the anti-Jewish writings of Martin Luther, which have been renounced by ECLA in the USA and others in the worldwide Lutheran Communion.

“The Bible is the focal point of reference for the Reformation,” the theologian insisted. For this reason, she hoped that a fresh orientation will be sought from the Bible during preparations for the Reformation jubilee . She also hoped that Christians, especially those in Europe, will once again find a common language.

More than 120 theologians from across the globe have been taking part in the consultation ‘Theology in the Life of Lutheran Churches: Transformative Perspectives and Practices Today’ in Augsburg, Germany, from 25 to 31 March 2009 under the auspices of the LWF Department for Theology and Studies in collaboration with Augsburg University's Institute of Protestant Theology.

The Reformation is still a sensitive topic for both Catholics and Protestants in Europe. Many, though not all, of the divisions of belief and practice that occasioned it have been healed. But the historic churches are still separated and many emerging churches are seeking unity and progress on a different basis.

Anabaptists were among the victims of this time of religious and political upheaval. As opponents of a state church, as communitarians and mostly as Christian pacifists, they were viewed as subversive and suppressed by both Protestants and Catholics.

Both Protestant and Catholic church leaderships have sought to repair relationships and acknowledge wrongs in relations with Mennonites and other Anabaptists in recent years.

For their part, the peace churches have been contributing to a renewal of thought about post-Christendom mission in the predominantly secularised but also spiritually diverse northern half of the continent.

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