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Changes Today: Celebrating 500 Years of Protestant Reformation

Changes Today: Celebrating 500 Years of Protestant Reformation Lilly Foundation Funding Grants Insights into Religion News Organ Museum www.AbodeofChaos.org)

"The 500 year milestone brings up questions, "Why is mainline Protestant Christianity on the wane? What are Catholic-Protestant relations like today? Is there still such a thing as the “Protestant work ethic”? How do contemporary Protestants understand Luther’s record of misogyny and public anti-Semitism? And what of the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic reaction to Luther’s critiques? How are the changes that it brought felt in contemporary Catholicism?" [Read more from Religion Link a site for Journalists and Researchers]. 

"On Oct. 31, 1517, a dour-faced Catholic monk named Martin Luther posted a long list of grievances – 95 in all – to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. The world shifted on its axis and has never been the same since; scholars trace the development of capitalism, the rise of public education, the cult of the individual and many more aspects of the contemporary world to the ideas born in the Protestant Reformation. In terms of religion, the Reformation led to a married clergy, an emphasis on family over celibacy, the notion of divorce and, most importantly, the idea of “sola scriptura” – the idea that the Scriptures are infallible and the sole authority on spiritual matters. This October, millions the world over will mark the 500th anniversary of what came to be called the Protestant Reformation with worship, music, festivals, gatherings, conferences, books and more." [Read more from Religion Link a site for Journalists and Researchers].

"The 500 year milestone brings up questions, "Why is mainline Protestant Christianity on the wane? What are Catholic-Protestant relations like today? Is there still such a thing as the “Protestant work ethic”? How do contemporary Protestants understand Luther’s record of misogyny and public anti-Semitism? And what of the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic reaction to Luther’s critiques? How are the changes that it brought felt in contemporary Catholicism?" [Read more from Religion Link a site for Journalists and Researchers].

As we celebrate reformation in the last 500 years, many authors are describing the similarities between religion, societies, and governments today and those in the past 500 years. There is a sense of urgency for awareness of the crisis we face today and how we can learn from history and go forward in a more positive and successful way. Here are resources for learning, change, and life on the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.


Academy Of Preaching And Celebration Celebrates Martin Luther King and Protestant Reformation

Frank A. Thomas is a keynote speaker at the 18th Believers’ Church Conference, September 14-17, 2017 at Goshen College, Indiana. "This conference seeks to explore the gifts and tensions of the Reformation legacy for the Believers’ Church tradition, with a view toward its ecumenical and global dimensions. The gathering will focus especially on the debates that have swirled around the themes of Biblical authority, the movement of the Spirit, and the renewal of the church."

"The Believers' Church tradition: In the fall of 1517 Martin Luther’s challenge to the authority of the papacy and church tradition—along with his appeal to Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)—inspired various reformers to read scripture and to understand the liberating power of the Holy Spirit in new ways. But what started as a renewal movement within the Catholic Church soon led to a host of divisions, giving rise to Protestant, Anabaptist, and other traditions, including those groups known as the Believers’ Church. Among the latter, the deep debts to the renewal impulses of late medieval Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation are unmistakable. In the 500 years since then, the church—including the Believers’ Church movement—has further expanded globally in a great diversity of forms."

Frank Thomas, Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller are leading panel discussion. Thomas, Professor of Homiletics and Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration at Christian Theological Seminary (Indianapolis, IN) is an ordained minister and renowned teacher of preachers. CEO of Hope For Life International (former publisher of The African American Pulpit), Thomas is a member of the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College. He also serves as a member of the International Board of Societas Homiletica, an international society of teachers. A revised and expanded version of his classic text on homiletics, They Like to Never Quit Praisin’ God: The Role of Celebration in Preaching came out in 2013.

Other keynote speakers at the 18th Believers' Church Conference include, Miroslav Volf, Joel A. Carpenter, and Nancy Bedford. [Register here for the 18th Believers' Church Conference]


African American Lectionary Developing Healing Prayers

Based on the early Christian Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation, the African American Lectionary has developed a healing service.

"Services of healing are not a new phenomenon. Such services evolved from the early Christian Church where, for example, it was customary for the elders of the Church to lay hands on the sick and anoint them with oil (James 5:14). In the Roman Catholic Church, the anointing of the sick is one of seven sacraments observed by the church. In the sixteenth century, during Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation and John Calvin’s development of the Reformed Tradition, new theological perspectives were developed. Yet, the belief in prayer and healing remained for all Christians." [More Resources on Healing prayer]

Making comparisions between Martin Luther King and the Reformation Leader for whom he is named, Anthony B. Pinn, Lectionary Team Cultural Resource Commentator described King's birth and naming. "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 to Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. He and his father were actually named Michael Luther, but changed their names in honor of the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther." [More on Martin Luther King].


Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) on Catholic and Lutherian Statistics and Pope Francis

"Catholics and Lutherans together - if it’s OK to say it like that -  make up two-thirds of South Dakota’s religious adherents, according to a survey done by the Association of Religion Data Archives, collected by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. In 2010, 58 percent of South Dakotans - 476,832 of the total population of 814,180 - were identified as “adherents” of a religious body, according to ARDA.  Lutherans of several sorts, but mostly in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, made up 35 percent of adherents, and Catholics made up 31 percent.

On Oct 31, 2016, Pope Francis and the leaders of the Lutheran World Federation presided over an ecumenical prayer service in the Lund cathedral, the first time a pope has commemorated the anniversary of Martin Luther's revolt with such a symbolically powerful gesture. Francis quoted Luther and praised him for having restored the centrality of Scripture to the church. "The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God, we can do nothing," Francis said. [More on how the Pope is commemorating Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation]

For a Timeline of Religious History and the Impact of Protestantism in America see the ARDA's Prominent Religious Events and People in American History

The ARDA also has an index of Mainline Protestant Denominations. There is also specific membership numbers and data on many religious groups including, The Reformed Church in America, the oldest continuously existing Protestant church in the United States, perpetuates the religious life of the Dutch Reformed settlement of New Amsterdam (New York) in the seventeenth century.

The Association of Religion Data Archives counts 26,344,933 members of mainline churches versus 39,930,869 members of evangelical Protestant churches. There is evidence that there has been a shift in membership from mainline denominations to evangelical churches.[More on American Protestant Communities].


Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) Scholars Draw Comparisons Between Protestant Reformation and Today's Changes

The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada highlights the research of many theological scholars. Some scholars are focusing on the role of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Church on today's theological students and the world in general.

Euan K. Cameron, Union Theological Seminary author of The Biblical View of World History 1250-1750: Rise, Refinement, and Decline. Careron's project will "explore the role played by the Protestant Reformation and Catholic reform in fostering debate about history, as a means to authenticate the claims of the rival religious confessions between c. 1520 and c. 1700." 

Nick Carter, Andover Newton Theological School notes the effects of the Protestant Reformation in Adaptive Leadership: Planning in a Time of Transition. "Many of our mission statements say that we exist to serve the church. What church is that? Does that church even exist? And if it does, are we confident that we are training leaders for that church? How do we articulate our assumptions about a church that is experiencing the greatest amount of change since the Reformation?"

Glenn T. Miller, Bangor Theological Seminary Does A Secular Age Need the Seminary? Considerations on Alternative Forms of Ministerial Preparation. Miller describes theological education today and through history. "Classically, the Reformed and Lutheran churches believed that every church should have a theologically educated pastor. The quest for a learned ministry has been one of the constants in the history of the reformation churches. The pastor, decked out in academic robes and often hooded, was almost as much a mark of these churches as the rabbi with his reading desk and pen was of Judaism." 


Economics of Reformation at Auburn Theological Seminary: Center for the Study of Theological Education

Auburn professor, Robert B. Ekelund, Jr along with Robert F. Hébert and Robert D. Tollison contributed to the discussion of the Protestant Reformation with an article entitled, An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation in the Journal of Political Economy Vol. 110, No. 3 (June 2002), pp. 646-671 [Read Article]

"This paper seeks to explain the initial successes and failures of Protestantism on economic grounds. It argues that the medieval Roman Catholic Church, through doctrinal manipulation, the exclusion of rivals, and various forms of price discriminatory, ultimately placed members seeking the Z good "spiritual services" on the margin of defection. These monopolistic practices encouraged entry by rival firms, some of which were aligned with civil movements. The paper hypothesizes that Protestant entry was facilitated in emergent entrepreneurial societies characterized by the decline of feudalism and relatively unstable distribution of wealth and repressed in more homogeneous, rent-seeking societies that were mostly dissipating rather than creating wealth. In these societies, the Roman Church was more able to continue the practice of price discrimination."


Sermon Planning at Calvin Institute Of Christian Worship

Worship Resources for the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Resources include sermon planning ideas and shaping a Reformation Commemoration Prayer or worship service [Listen Online].

Our 95 Theses: Hispanic Perspectives on the Protestant Reformation.  After beginning in Wittenberg, the Protestant Reformation surged among marginalized and exiled people. A new book by Latino and Latina Protestants, Catholics and Pentecostals explores that legacy. [Read More].


Resources From The Center for Excellence in Preaching (CEP)

In 2016, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, the home of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) and the Center for Excellence in Preaching (CEP) hosted the Worship Symposium 2016. Several of the speakers focused on the power and impact of the Reformation.

Robert J. Batastini, Peter Choi, Karin Maag, David McNutt, Mark Noll, Lisa Weaver, and Joyce Ann Zimmerman, moderated John D. Witvliet discussed Preparing to Remember the Reformation "In 2017, churches around the world, both Protestant and Catholic, will mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. How we mark this milestone will say as much about us, and our own sense of identity, as it does about the events of five centuries ago. Indeed, the history of past milestone anniversaries (100, 200, 300, and 400 years ago) reveals stunningly different ways of remembering this history—and some crucial lessons about what to avoid this time around. Come for a fast-paced tour of histories of the Reformation and vigorous discussion by both Protestant and Catholic leaders about how we can do our remembering in profoundly sanctifying ways." 

The conference itself focused on learning and how to bring that learning back to community. "As we worship and learn together, we invite you to notice, savor, and share key phrases that point to important trajectories of learning for all of us—phrases like: universal design, traditional innovation, Trinitarian prayer, radical hospitality, intercultural learning, global Christianity, winsome orthodoxy, baptismal spirituality, cruciform beauty, Eucharistic way of life, disciplined creativity and more... These pithy phrases point to essential wisdom for living as faithful disciples of Jesus, provided that we take the time to explore their meaning together. Each phrase has potential as a hashtag—and even more as a way of life. Perhaps we can make them contagious on social media during our time together, and then weave them into our life in congregations and communities back home."

In his talk, How Can Art Bring About Such a Great Thing? David McNutt considered how the Reformation informs the church’s corporate worship today. "Questions surrounding the theology and practice of the church’s sacraments—including their number, their nature, and their function—were among the most hotly contested issues during the Reformation. Likewise, the category of sacrament has been appealed to in recent considerations of the arts and their place in the life of the church. In this session, participants will consider what we can learn from the sacramental life of the Reformation church and how that can inform our understanding of the potential role of the arts in its worship today.

Other speakers included, Karin Maag director of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies and professor of history at Calvin College. She is the author, editor, and translator of numerous books and articles in Reformation studies, including Politics, Gender, and Belief: The Long-Term Impact of the Reformation (Droz, 2014) and Lifting Hearts to the Lord: Worship with John Calvin in Sixteenth-Century Geneva (Eerdmans, 2015).

Mark Noll who is on the history faculty of the University of Notre Dame spoke. He is the co-author of Is The Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism (Baker, 2005) and Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2011).


Christian Classics Ethereal Library

On a biography page for Martin Luther, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library has several quotes from the Protestant Reformer as well as his books available for free download and reading.

“I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution that does not unceasingly pursue the study of Gods word becomes corrupt. Because of this we can see what kind of people they become in the universities and what they are like now. Nobody is to blame for this except the pope, the bishops, and the prelates, who are all charged with training young people. The universities only ought to turn out men who are experts in the Holy Scriptures, men who can become bishops and priests, and stand in the front line against heretics, the devil, and all the world. But where do you find that? I greatly fear that the universities, unless they teach the Holy Scriptures diligently and impress them on the young students, are wide gates to hell.” - Martin Luther

“If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there.” - Martin Luther

“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.” - Martin Luther


Faith & Leadership Parallels in Technology Today and the last 500 Years

"The Protestant Reformation spread quickly because of the concurrent invention of the printing press, technology enabling the dissemination of Luther’s writings. The mainline denominations have traditionally lagged behind other workers in the Lord’s vineyard in understanding the power of newfangled gadgets. It was the Pentecostal Aimee Semple McPherson who grasped the potential of radio back in the 1920’s, not the leadership of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They assumed printing presses were still state of the art," said Ed Moore in a Faith & Leadership article. [Read Article].

Describing the best antidote to anxiety as adventurous leadership, Michael Jinkins lists some of the anxiety producing conditions of today as they parallel the times of the Protestant Reformation:

• The structures that shape society show stress fractures from top to bottom.

• Institutions long taken for granted suddenly are subject to renegotiation.

• Even the meanings enshrined in basic social frameworks of mutual obligation governing families, marriages, religions and morality, are up for grabs.

• Hallowed assumptions about the most basic of loyalties and allegiances, what it means to be a citizen, is subject to the most radical new questions.

• Innovative technologies are leading to an explosion of previously unimagined information sources, unsettling long-established spheres of authority.

• Reports of violence multiply around the globe.

• Militant Islamic forces are perceived as threatening Western culture.

• “Common ground” has become a contested notion as society orients itself increasingly into opposing political, religious and ideological camps.

• It is a time of unprecedented anxiety."

We do indeed live in a time of anxiety. But it is not unprecedented anxiety. Most every age believes its time is the most difficult in history." [Read more]


Printing Press, Publications, and Social Media at the Discipleship Project

Kathryn Reklis at the Discipleship Project describes similarities and the impact on reformation of the printing press, newspapers, and now social media. "Like the Protestant Reformation, these revivals were made possible by new media technologies, especially the proliferation of print. The invention of the printing press gave lay people access to the Bible, creating the conditions under which the Protestant Reformation could take root and flourish. It would have been impossible to imagine the slogan sola sciptura (scripture alone as a rule of faith) until you could insist that everyone read the Bible for him or herself. Likewise in the eighteenth century, there was another explosion of print technology—regular periodicals, newspapers, and coffeehouse journals—coupled with advances in transportation marking the beginning of early global trade routes, that created the conditions to share news of revivals among the colonies and across the Atlantic which made possible a narrative of “world-wide” revival." [Read article].


Center for Congregations

Congregational Resource Guide has a number of Protestant Reformation Anniversary resources including a video about Katie Luther.

Katie Luther: The Morning Star of Wittenberg looks at the life of the woman Katie Luther, ex nun who married Martin Luther and the woman who helped 16th century reformer Martin Luther change the course of history.  [Watch Video].


Forum For Theological Exploration (FTE)

The FTE describes, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, as a most readable and great biography about the man who spearheaded the Protestant Reformation.



The Hymnary.org features hymns written by Martin Luther, including Away in a Manger, No Crib for a Bed.


Krista Tippett On Being

Celebrating the Protestant Reformation anniversary, Krista Tippett On Being features, How the Wisdom of Millennial Nones Can Revitalize the Christian Church by Elizabeth Welliver @Elivelliver) "In the year of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, churches in the United States are closing before new theses can be posted on their doors. Many within the mainline Protestant church are mourning the foreseen death of the institution that has given shape to their sense of common life, a grounding center in our pluralistic democracy, for generations." [Read Article]


Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs

The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program recognizing that ministers’ families are subject to the stress and demands placed on pastoral leaders, the grant program encourages pastors to involve their families in renewal activities. Congregational needs during the minister’s renewal experience also are considered. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to support interim pastoral leadership during the pastor’s retreat, as well as renewal activities within the congregation. Since the National Clergy Renewal Program’s inception, more than 2,300 congregations have participated in the program.

One Pastor and his family studied the Protestant Reformation during his sabbatical. Dr. McConnell and his wife Jennifer and their four children embarked upon an adventure titled “Ecumenical Explorations” where they attended worship services at Christian churches from various denominational backgrounds. They also spent a month in Europe exploring the roots of the Protestant Reformation during the commemoration of its 500th anniversary. This excursion took them Prague, Czech Republic, multiple cities in Germany, and London and Salisbury, England. Additionally, they planned a New England Spiritual Heritage Tour, where they visited Plymouth Plantation, Harvard University, Yale University, Salem Witch Museum, and many religious historical sites in and around Boston, MA.

"The Lilly Endowment intends for this program to enable pastors to live for a while at a different pace and in a new environment, in Sabbath time and space,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s Vice President for Religion. “…We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families, and their congregations.” [Read More].


Louisville Institute

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary launched a celebration of Theological Libraries Month, a time set aside by the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) to highlight the vital role libraries play in theological education. One of the books displayed is a bannded book of antiquity, a rare copy of Calvin’s commentary on some of the epistles (Commentaires de M. Iehan Calvin sur toutes les Epistres delApostre sainct Paul, & aussi sur l’epistre aux Hebrieux : ite sur les Epistres canoniques de S. Pierre, sainct Iehan, sainct Iaques, & sainct Iude, lesquelles sont aussi appelees catholiques), published in Geneva in 1560. Morris explains that a note laid into the book indicates that the copy “was buried in the ground until Des Voignes family of Huguenots fled France.”

“In 1548, France had attempted to halt the spread of the Protestant Reformation by banning all books printed in Geneva. This copy probably came by way of traveling peddlers known as colporteurs, itinerant preachers, or underground booksellers, who brought a constant flow of Reformed texts into France. Before this copy was buried in the ground, it was probably smuggled into France by being hidden under a layer of shoes or other goods in a crate and barrel whose real purpose was to get the books from Geneva where it was printed and into the hands of French Protestants,” said Morris.


Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (PBS)

"Faith communities across the country are offering their houses of worship as places of sanctuary for undocumented immigrants; and it was Martin Luther, a stubborn monk and towering thinker, whose own spiritual crisis began a momentous religious revolution in 1517." [Watch Video]

"The Reformation divided the Western church and transformed millions of people’s understanding of their relationship with God. Correspondent Kim Lawton traveled to Germany to report on how the anniversary is being commemorated there and how its legacy is understood by scholars and theologians, both Catholic and Protestant." [Watch Video]


Religion News Service

Religion News Service recently carried the story, On the Reformation’s 500th Anniversary, Remembering Martin Luther’s Contribution to Literacy.

"The 95 theses critiqued the church’s sale of indulgences, which Luther regarded as a form of corruption. By Luther’s time, indulgences had evolved into payments that were said to reduce punishment for sins. Luther believed that such practices only interfered with genuine repentance and discouraged people from giving to the poor. One of Luther’s most important theological contributions was the “priesthood of all believers,” which implied that clerics possessed no more dignity than ordinary people. Less known is the crucial role Luther played in making the case for ordinary people to read often and well. Unlike the papacy and its defenders, who were producing their writings in Latin, Luther reached out to Germans in their mother tongue, substantially enhancing the accessibility of his written ideas."

Another article, Reformed churches endorse Catholic-Lutheran accord on key Reformation dispute noted, "amid ceremonies this year marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, one of Protestantism’s leading branches has officially said it now agrees with the Vatican on the main issue at the root of its split from the Roman Catholic Church half a millennium ago. The World Communion of Reformed Churches, holding its once-in-seven-years worldwide General Council in Germany, signed a declaration this week endorsing the 1999 Catholic-Lutheran agreement on how Christians might be worthy of salvation in the eyes of God. The ceremony took place in Wittenberg, where in 1517 Martin Luther unveiled the 95 Theses that launched the Reformation and with it centuries of dispute about whether eternal salvation comes from faith alone — the position of the new Protestant movement — or if it also requires good works on Earth as Catholics argued." [Read article].


Religion Newswriters Association and Foundation

From a Religion News Association article, "Protestants throughout the world will celebrate a monumental event on Oct. 31, 2017: the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The question remains, though: Will Protestants and Catholic ever be unified? Catholics and Protestants have different beliefs on many key topics, including the office and authority of the pope, sufficiency and authority of Scripture, the Eucharist and the veneration of the saints and Mary, among others. Widely read Christian author and philosopher Dr. Peter Kreeft addresses the aforementioned differences (and more) in his new book, Catholics and Protestants: What We Can Learn From Each Other.

“Peter Kreeft, one of our finest Christian writers today, has given us a passionate plea for Christian unity, one that builds upon the great common core of Christian belief confessed by faithful Protestants and Catholics alike,” said Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University."


Reinventing at Resources For American Christianity

While considering the past, Resources For American Christianity hosts articles like, The Believable Futures of American Protestantism that look at changes of today in the context of the Protestant Reformation.

Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the New Millennium draws on "several years of research, Donald E. Miller examines three types of churches that he labels as “new paradigm churches”; Calvary Chapel, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Hope Chapel. Miller notes that these churches, in particular, are postdenominational churches that are reinventing the way Christianity is experienced and attracting large numbers of people who have felt alienated from institutional religion. These churches, according to Miller, attempt to reconnect with the message of first-century Christians by using the medium of twentieth-century America. Miller argues that these types of churches are involved in a second Reformation, one that seeks to challenge the bureaucracy and the rigidity of mainstream Christian worship. He suggests that the churches that thrive in the future will reconnect people to the sacred by redefining institutional forms currently associated with denominational Christianity."


Hartford Institute For Religion Research: Reformations Effect on Modern Day German and French Politics

In, Religion, State and Society in Germany and France, Jean-Paul Willaime, Research Director, Department of Religious Studies of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sorbonne, PARIS, Director of the Group of the Sociology of Religion and Laicity (EPHE/CNRS, PARIS) discusses the effects of the Protestant Reformation and the French Political Revolution on current politics, church and state in France and Germany. [Read article].





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