The Protestant Reformation at 500: Celebration and reflection

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. This edition of ReligionLink aims to assist reporters in pulling out the deeper threads under the bright tapestry of the celebration. 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?

Resources

Religious 

  • ELCA500 is a website run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with a listing of events, resources for congregations, news and more. The site also lists members of the board and staff, who are scattered across the U.S.
  • “From Conflict to Communion – Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017” is a Vatican-produced document outlining the common ground between Lutherans and Catholics 500 years after the Reformation.
  • Luther500 Festival is a weeklong pilgrimage to Wittenberg, taking place at three different times in 2017 and aimed at families and individuals, not scholars or clergy.
  • Reformation 500 is an online resource from Concordia Seminary that includes a detailed timeline of Luther’s life and other resources that explore the impact Luther and Protestantism has had on religion, politics and society.
  • Reformation 500th Anniversary is a website maintained by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod with events and resources for its U.S. congregations. One section, titled “Luther and the Jews,” apologizes for anti-Semitic statements Luther made.
  • Reformation 2017 is a website maintained by the Lutheran World Federation, a relief agency based in Geneva, Switzerland, with a page of resources and events for Lutheran churches that support its work.

Secular

  • Luther 2017 is a site maintained by the German National Tourist Board. It tracks Luther-related events, concerts and exhibits and also lists stories, essays and reviews related to the 500th anniversary.
  • Lutherstadt Wittenberg focuses on Luther’s time in Wittenberg. It is a project of Luther 2017.

Conferences

Background

On Martin Luther

On the Reformation

On the legacy of Luther and the Reformation

  • Read “Martin Luther in North America,” a November 2016 article by Mark A. Granquist posted on Oxford Research Encyclopedias’ website. The takeaway: American scholars, both Protestant and Catholic, are making significant contributions to the study of Luther, Lutheranism and the Reformation.
  • Read “Is the Protestant Work Ethic Real?” by Joshua Keating for Slate, Aug. 29, 2013. The takeaway: The story susses out several studies that attempt to examine the impact of the Protestant work ethic on different economies.

 

International sources

National sources

  • Robert Moore

    Rev. Robert Moore is the “Restoration Ambassador” for “Luther in Leipzig,” the city of Leipzig, Germany’s official Restoration celebration. He is charged with raising the profile of the Restoration and its commemoration in the U.S. He is an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor based in Houston, Texas.

  • Sujin Pak

    Sujin Pak is an assistant professor of the history of Christianity at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C. where she specializes in the Protestant Reformation, women and the Reformation and Jews and the Reformation.

  • Carl R. Trueman

    Carl R. Trueman is a professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pa. He teaches a course on the Reformation, which is available online, and is the author of  The Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Contact via the seminary’s main telephone number or an online email form.

    Contact: 215-887-5511.