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?
- 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.
- 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.
- Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality is in the midst of a months-long Reformation Commemoration that involves multiple countries. The final celebration will be in Massachusetts.
- Andrews University, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Berrien Springs, Mich., will hold a Luther conference Oct. 31-Nov. 3.
- Billion Soul Network will host Wittenberg 2017 Congress Oct. 30-Nov. 1 in Wittenberg.
- Luther Seminary will hold a Reformation Festival Oct 27-28 on its campus in St. Paul, Minn.
- The Catholic University of America held a conference titled “Luther and the Shaping of the Catholic Tradition” May 30-June 1. A list of speakers can be found here.
- The Gospel Coalition, a network of Reformed Christian churches, held a conference, “No Other Gospel: Reformation 500 and Beyond,” in April. Some of the presentations and talks are available on YouTube.
- The European Bible Training Center and the Master’s Academy International hosted Reformationskonferenz in Wittenberg in May. A livestream is available on the website.
On Martin Luther
- Christianity Today maintains a biographical page on Martin Luther.
- PBS maintains a website about Martin Luther tied to its series Martin Luther: The Reluctant Revolutionary. Its Frontline series has a page dedicated to Luther and apocalypticism.
- Luther wrote “On the Jews and their Lies,” a 1543 treatise. It has been problematic to Jewish-Christian relations ever since. It can be read in full here.
- Read “Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitic Legacy – 500 Years Later” by Marilyn Cooper, writing for Moment Magazine, April 28, 2017.
- Read “Luther’s Living Legacy,” an undated interview with Martin Marty that appeared in Christian History magazine.
On the Reformation
- Cameron Addis, an Austin Community College history professor, has a lengthy overview of the Protestant Reformation, including its transfer to America.
- Read “How the Pilgrims and Reformation Formed America” by Paul Strand for the Christian Broadcasting Network, Nov. 23, 2014. The takeaway: America would not be great without the Pilgrims’ steadfast faith.
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.
Bridget M. Heal is a professor of history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She is an expert on the Protestant Reformation and art and is the author of A Magnificent Faith: Art and Identity in Lutheran Germany. She is also an expert on witchcraft and witch trials and on the Virgin Mary in early modern Germany.
Thomas Kaufmann is a professor of church history at the University of Göttingen in Göttingen, Germany. He is chairman of the Association for the History of the Reformation and is the author of multiple books and articles about the Reformation.
Diarmaid MacCulloch is a professor of the history of the church at St. Cross College at Oxford University in Oxford, England. He is the author of The Reformation: A History.
The Rev. Fidon Mwonbeki is director of the department of mission and development for the Lutheran World Federation in Tanzania. He was part of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Committee on Unity, which produced the document “From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017.”
Friederike Nüssel is director of the Ecumenical Institute at the University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany. She is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria. In addition to courses on Protestantism, she teaches a course on modern atheism. She was a member of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, which produced the Vatican document “From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017.”
Lyndal Roper is a professor of history at Oriel College at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She is an expert on German religious history, especially Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, and the history of witchcraft. She is the author of Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet.
Alec Ryrie is a professor in the department of theology and religion at Durham University in Durham, England. He is the author of Protestants: The Faith that Made the Modern World.
Wanda Deifelt is a professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. She was a member of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity that produced the Vatican document “From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017.” She is originally from Brazil and represented that country on the commission.
Martin Marty, retired professor of religion at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, is the author of Education, Religion and the Common Good: Advancing a Distinctly American Conversation About Religion’s Role in Our Shared Life.
Marty has written widely about Protestantism and the Reformation and is the author, most recently, of October 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the Day That Changed the World.
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 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 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.