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500 Years of Evangelical Reformation, 1517-2017
2016 ELCA Churchwide Summary
500 Years of Evangelical Reformation, 1517-2017

When Martin Luther posted his “Ninety-five Theses” on the church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, no one expected the breadth of evangelical reforms in Christian teaching and practice that followed. In every dimension of Christian faith a renewed trust in God’s forgiving mercy replaced a reliance on teachings and practices that, like the sale of indulgences, were vulnerable to abuse and corruption.

Preaching a few years later, Luther said, “I opposed indulgences ... but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. I did nothing; the Word did everything.” When he began to propose reforms in worship, he wrote similar words. “This is the sum of the matter: let everything be done so that the Word may have free course.”

Nearly 500 years later, the results of this evangelical confidence in God’s forgiving and liberating Word are evident today in Christian communities of all types. In the years leading to 2017 ELCA members, congregations and synods will observe the anniversary of this evangelical reformation in a variety of ways with numerous partners.

Pope Francis and Bishop Mounib Younan sign the Joint Statement in Lund's Cathedral - AP
Launching the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017, a joint Lutheran-Catholic commemoration took place in Lund and Malmö, Sweden, on Oct. 31, 2016.

The Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) hosted the event, highlighting solid ecumenical developments and the joint gifts received through dialogue.

Pope Francis, The Lutheran World Federation President Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan and its general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, led the Common Prayer service in Lund and the event in Malmö in cooperation with leaders from the Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.

This historic event brought together Lutherans and Catholics from around the world to commemorate the Reformation and look to the future.

Pictured here are Pope Francis and Bishop Mounib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation signing a Joint Statement in which Catholics and Lutherans pledged to pursue their dialogue in order to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder them from reaching full unity. They also stressed their commitment to common witness on behalf of the poor, the needy and the victims of injustice. The Declaration was signed during the ecumenical prayer service held in Lund’s Lutheran Cathedral.

View both the liturgy from Lund Cathedral and the Malmö Arena event, Together in Hope, by clicking here.

Other Resources:
>> "Declaration on the Way," a unique ecumenical document on unity between Catholics and Lutherans
>> "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification," jointly signed in 1999 by Lutherans and Catholics