Thought for the Month (August 2017)
This year marks the 500th anniversary since Martin Luther, Doctor of Theology, challenged the contemporary Church's indulgence practices by setting out his thoughts in 95 Theses touching on questions of grace, repentance and forgiveness. Although these built upon other theologians' thoughts, both Luther's contemporaries and previously, it was this act on 31st October 1517 that many consider started the Protestant Reformation (whether he actually nailed his thoughts to the door of his church we may never really know; it is highly unlikely but makes a good image!).
There were many other steps along the way in the Reformation, with many new denominations emerging over the years as divisions of theology and doctrine became exposed, but the World Council of Churches are using the anniversary of this event not to highlight the differences in denominations but the strength of unity and togetherness. In Britain, there will be a special service of Unity in October in Westminster Abbey to celebrate both the diversity and the closeness of fellowship of Churches within the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
Churches in England are urged to keep this anniversary together in the spirit of five 'R's: -
– because of the joy in the gospel which we share, and because what we have in common is greater than that which divides; and that God is patient with our divisions, that we are coming back together and can learn from each other.
– because all three streams of the Reformation have their witnesses and one church's celebration could be another's painful memory; and yet all believed they acted in the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ for their time.
– because the Church needs always to grow closer to Christ, and therefore closer to all who proclaim him Lord, and it is by the mutual witness of faith that we will approach the unity for which Christ prayed for his followers.
– because the splintering of our unity led us to formulate stereotypes and prejudices about each other's traditions which have too often diverted our attention from our calling as witnesses together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.
– because the call to oneness in Christ begins from the perspective of unity not division, strengthening what is held in common, even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.
Whilst we may not be able to all go to the service at Westminster Abbey we can all play our part in acting upon the "5 Rs"!
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10: 15b (NRSVA)
Rev. Helen Warmington
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