An unexpected invitation from the German government

In the year of Reformation celebrations much is centred on Europe and especially Germany. In June, our Principal was invited by the German government to join a ‘Dialogue with Germany’ in Berlin, Eisenach, Erfurt and Wittenberg on the relevance of the Reformation and how it is being celebrated in the land in which it all began.

Dr Thompson was one of a party of 14 people from places as diverse as Estonia and Argentina, Transylvannia and Indonesia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, Russia and Mexico, Kosovo and Guatemala, Latvia, Russia and the People’s Republic of China. The visit was organised around a number of conversations with government leaders, businessmen, church leaders and the German press. “It was a great honour and privilege to be asked to join this group and learn of how Germany was celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation”, he said upon his return. “I am very grateful to the invitation from the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen and the German Foreign Office. It was a wonderful, unexpected delight in the midst of tumultuous year”.

The German Government has spent around 50 million Euros on restoring the cultural heritage of Germany associated with the Reformation. In a land where there is no strict separation of church and state, but a ‘separation in partnership’ where both sides respect the other and seek to give each other the room to fulfil their function in the community, the German Government allowed the Christian churches, especially the Lutheran Church, to direct the religious dimensions of the celebration.

“It was exciting to see what the Government has done to allow Christians from around the world to enjoy visiting the key Reformation sites”, said Dr Thompson. “It is sad, though, that the German churches have fallen far from the gospel that Luther proclaimed so fearlessly. A preoccupation with ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, made more urgent by the contemporary situation in Germany, meant that we heard nothing from the church leaders about the uniqueness of Jesus, the wonder of grace, justification by faith and the forgiveness of sins — the truths for which Luther was willing to risk so much.” Like most of Europe, and including the UK, Germany waits to be re-evangelised. The message of the Reformation has been reduced to an anaemic slogan: ‘freedom and responsibility’.

There are three national exhibitions being held in Germany to commemorate the events of the Reformation: one in Berlin; one in Eisenach, at the Wartburg; and one in Wittenberg. Of these the most impressive was undoubtedly the one in Wittenberg. “It was wonderful to pick up little things I had not known before”, remarked Dr Thompson. “The events come alive when you see Luther’s will in his own handwriting, his annotations of the biblical text in preparation for his lectures, and the places where he walked, worked and enjoyed meals with his Katie and their house guests”.

Moore College is in the middle of its own celebrations of the Reformation anniversary here in Australia. Already a rally has been held, a summit on the doctrine of justification presented world-class papers on the reformation’s central teaching, and a group of students visited the Reformation lands under the care and tutelage of Dr Ed Loane. But there is still more to come.

Public lectures will be held, an exhibition beginning in St Andrews Cathedral but concluding at Moore College will run from August to October, the School of Theology this year will focus on the Reformation and include an important book launch, and a second Reformation Rally are all just around the corner. The celebrations will end on Reformation Day, 31 October, with a public lecture in the presence of the German Consul-General and others. Why not come and join us and enter into the spirit of the celebrations? God did great things through Martin Luther and his associates and the great biblical doctrines they recovered still nourish faith today.

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11 Jul 2017

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