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Mark, but don't celebrate, Luther: Synod

"We do not celebrate a split within the Catholic Church": Bishop

By Stephen Cauchi

September 8 2017Anglicans have been encouraged to join with Lutherans throughout Australia to recognise - but not celebrate - the 500th anniversary of one of the most significant events in Church history.

October 31 will mark exactly 500 years since German pastor and theologian Martin Luther nailed 95 theses of protest to the door of the castle church in Wittenburg, Germany - regarded as the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

Bishop Tim Harris, an Assistant Bishop of Adelaide, made the proposal at the Anglican General Synod in Maroochydore, Queensland, to mark the anniversary.

Bishop Harris, the national co-chair of the Anglican-Lutheran dialogue group, and the co-chair of the Anglican-Lutheran international coordinating group, said that both groups had been preparing for this “very significant” anniversary for three years.

However, Bishop Harris said it would be inappropriate to “celebrate” the anniversary as it marked a significant split in the Church.

“We do not celebrate a split within the Catholic Church, within the  one Church of God,” he said.

“We commemorate it, we learn from it, we give thanks for what is revealed through that, but of course we never celebrate a split within the Catholic Church - the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

“That was something that Luther never sought and (he) grieved over (it).”

Bishop Harris also stated that, contrary to popular belief, Martin Luther did not campaign for the abolition of indulgences - payments to the Catholic Church to reduce time spent in purgatory.

“Interestingly, Martin Luther didn’t call for the abolition of indulgences. He called for the cessation of abuse of indulgences,” he said.

The Synod’s motion included a number of resolutions, several of which dealt specifically with the Lutheran Church.

Among them was encouragement for Anglicans to join with Lutherans and other Protestant Churches in commemorating the occasion through shared worship, bible study, and partnership in mission and ministry projects.

The resolutions also included:

*thanks to God for the Reformation of the 16th century;

*thanks to God that in the grace and mercy of God, the Church continues to be reformed, and seeks ever to be so;

*an affirmation of the importance of hearing God’s Word in the common tongue, and the practice of regular public reading of the Holy Scriptures through authorised lectionaries; and

*an affirmation of the “whole and comforting” doctrine that we are justified by faith only, by the merits and death of God’s Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood.