The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation – Events and Insights from Northern Ireland

This month marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The 31st October is remembered as the day when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, setting the wheels in motion for what would become a religious revolution that shaped the modern world.

October will be a high point for debate on the significance and legacy of the Reformation.

There are a number of opportunities to reflect on the Reformation this month, not least of which is a series of blog posts curated by the Evangelical Alliance (EA), the ‘500 Project.’

The 500 Project kicked off on 23 September with EA director Peter Lynas writing on, ‘Re-imagining the Reformation.’ He even compared Luther to a present day millennial blogger:

At 34, a millennial of his day, Martin Luther publicly posted, in the equivalent to a blog post, ideas that would change the world. It was the ultimate TED talk. Many see MLK as much more revolutionary than the man he was named after, but the original Martin Luther was in a class of his own.

There have been three subsequent posts in the series, including female and Catholic perspectives. I also have written a post that will appear over the coming days.

You can start reading at these links, and keep up to date on the posts by following EA on Twitter or liking its Facebook page.

‘How the Reformation Changed Society’ (Prof Sarah Williams, Research Professor at Regent College, Vancouver)

‘The Reformation and Conscience’ (Rev Dr Norman Hamilton, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland)

‘Embracing Diversity while Recognising our Common Identity’ (Dr Nicola Brady, General Secretary of the Irish Council of Churches)

If you are interested in live action, check out these events:

‘Martin Luther without the baggage of Calvin and what still needs to be Reformed Today,’ Lecture by Rev Prof Laurence Kirkpatrick, Professor of Systematic Theology and Church History in Union Theological College, Thurs 12 October, Dobbs Room, Town Hall, Carrickfergus, time TBC

‘Light from the Life of Luther,’ Lecture by Fr Hubertus Blaumeiser, a priest from the diocese of Augsburg in Germany, Thursday 2 November, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast, 7 pm (£5 at the door)

‘What did the Reformations Ever do For Us? A panel discussion in Belfast South Methodist Church (Agape), Sunday 5th November, 7.00-9.30 pm

On 31st October 1517 the German monk Martin Luther nailed what are known as his “Ninety-five Theses” on the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Saxony. This act is popularly regarded as the start of “the Reformation” which effectively overturned the established religious and political order of western Europe. However in many ways the reformations (plural) did not start with Luther and certainly didn’t end with him, with Calvin taking things in a different, and arguably more influential direction some years later, the anabaptists taking a more radical approach, the English church going its own way due to Henry VIII’s marital difficulties among other reasons, and the Catholic church reforming itself. But what has all this done for us in the long run. In this panel discussion chaired by Rev. Dr. Johnston McMaster, we will be looking at the ongoing implications of the various church reformations, with contributions from different denominational and theological perspectives. including Fr. Eddie O’Donnell (Roman Catholic), Cathy Dickson (Presbyterian) and Stephan Arras (Lutheran). All welcome.

‘Luther,’ a play, McNeill Theatre, Larne, Thurs 9 November

(Image from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council webpage promotion of ‘Luther’)

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