The Quincentenary of the Reformation

2017 was the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of the castle chapel in the German town of Wittenberg – an event that has become known as the starting point of the Reformation.

The idea behind marking the anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 in Great Britain was to promote the understanding of the significance of the Reformation for British society, the church and identity and consciousness of the Lutheran heritage.  During the year, the Council of Lutheran Churches worked with a wide variety of partners, in other churches and beyond, including the German Embassy and a group of London churches under the banner ‘Still Reforming’ who organised an event per month, each hosted by churches of different traditions.

On this website and our Facebook page you can read more about the anniversary, explore all the interesting events in connection the quincentenary and learn more about Martin Luther and what drove him to what is now known as The Reformation. You can find details of the main events of the Reformation 500 ecumenical events here.

The Background for marking the Quincentenary

During the early decades of the 1500s, numerous people in the Catholic Church started to criticise its activities. Some of them went so far in their demands for reform that the result was a break with the papal church. Martin Luther was the leading figure of the movement, insisting that each and every Christian had a direct relationship to God. There was no need for a large church organisation to administer the grace of God, and it was wrong to believe that people could achieve salvation through good deeds. Salvation was solely God’s to give to those who accepted faith. An understanding of God came from the words of the Bible, so the Bible was to be made accessible to everyone through translation into their mother tongue.

The Catholic Church had become a parallel state in society, an international organisation with its own laws and many social and ethical duties. The Reformation removed the church as an autonomous social and secular power. In its place, Lutheran princely churches emerged where kings and their administrations assumed responsibility for the support and promotion of the religious lives of their subjects, and provided a framework for moral behaviour. Areas like care of the elderly and poor relief, which had previously been provided by the church, became the responsibility of secular society. Citizens were not to isolate themselves from society to serve God, but instead assume the duties befitting their social rank and station in society.

The Reformation marked the beginning of almost 500 years of development. The consequences of the Reformation theologically and socially were manifold, and can only be understood in an international context. It is an important subject with numerous issues to explore, analyse, problematize, discuss and communicate.