Angela Merkel hopes for a Reformation anniversary with a “missionary element”

Draft for a declaration by the church parliament: “The Reformation belongs to all”

Angela MerkelPhoto: epd-Bild/Norbert NeetzChancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) on the synod of the EKD in Timmendorfer Strand. Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) wants the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017 to re-awaken the Christian faith in Germany. During a visit to the synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) at the seaside resort Timmendorfer Strand, Merkel said that she hopes for a “missionary element” during the celebrations. Something of the “spirit of the Reformation” should return to the people. During its annual convention, which will continue until Wednesday, the church parliament discusses the preparations for the anniversary year.

Communication of values through the churches is “essential” for the society

At her first visit to a synod of the EKD, Merkel praised the contribution of the churches to the democratic community in Germany. The communication of values through the churches is “essential” for the society, because politics are based on conditions they themselves are unable to create.

The Protestant Chancellor also demanded that the freedom of religion should be secured worldwide. She criticised fanaticism and limitations to the freedom of faith as part of the contemporary realities of life and called Christianity the most persecuted religion.

"The Reformation belongs to all”

In five years' time, the Evangelical Church wants to celebrate the Reformation anniversary together with people from all faiths. “The Reformation belongs to all”, a draft for a declaration by the church parliament claims. When Martin Luther published his theses in 1517, he gave the impulse for an “enormous movement of liberation”. With regards to the Catholic church, the text underlines: “There is more that unites us than divides us. It is the shared responsibility of all Christianity to proclaim Christ as Lord of the World for the 21st century.”

The declaration explicitly includes a reflection on the dark sides of the Reformation, as Provost Horst Gorski from Hamburg underlined when the text was introduced. “Both humility and the healing power of memory are required where wrong decisions have been taken or harm has been caused during our history”, the text states.

Thomas Wipf, former President of the Association of Protestant Churches in Europe, recommended to perceive the anniversary year not from the perspective of denominational identity, but to concentrate on those realisations brought on by the Reformation that can be acknowledged by all denominations. This includes the justification from faith, the Bible in the vernacular, the idea of individual freedom and responsibility, political participation, and freedom of faith and religion. The Reformed theologian from Switzerland concluded that “all Christians have a reason to celebrate, because we all thrive on the fruits of the Reformation.”

Increasing the interconnection of the denominations

During his address, the Catholic Archbishop Werner Thissen from Hamburg appealed to avoid a deepening of the separation but rather to increase the interconnection of the denominations. “The more togetherness we, the Protestant and Catholic local churches, are able to achieve, the more we contribute towards building the one church of Jesus Christ”, said the representative of the Catholic German Bishops' Conference.

During a Bible reflection in the morning, the Ambassador for the Reformation anniversary, Margot Käßmann, interpreted the Bible quote “In the beginning was the word”, which constitutes the leading brand for the planning for 2017. Käßmann said that, from the very beginning, singing has played an important role in the movement of the Reformation. Her interpretations were accompanied by Dieter Falk on the piano. “Songs brought the message to the people everywhere; the Reformation also was a kind of singing movement.”