Was Luther more a Reformed Catholic than a Reformer on this October 31st?
Lehmann: Yes, exactly. But after November 1517, a complicated conflict emerged between Luther and the representatives of his church. It took three to five years afterwards for Luther to grow into the theological stature of the great Reformer. The year of 1521 is important in this context. The popular quote “Here I stand and can do no other”, which Luther allegedly spoke before the Emperor during the Imperial Diet of Worms, has never been said like this. It was attributed to Luther only a few years after the event. Here, the time between the event and the legend is not very long. What Luther really said in Worms sounds differently: “My conscience is caught in God's word, I can not, and do not want to, revoke anything, because it is dangerous to do anything against one's conscience.” The person talking here is a reflective, faithful man, not a defiant lansquenet. Here, too, the legend does not grasp the actual historical fact.
When the legends are approached critically, one should also question the terms themselves. Does the term “Reformation anniversary”, which describes the event of 2017, already include a valuation?
Lehmann: The valuation only becomes problematic if one only looks exclusively at Protestantism and applies to it the notion of “jubilee” as in “jubilation”. But if you remember that Luther at first intended to reform a specific issue – the selling of indulgences – in his own church, and if you also remember that the Catholic church, too, entered a prolonged process of reformation during the following period of time, the term “Reformation anniversary” can be expanded inter-denominationally towards covering a century of church reforms. If you interpret it this way, I think that it is not problematic any more.
The churches today are also in need to be reformed, especially in view of an increasing tendency towards secularisation. In Germany, on third of the population are Catholics, one third are Protestants, and almost the whole remaining third are alienated from the churches or are atheists. What kind of opportunities does 2017 offer in view of this situation?
Lehmann: I would expand your analysis of church sociology even further. Only five percent of the Protestants in Germany are still active, and only ten percent of the Catholics. The situation is dramatic. If you look at the degree of secularisation and believe and hope that the Luther anniversary might alter the situation of the church in Germany, I believe this is a fairly hopeless case. As far as I can see, the activities that were launched by the Luther Decade until now have only reached those who remain faithful to the church, and nobody else. I am afraid that this will not be any different in 2017. I therefore believe that it is necessary to look beyond Germany and Europe. In many countries all over the world, for example in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Brazil, Chile and in the U.S.A., there are many active Lutheran communities, as well as active, expanding Protestant churches. I hope that, until 2017, every German Catholic and Protestant parish will have a partner parish in a non-European country, in addition to their already existing partnerships, and that there will be as many direct meetings between members of these parishes as possible. Perhaps this will spark the fire, perhaps new life will re-awaken again in some German parishes, too.
What else could be done to give the remembrance of the Reformation a stronger international direction? Currently, the anniversary in 2017 is mainly perceived as a German event.
Lehmann: The approach during the preparation was almost exclusively directed to the inside. This is not enough. In view of 2017, an active co-operation with Christians all over the world should be achieved, and this should be done by remembering the actual topic of a Christian existence in our world. The fundamental question is: What doest religion mean, what does Christian life mean in the age of globalisation? It is not about getting as many tourists as possible to visit the renovated Luther memorial sites. Rather it is all about the responsibility we have for each other, global justice, hope for a shared Christian life. For 2017, I envision a paradigm shift towards a responsible Christian life in a globalised world.