2017: Catholics and Protestants to Commemorate Reformation Anniversary

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January 5, 2015

_MG_6562I recently visited Wittenberg where Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchton worked together. Posters are found in the whole city center. “Luther 2017, 500 years of Reformation.” Wittenberg is getting prepared by remodeling and gardening. It looks like a big happening will take place. There are also other posters there, saying: “Theme year 2014: REFORMATION AND POLITICS.” This turned out to be even more interesting than I thought.

In front of the town hall, a big globe is placed, where the whole world is in red color – The color of reformation and revolution. In the middle of the globe, it says: “Reformation 2017”. Indeed preparations are being made for something big. In 2017, the protestant reformation celebrates 500 years.

From Counter-Reformation to Co-Reformation
The rumors say that Pope Francis will come to Wittenberg during this celebration. Why would the Pope visit Wittenberg – the start and center of reformation, where Martin Luther in 1517 put up the 95 thesis?

The highest representative of German Protestantism: Nikolaus Schneider, Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) met personally with Pope Francis to invite him to the anniversary. During this meeting, the Pope “underlined how important it is for him that we, as churches, walk together on the path of testifying the faith in this world.” Schneider said that the conversations with the Pope and the Vatican, contributed to build trust. 1
Francis has not yet made the decision public whether he has accepted or not.

During the 1540’s, a Counter-Reformation started by the Catholic Church in response to the protestant reformation. But the last decades are proving things have drastically changed.

“One could almost say that the Catholic Church has set out from the path of the Counter-Reformation onto that of the Co-Reformation.” says Gerhard Feige to Luther2017.de. He is a Catholic ecumenical officer Bishop, in Magdeburg, Germany. 2

A reconciliation process started years ago between Catholics and Protestant Christians. Feige sees evidence for this to develop during the coming years.

“- I would appreciate if this were not only happening in the leadership of the churches.”. The article goes on to say: “But everybody must change and get on the move. It remains to be clarified how much unity is necessary.” 2

The Luther Garden – A global ecumenical network
Another exciting preparation in Wittenberg is the “Luther Garden”, arranged by the Lutheran World Foundation and United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany.
Trees are being planted here. The goal is to have 500 trees – one for each year of reformation.

_MG_6739In the middle of the garden we find a formation of the Luther Rose, which is the symbol of Luther’s faith and theology. Here are five trees, one in each petal. From there, seven paths are symbolically lead out to the world. In this garden we find trees from every continent, planted by churches and denominations from all over the world, creating a global ecumenical network. 6
I looked at every single tree in this garden, and there is a great variety of churches and countries. Currently they have around 230 trees, from all over the world, planted by different churches. Guess which tree is number one, found in the Luther Rose formation, in the middle of the park? – The Catholic Church! Following we find the Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the World Methodist Council as number five.

_MG_6725

A responsible for Concept and Design of Luther Garden says in a project movie:

“I hope this garden will one day grow into a park. A park in which people can gather under the trees, a park that grows together, just as our Christian World Religion should grow together one day.” 3

More Steps to Church Unity
In 2014 at a Charismatic Evangelical Leadership Conference hosted by Kenneth Copeland, Tony Palmer, an anglican bishop said: “The protest is over”, and encouraged to unity with the Catholic Church. The audience of many charismatic Christian leaders seemed to embrace this message.

While some Protestant Churches have stopped protesting, what does the Catholic Church say?

On their website, vatican.va, there is an article called From Conflict to Communion, written together with Lutherans, talking about how they successfully shall unite. 4

The Catholic Church and Lutheran Church signed a Joint declaration on the doctrine of justification, in 1999, and this is an attempt to narrow the theological divide between the two faiths. 5
It is important to note that Luther did not only discover justification by faith, as the discussion seems to be about – there were 95 thesis.

“The awareness is dawning on Lutherans and Catholics that the struggle of the sixteenth century is over. The reasons for mutually condemning each other’s faith have fallen by the wayside. Thus, Lutherans and Catholics identify five imperatives as they commemorate 2017 together.”

“In 2017, we must confess openly that we have been guilty before Christ of damaging the unity of the church. This commemorative year presents us with two challenges: the purification and healing of memories, and the restoration of Christian unity in accordance with the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph 4:4–6).”
They also invite all Christians to study this report open-mindedly and critically, and to come along “the way to a deeper communion of all Christians.” 4

It is clear that 2017 marks an interesting year for the Catholic Church. First of all the Catholics will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. Secondly, it marks fifty years of Lutheran–Roman Catholic dialogue. 4

Town Hall of Wittenberg

Town Hall of Wittenberg

The World has Started to Wonder…
Luther and many other reformers embraced the idea that the Papacy is the antichrist. Many protestant denominations used to believe this. If you ask Christians today who the antichrist is, there is generally no clear meaning about it. The characteristics of antichrist found in the Bible, only fit one kingdom: The Papacy. (See Daniel 7 And Revelation 13). However, there are still sincere believers in this system, that live up to the light they have. We are not talking about people, but about the system.

As prophesied in Revelation 13:3, the deadly wound is getting healed. The healing of a wound takes time, but it is sure on a good way to restoration, and the world has started to wonder “after the beast”. Since Pope Francis was elected, he quickly got acknowledged internationally. In media, we find headlines such as:

  • “Can Pope Francis heal the deep divisions in Christianity?”
  • “Francis continues to take the world by storm.”
  • “Pope Francis is only leader respected enough to end today’s wars.”

…Who like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” (Revelation 13:4) Pope Francis has taken a role as peace advocate in many conflicts: Between Jews and Muslims, USA and Cuba, and the harassments done by ISIS.

Another headline in media recently has been: “Pope calls for end to fundamentalism.”, and that with good reasons of course. But soon, God’s people will be the ones looked upon as the fundamentalists and rebellions, because they refuse to worship the beast and his image. Following, a death penalty will threaten this group.

Barack Obama called Pope Francis “A moral leader in word and deed”, followed by an interesting acknowledgment, as Time Magazine listed world’s most influential people of the year. 7

Time to Wake Up, and Speak Up
Wittenberg is getting prepared for the celebration of the reformation anniversary. The mottos for the two next years are:

  • “Reformation – Image and Bible” (2015)
  • “Reformation and One World” (2016)

Anyone else thinking about Revelation 13?

Martin Luther's Pulpit

Martin Luther’s Pulpit

The message of the book of Revelation for us all is: Choose who you want to belong to. One group will be faithful to the beast, a false system of worship. The other group will be faithful to God and will keep all His commandments. There are hard times ahead if you want to be on God’s side. Standing up for God will lead to great persecution. Let us watch, pray and work, as we behold Christ our Redeemer.

If we forget to protest, we forget our message. We are called to “protest” by sharing the three angels messages (Revelation 14), lifting up Christ and the Truth. God will have His people in false systems, until we do our job to call them out. Ekklesia, a greek word used in the Bible for Church, means called out. 8 God wants to call out His people, into His kingdom. He has chosen us, His Church, to call them out. This has to be done with a Christ-centered, Biblical message, and lives transformed by the righteousness of Christ.

The Roman Church now presents a fair front to the world, covering with apologies her record of horrible cruelties. She has clothed herself in Christlike garments; but she is unchanged. Every principle of the papacy that existed in past ages exists today. The doctrines devised in the darkest ages are still held. Let none deceive themselves. The papacy that Protestants are now so ready to honor is the same that ruled the world in the days of the Reformation, when men of God stood up, at the peril of their lives, to expose her iniquity. She possesses the same pride and arrogant assumption that lorded it over kings and princes, and claimed the prerogatives of God. Her spirit is no less cruel and despotic now than when she crushed out human liberty and slew the saints of the Most High. {GC 571.1} 9
Let’s not sleep, friends, but rather see the reality and take responsibility to deliver the message of the everlasting gospel.

Do you want to be faithful to God? Is it your wish to wake up and speak up?

The world needs to hear God’s last message. Will you deliver it?
Jesus is coming soon.

Christian Hjortland

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References
1. http://www.luther2017.de/en/24479/evangelical-church-germany-invites-pope-francis-reformation-anniversary?contid=24617
2. http://www.luther2017.de/en/23547/ecumenical-officer-bishop-catholic-church-can-join-little-bit-celebration-reformation-annivers?contid=24617
3. http://luthergarten.de/welcome.html
4. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/lutheran-fed-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_2013_dal-conflitto-alla-comunione_en.html
5. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html
6. http://luthergarten.de/english-vision-background.html
7. www.time.com/70826/pope-francis-2014-time-100
8. http://biblehub.com/greek/1577.htm
9. White, Ellen, The Great Controversy, Page 571

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Christian is founder of Empower Missions. He is an experienced teacher of the Bible, a nurse, and a public speaker. Christian loves to help others to more healthy and meaningful lives. He is fascinated by bible prophecy, that is very relevant today. Within health he has a passion for lifestyle, preventive health and natural remedies.