by Thomas Böhm
During the Luther Decade, which culminates in 2017 with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has organised a series of seminars to help Lutherans from across the world to connect with one another.
The aim of the program is to deepen participants’ understanding of Luther’s theology, its impact on Christian faith and world history.
The eighth of these seminars was held in Luther’s home town of Wittenberg, Germany, in the first two weeks of November 2013.
It brought together 21 participants from Lutheran churches in 17 countries (Argentina, Colombia, USA, Greenland, Denmark, Sweden, Slovakia, Hungary, Ethiopia, Senegal, Madagascar, South Africa, Myanmar, Thailand, Taiwan, Latvian Church Abroad and Australia) and three German states. We were led in the study of Luther by Professor Dr Theo Dieter and Professor Dr Sarah Hinlicky-Wilson from the Ecumenical Institute of the LWF in Strassburg, Germany.
The two weeks were filled with impressions of Luther’s life and work, his environment and historical context. Activities included reading and discussing selected writings of Luther (in English translation); visiting various Luther sites in Wittenberg, Erfurt and Eisenach; worshipping together and also with local congregations in Wittenberg, as well as visiting two small country parishes in the surrounding countryside.
We also met some of the leaders of LWF, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the German Lutheran church. Probst Kasparick, from the Evangelische Kirche Mitteldeutschland (Evangelical Church Central Germany) described some of the challenges his church faced. Its 800,000 members live in the least Christian part of Germany.
Today, less than 20 per cent of the population is Christian (mostly Lutheran) in the area around Wittenberg, while the rest are atheist or simply not engaged or interested in religion. One African pastor asked what steps were being taken to evangelise the population—especially the youth—but received no real answer. This perhaps showed one of the differences in attitude and confidence between the growing African and declining European churches.
We received many insights—especially into Luther’s sharp and clear mind and powerful pen—into his co-workers, especially Philipp Melanchthon, and how the work of the reformers influences the history of the Western world to this day.