Is the Reformation over? Or, has the Reformation achieved its end? That was the question posed to a group at the Mariandle Center this weekend. The large crowd gathered in honor of the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation to celebrate Catholic-Lutheran unity and learn more about the backgrounds of both faiths.
The main event was Pastor Carol Fryer’s explanation of the history of Lutheranism, complemented by a written presentation from Rev. Trevor Nicholls. As she detailed the Reformation and its effects, she noted how faith tenets such as justification and salvation were traditionally treated differently by Lutherans and Catholics.
Today, though, the division is mostly rooted in longstanding stereotypes rather than truth.
For instance, unlike other Protestant denominations, Lutherans believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. (“Luther banged his fist on the table and said, ‘Jesus said, ‘THIS is my body! THIS is my blood!’ That’s all I need to know!’ From Luther on, we have always believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” Pastor Fryer shared.)
Moreover, in 1999, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed by the Catholic Church‘s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World FederationThe leadership of the World Communion of Reformed Churches—representing 80 million members of Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, United, Uniting and Waldensian churches. The declaration covers issues such as salvation and justification, and concludes that the churches now share “a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ.”
According to Pastor Fryer, not enough people know about this document or these major agreements.
“We need to clear up our misperceptions about each other,” she told the group. “We’ve been carrying them for five-hundred years. This needs to trickle down to the people in the pews and become part of our self understanding. Those condemnations that we rolled out at each other in the 1500s no longer apply.”
As one guest shared with the group, this focus on unity is significant.
“This seems to offer space for dialogue and enrichment of your own point of view,” she said. “It opens up my mind. I wonder if that isn’t something we should all try to focus on.”
Indeed, at a time when society feels very much divided, committing to unity is refreshing, and even noble. It feels like the right time to stop focusing on differences and instead highlight what brings us together.
In addition to a history lesson and small-group sharing, the day also included an ecumenical prayer service, songs, and “commitments” to collaborate more in the future.
“It’s all about being one in Christ,” Pastor Fryer concluded. “We’re all going to be together in heaven, so we might as well get used to it now.”