The Messenger - October 2017 - 3
Protestant Reformation: Then and Now
Similarly, Luther in Germany and John Calvin, in
Switzerland, did not set out to start their own
churches, but their actions eventually led to the
creation of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions.
We see the latter expressed in the United Church of
Christ and in its Scottish cousin, Presbyterianism.
By Andrea Brown
It was October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther sent
his 95 Theses (a.k.a. his "Disputation on the Power
of Indulgences") to the archbishop of Mainz, and
pen became sword. Luther's academic paper was
the root of a mighty schism in the Catholic Church,
leading to a whole new branch of the Christian
family called Protestantism. As Methodists, we're
part of that protest movement.
Many have suggested that it is time for new
reformation. Has the once-radical Protestant
Church itself grown flabby, corrupt, and irrelevant?
We see the threat of schism rising in our own
denomination, even as we seek what our bishops
have called A Way Forward.
And the 500th anniversary of the Protestant
Reformation seems like a good time to pause and
* What important innovations happened
because of that protest?
* What harm occurred as part of that split?
* What healing is ripe to happen?
* What new reforms need to take place now
for Christian faith to be lived out in our
We're exploring our own position in the
complex stew that is church history this fall as we
focus far more than usual on our Wesleyan
At the same time, we see exciting bridges being
built to replace the ones that were blown up during
the church wars of the past. Ecumenical
movements are bringing Catholics and
Protestants-as well as Orthodox and Anabaptist-
Christians back together for positive, cooperative
Some ways you can explore these ideas this fall:
* Attend the World Communion worship
service at 10am and the church-wide potluck
meal that follows it. World Communion
celebrates both diversity and oneness.
* Pay attention to the ideas expressed in
hymns and songs this fall. Hymn writers use
their art to teach important concepts and
often serve as innovators in the Church.
* Attend the Boehm's Chapel Apple Festival
on Saturday, Oct. 7 between 9am and 3pm
and explore one of Methodism's oldest
houses of worship in the U.S.
* Travel with other local United Methodists to
Philadelphia on Saturday, Oct. 14 for the
Time Traveler program at St. George's
UMC, a 1769 house of worship that was the
location of another key schism in
Methodism. Through drama and dialogue,
this 2-hour program helps participants to
reflect on present-day issues of inclusion and
exclusion in the church.
United Methodists came by Reformation by a late
and alternate route. Two centuries after Luther, our
founders were not protesting the Catholic Church
but rather seeking reforms in the Anglican
Church-which itself had branched off the Catholic
tree when an English king sought to consolidate his
power and wealth.
Methodism's founder, John Wesley, and his hymnwriting brother, Charles, and their father, Samuel,
were priests in the Church of England (the
Anglican Church). They felt the church had
become flabby in its faith and unresponsive to the
needs and concerns of real people-workers, the
imprisoned, women, etc. They sought a more
robust expression of Anglicanism, but when their
concerns were not addressed by the institutional
church, they ended up forming a new
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