It is 2017! It is the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation!
As we approached this milestone, I was asked again and again, “How are the Lutherans in Singapore going to celebrate this anniversary?” Each time I had to explain that we will certainly commemorate this occasion, but we are hesitant to call it a celebration because it is hard to celebrate a church split.
However, there is something we can certainly celebrate. For the first time in 500 years, Catholic and Lutheran church leaders came together in a historic commemoration prayer service in Lund, Sweden on Reformation Day, 31 Oct 2016.
His Holiness Pope Francis, together with President Bishop Dr Munib Younan of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), committed themselves to lead their churches to move away from conflict and to journey towards communion, and to strengthen their common witness.
Bishop Henderson of the Lutheran Church of Australia, in his interview with ABC radio after the prayer service, said: “The Reformation for us has always been a mixed sort of celebration. In one sense, we celebrate that the gospel was reclaimed or rediscovered in the church, but we also mourn it, because it represents the fracturing of the body of Christ on earth… It’s always for us a very bad thing when the body of Christ is divided, especially when there’s antipathy or animosity between the branches of Christianity, and so we see this as a major step forward.”
It is heartening for me as a Lutheran Christian to hear the Pope acknowledging that Luther was a witness of the Gospel, and in his message in Lund, quoting Luther, and grace alone, that the Gospel shows us that God always takes the initiative.
The Pope said, “The doctrine of Justification thus expresses the essences of human existence before God.”
He further said, “Now, in the context of the commemoration of the Reformation of 1517, we have a new opportunity to accept a common path, one that has taken shape over the past 50 years in dialogue. We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.”
It is towards this that I am happy to announce that the Lutheran Church in Singapore has initiated dialogue with the Catholic Church in Singapore to promote mutual understanding, and is in discussion with them about a joint commemoration of the Reformation this year. (Editor’s Note: The joint commemoration has been confirmed to take place on 30 Oct 2017. Please see the relevant item on P23 for more details.)
I trust this is pleasing to our Lord who desires that we are one as He and His Father are One.
Reprinted with permission from LCS Newsletter, March 2017.
Bishop Terry Kee –
is the second bishop of the Lutheran Church in Singapore, having taken office in 2009. He has been a Lutheran pastor for the past 30 years and has served at Bedok Lutheran Church, Jurong Christian Church, Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, and Queenstown Lutheran Church
Photos courtesy of the Lutheran Church in Singapore