Luther College launches its commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

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Spring semester 2017 has begun and with it Luther College's Commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a movement initiated on Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. It would be difficult to overestimate the seismic impact of this event not only on Christianity, but on the course of Western history, and on all areas of society and culture.

At Luther College where our namesake is the central figure of the Reformation, this anniversary offers an unprecedented opportunity to ponder this aspect of our heritage and to consider whether the impulses coming out of the Reformation have any relevance or continuing importance for our mission and ethos. At spring convocation earlier this month, the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Elizabeth Eaton, offered a lucid example of the direct connections between the past and the present. One of the central tenets of Luther's Reformation was that we are charged to serve our neighbors with the same altruism that Christ demonstrated toward humanity, a tall order indeed. Just days after President Trump’s executive order on immigration, Bishop Eaton connected this Reformation notion directly to the current debate regarding the status of refugees. They are neighbors in need, she claimed, and we are called to serve them. And what is more, continued Bishop Eaton, we must remember that politics is noble profession, one important means by which our students might respond to the call to service and engagement with the world. Her address provided a very clear example in which Martin Luther's call to reform is still relevant today.

Bishop Eaton's visit was the opening event an exciting series that will take place over the course of the calendar year 2017, a series the college has titled, "The Reformation of Everything, 1517-2017: Exploring a Movement that Changed the World." In conceiving the year's program, we focused on three areas of the Reformation's impact: the religious and spiritual dimensions and their continuing importance; the historical influence of the Reformation on the development of Western thought and attitudes; and the Reformation's effect on art, music and all of culture. We have invited speakers and planned concerts and exhibitions that offer a variety of voices and viewpoints in each of these areas. Of the many exciting offerings, three deserve special attention.

On Friday evening March 31 and Saturday April 1, 2017 the college will sponsor a conference entitled Liberating Grace: The Power of the Reformation in the World Today. Keynote speakers include Nadia Bolz-Weber, best-selling author and ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Ralston Deffenbaugh, Lutheran World Federation assistant general secretary for international affairs and human rights, based in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference will address the church's continuing interaction with the wider world, and the Reformation roots and impulses of these initiatives. In conjunction with the conference, on the evening of April 1, the Luther College Music Department will present J. S. Bach's Mass in B minor featuring the Nordic Choir, Symphony Orchestra and alumni soloists, conducted by Daniel Baldwin, Luther professor of music.

On Oct. 31, 2017, the college will hold a symposium, "The Reformation of Everything, 1517-2017," that focuses on the Reformation's broad impact on Western history and thought. Brad Gregory, Dorothy G. Griffin Chair of History at the University of Notre Dame, will be the keynote speaker and will offer his views on the Reformation’s historical legacy in Western culture. Luther alumnus and renowned composer of church music, Marty Haugen ’73, whose career has personified a joyful and creative intersection between various Christian denominations, will also conduct a series of workshops.

On Nov. 18, 2017, as part of the Center Stage Series, Luther College will present the St. Thomas Boys Choir of Leipzig. Founded in 1212 and among the world's foremost boys' choirs, this group boasts J. S. Bach as its most famous conductor, and the Lutheran Reformation as a primary influence on its repertoire.

Further information on these and all of the college's commemoration events may be found at:  If you have questions, please feel free to contact me, Prof. Robert Christman, head of the college's Committee for the Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, at [email protected]. We hope that you will consider joining us for these events and will share information on them as broadly as possible.

Robert Christman

Robert Christman

Robert Christman has been a professor of history since 2005, focusing in the areas of German reformation, late Medieval and early modern Europe. His course topics include Europe to 1648, Christianity and Islam, and Rome: Republic and Empire. During January Term, Professor Christman leads the special topic course Christianity and Islam. In this course, students investigate the many varieties of contact between Christians and Muslims, as well as the changing perceptions and attitudes each side had of the other during the period from the rise of Islam c.640 to the Battle of Vienna in 1683. He is currently chairing the college's Committee for the Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

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