The story goes that Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation on Oct. 31, 1517, when he nailed his famed 95 Theses on the Sale of Indulgences to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg.
The Reformation may really have started a few weeks later, but that has become the traditional date, so it’s on that day next year that the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation will be celebrated. Anticipating that celebration, the Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations wrapped up its work at the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Tuesday by recommending that the assembly urge Presbyterians at all levels and in all related groups to celebrate by studying the historical significance of the Reformation and the people who made it happen.
The committee also recommended that Presbyterians:
- Find occasions to emulate the zeal that early reformers brought to their study of scripture, their practice of personal and corporate worship, their re-invention of the structures of church governance and the expansion of the mission of the church.
- Recognize the cases in which Reformed churches fell short in their task of reform and perpetuated or created error and abuse.
- Invite the Presbyterian Mission Agency to suggest existing resources for study that accurately reflect both the contributions and errors of the early reformers.
- Encourage Presbyterians to schedule events in theology, worship, spirituality, polity, and mission and to consider adding a component to their programming that reflects on the changes and insights of the Reformation.
- Recommend that congregations try to arrange for ecumenical study and worship with other Protestant congregations, especially those in the Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican and Anabaptist traditions, and to seek ways to celebrate common heritage with Roman Catholic and Orthodox congregations.
In other business, the committee:
- Nominated nine people for election by the General Assembly as PC(USA) delegates to the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The nominees are the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly; Robina Winbush, associate stated clerk and director of Ecumenical Relations; Christian Ho Choi; Bruce Gillette; Gun Ho Lee; Emily McGinley; Michelle Sanchez; Anne Weirich; and Whitney Wilkinson. The meeting will be held June 27-July 7, 2017, in Leipzig, Germany.
- Recommended that the General Assembly invite ecumenical advisory delegates to the 223rd General Assembly (2018). From international churches: Assembly of Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Iraq, Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger, China Christian Council, Iglesia Reformada Presbyterianna de Guinea Ecuatorial, National Evangelical Church of Guatemala, Presbyterian Church of Colombia, Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, United Protestant Church of France, Waldensian Evangelical Church of Rio de la Plata. From churches in the United States and Canada: Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Church of God in Christ, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Moravian Church in North America, United Church of Christ.
- Received an introduction to and heard results of the self-study conducted by the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations. In addition to exploring continued partnerships, GACIER reported on its work to educate the denomination on the Interreligious Stance of the PC(USA) along with its work to maintain interreligious commitments and, in light of the global climate of religious intolerance, provide resources to help Presbyterians “respond to neighbors in multiple contexts, including interfaith marriages and families, local community concerns, and global peacemaking and justice.”
- Approved a commissioner resolution, Prayer for the Persecuted Church, asking the General Assembly encourage prayer for the persecuted church around the world.
- On Monday, the committee recommended approval of adding Confession of Belhar to the PC(USA) Book of Confessions.