“A milestone on the way to the 500 year Reformation Jubilee”

International Congress on the 2017 Reformation Jubilee concludes in Zurich.
Image (left to right): Serge Fornerod (FSPC). Margot Kässmann (EKD), Gottfried Locher (FSPC), Martin Schindehütte (EKD), Michel Müller (ZH)

The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FSPC) and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) gave a positive summary of the International Congress on the 2017 Reformation Jubilee, which concluded this Wednesday.

“We are off to a successful start for our shared journey towards the 2017 Reformation Jubilee,” FSPC Council President Gottfried Locher stated today at the concluding press conference in Zurich. The conference with its many eminent participants had combined theology, faith and worship service in a convincing manner, Locher explained. The FSPC Council President took the high number of attending church leaders as an encouraging sign of readiness for unity beyond denominational and geographical borders: “Reformation churches from all over the world want to deepen and strengthen their common bond. The Zurich congress is a milestone on the way to unity among the Reformed churches.”

The positive experience of the congress gave the churches a boost of strength to make the Reformation Jubilee a “celebration of faith,” Locher explained: “We celebrate not ourselves, but the uncovering of the Gospel. This is not a time to focus on denominational boundaries, but on the bedrock of faith: Jesus Christ. We celebrate our jubilee together with everyone who is happy to join in, with people of all denominations.” He added that it was also important to spread the message beyond the boundaries of the Protestant church and to increase efforts to provide answers to the complex and varied challenges of the 21st century.

According to Locher, the celebrations will by no means ignore the dark aspects of the Reformation: “The history of the Reformation is church history, and church history has always been ambiguous. We acknowledge this without reservations.”

Margot Kässmann, the Ambassador of the EKD Council for the 2017 Reformation Jubilee, also expressed enthusiasm. “Here in Zurich, the preparations for the Jubilee have received an important boost of encouragement and invigoration,” she said. She was impressed by the abundance of ideas and projects already in existence. Kässmann stated that the congress had taken place at the right time: “We have created the basis for thinking about 2017 together, for pooling ideas and opening ourselves to new things, for coordinating projects and bringing them together.” This dialogue will be continued in the next four years. “I am very confident that the Reformation Jubilee can be celebrated in a global and ecumenical horizon,” she stated.

Of particular importance for Kässmann is the planned “Reformation World Exhibition” in the summer of 2017 in Wittenberg. “The Zurich congress has reinforced our intention to plan and prepare this project as a sign of the global presence of Protestant Christianity,” the EKD Reformation Ambassador concluded her remarks.

Starting from October 6, roughly 250 participants from 35 countries and five continents had discussed the relevance of the Reformation for church and society and consulted about the chances and perspectives of the Reformation Jubilee. The four-day congress was co-organized by the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FSPC) and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The Zurich Protestant Reformed Church was hosting the event.