Reformation anniversary in 2017 is next stop for Kirchentag ‘on the move’

Reformation anniversary in 2017 is next stop for Kirchentag ‘on the move’

Germany’s biggest Protestant convention, the Kirchentag, ended in Stuttgart with an open-air service and an invitation to the next gathering in 2017, a year that marks 500 years since the Reformation unleashed by Martin Luther.

“That in two years’ time we are able to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the new dynamic of the Reformation is a tremendous opportunity for us as a church to show many people the truth and beauty, the depth and the responsibility of our faith,” Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, who heads the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) as the chairperson of its council, said in a statement at a final press conference.

The Stuttgart Kirchentag brought almost 100,000 people to the southwest German city from 3 to 7 June.

The Kirchentag meets every two years in a different German city, gathering tens of tens of thousands of participants, including personalities from political, economic and national life.

The 2017 Kirchentag will take place in Berlin from 24 to 27 May 2017. Alongside the main gathering there will also be a number of smaller “Kirchentage on the way” in several towns and cities associated with the life and work of Luther.

The events will culminate in a vast open-air service on 28 May 2017 in Wittenberg, the place where Luther unleashed the Reformation in 1517 with his 95 Theses.

“And so, in its 500th year, the Reformation is also on the move and on the way. In Europe from city to city, internationally from all countries to Wittenberg, and as ‘Kirchentage’ on the way,” said the Swiss theologian Christina Aus der Au, the president of the 2017 Kirchentag.

In his statement, Bedford-Strohm said there would be a greater ecumenical dimension to the 2017 events than had been imagined a decade ago.

“On the Protestant side, there is the firm desire to mark the 500 years since the Reformation not in a narrowly confessional way but ecumenically,” he said. “Luther did not want to found a new church with his reforming venture, but to point anew to Christ. Therefore the Reformation jubilee can be celebrated only as a festival for Christ that is ecumenically open.”

The Kirchentag was founded by a group of lay people in 1949 to help build a democratic culture in Germany following the experience of National Socialism and the Second World War.

Speakers at the Stuttgart Kirchentag included German President Joachim Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel and former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.

On the opening day of the event, the 2015 Kirchentag president, the Protestant layperson and business leader Andreas Barner said there must be an end to the deaths of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean as they tried to reach Europe.

A resolution agreed at the Kirchentag urged a comprehensive refugee rescue programme. “Military action against refugee boats,” it stated, “is not a solution but instead part of the problem.”