The largest U.S. Lutheran church group is about to begin a detailed discussion at the grass roots level on a policy change that would enable people in same-sex relationships to become clergy. Between now and June the debate will spread over some 65 synods covering the 5-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
How much fun — really — can you make of religion? A U.S. marketer of board games may find out with “Playing Gods” which it calls “the world’s first satirical board game of religious warfare.” It had its European premier this week at the London Toy Fair and will make a U.S. debut at the New York Toy Fair in February.
Today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in eastern Germany and set off the Protestant Reformation. It is a public holiday in the five eastern German states, in Slovenia and — this year for the first time — in Chile.
Is Pope Benedict planning a visit to a cradle of Protestantism? Should a Catholic pontiff tour the medieval castle where Martin Luther translated the Bible into German at the start of the Reformation? It’s far too early to get confirmations or denials from the Vatican or the German government, since the visit — still only in the rumor stage — is not due until the spring of 2009. But a local newspaper in the eastern state of Thuringia, where the Wartburg is located, says security planning has already begun.
I was surprised to see this headline on the Austrian Catholic website kath.net today… and even more surprised to see they seemed to mean it seriously.
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has just published a booklet for school teachers urging them not to advocate creationism or intelligent design (ID). That’s “evangelical” as in the German evangelisch (meaning Protestant, mostly Lutheran), and not “evangelical” as it’s more commonly used in the United States. Still, it’s interesting to see that the EKD in Germany, where there are few U.S.-style evangelicals and almost no dispute about the theory of evolution, felt it necessary to issue a 22-page booklet about teaching evolution. It’s called “The Origin of the World, the Theory of Evolution and the Belief in Creation in School” (here in German).
Is Martin Luther, the German monk who sparked the Reformation, going to be “rehabilitated” this year by Pope Benedict? Some media say yes, the Vatican says no way. Here is an interesting sequence of events that says a lot about how something can take on a life of its own, regardless of whether it may be totally correct.
0It all appears to have started on March 2, when ApCom, an Italian news agency, ran a three paragraph article, here in Italian , merely saying that the pope and some of his former PhD students (the so-called Ratzinger- Schlerkreis), would discuss Luther during their yearly summer encounter in August at the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.
APcom, said the seminar would discuss whether Luther “wanted a rupture … or intended to reform the Church but without traumas”.
On March 5, two days after the APcom report, the Turin newspaper La Stampa ran a story with the headline “Ratzinger reforms Luther. ‘He had many Catholic ideas. The theologian pope summons his students for a seminar of study on the heretic.”The article, seen here in Italian, quoted Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as saying the choice of topics was meant “to favour a climate of encounter with Protestants.”
The day after the article in La Stampa, the Times of London reported that “Pope BenedictXVI is set to rehabilitate Martin Luther, arguing that he did not intend to split Christianity, but only to purge the church of corrupt practices.”
From there, the story took off,was repeatedby some news organisations around the world, was the buzz on the blogs, and even prompted an editorial critical of the pope by the Financial Times, called “Papal Indulgence – Cosmetic changes cannot hide Benedict’s dogmatism”.
The Vatican itself finally weighed in on March 8, when Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, told the Italian news agency Ansa, that the Financial Times editorial was “totally without foundation because no rehabilitation of Luther is foreseen.” The Ansa story went onto say that the specific theme of this summer’s meeting had not yet been finally decided.
What do you think about how the media covered this and do you think the pope should “rehabilitate” Luther?
Only a few days ago, Samuel Kobia from Kenya was running unopposed for a second five-year term as general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) at its Central Committee meeting now being held in Geneva. The story seemed pretty ho-hum. Then the German Protestant news agency epd revealed he had a “digital doctorate” from a unaccredited diploma mill in the U.S. Now he’s in danger of losing his job running the WCC, the global Christian grouping of 349 churches (mostly Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox) that represent more than 560 million believers around the world. Our correspondent in Geneva Robert Evans reports he may be on his way out. The rumour making the rounds is that we may hear as early as Tuesday that he will not be there much longer.
The peaceful revolution that toppled East German communism had roots going back to a prayer. The weekly peace prayer meetings started in 1982 in Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche (Church of St. Nicholas) became a rallying point for dissidents later in the decade. By September 1989, participants leaving the church defied the Stasi and arrest threats to march publicly against the government. On October 9, the protesters feared a “Chinese solution” — i.e. a bloodbath like the one in Beijing the previous summer — but marched anyway out of the Lutheran church and around the city. When the massed security forces did not fire on the marchers, who by then numbered 70,000, the protest movement began to lose its fear. The opening of the Berlin Wall followed only a few weeks later.
Attenzione! The Vatican will issue an important doctrinal document on Friday “on some aspects of evangelisation.” Pope Benedict has a long track record of making sharp distinctions between Catholicism and other religions in his doctrinal declarations. Some of these have upset other Christians, others have angered Muslims and been challenged by Islamic scholars. This new text has been written by papal aides, not the pope himself, but it is expected to be a close reflection of his views. What Vatican observers are waiting to see is how clearly it states the Catholic view on converting others and how other religions react.