The Church of Sweden’s focus on “Reformation Year 2017”

In 2017 it will be 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints’ Church (more commonly referred to as Castle Church) in Wittenberg. This became the start of the Reformation – one of the most dramatic revolutionary events in history. The “Reformation Year 2017” will be commemorated by the Church of Sweden with several anniversary-related activities during the year.

Major events for which the Central Board of the Church of Sweden is earmarking special resources are the Theology Festival in Uppsala in February; the world festival Världens Fest in Västerås in June, which on this occasion will be called Världens Luther (Luther of the world); and Reformation Week at the end of October, which will culminate on 31 October when Reformation Day will be celebrated in Sweden’s cathedrals.

The Reformation Year will also be noticeable on the Church of Sweden’s Se människan (see the human being) stage during the Göteborg Book Fair in September. There will also be many activities in the Church’s dioceses and parishes during the year.

“One goal of the Church’s activities is to increase the general public’s knowledge and understanding of Lutheran theology and what it has contributed to in the development of Swedish society – for example, how it has promoted reading skills and general education,” says Cristina Grenholm, Church secretary at the Church of Sweden.

“We will highlight key concepts of the Reformation such as the grace of God, justification through faith, the Gospel and forgiveness, and how they can be understood and become relevant for people today.”

“We also want to show that the theology of the Reformation is a resource in our times, in our multicultural society. Luther emphasised general ethics, that people have a moral compass. God works in many ways, not just through Christians.”

Cristina Grenholm adds that the Church is also hoping to bring nuance to the often negative portrayal of Luther in Sweden.

“We want to show that he emphasised things such as the freedom and responsibility of the individual, how he emancipated and encouraged everyone to think for themselves – also in issues of faith.”

“However, we must not ignore Luther’s problematic sides. For example, we will examine his anti-Semitism and how it has affected the Church’s relationship with Judaism. It will also be an opportunity to critically examine our own history,” says Cristina Grenholm.

In 2017 the ecumenical perspective will have a clear presence; a joint initiative will take place with the Christian Council of Sweden, which will bring all major church denominations together.

A joint document has also been drawn up by Lutherans and Catholics in preparation for 2017. It is titled From conflict to communion and forms a basis for dialogue between the Church of Sweden and the Roman Catholic Church in Sweden. It is also the foundation for joint events involving both churches in 2017.

Following today’s decision by the Central Board of the Church of Sweden, the various parts of the project will now start to be planned in detail. Work is also starting on drawing up inspiring material for the parishes in the Church of Sweden. A national calendar of the events in 2017 will also be available as soon as possible.

Documentary about Archbishop Antje Jackelén by Deutsche Welle : Faith Matters - The Archbishop: A German Clergywoman in Sweden

October 31, 2016, saw a special event in the Swedish city of Malmö. The Protestant and Catholic churches jointly celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Pope Francis was in attendance, and his host was the head of the Church of Sweden, Archbishop Antje Jackelén.
Jackelén is the first woman to head the Church of Sweden and has held office since 2014. Deutsche Welle interviewed Antje Jackelén a number of times and accompanied her in her daily activities, both private and professional in this documentary. 

About Martin Luther and the Reformation

  • Martin Luther (1483–1546) was a German Augustinian monk and professor. He fought a long, personal battle with a God who he perceived as demanding and judgemental. It came as a great relief to Luther when he realised that we humans cannot do anything ourselves to become righteous before God. The redemption of human beings is entirely the work of God, “by Grace alone” (Sola gratia in Latin).
  • He also opposed various church teachings that he thought did not have a foundation in the Bible, and he stressed that the Bible was the only guiding principle in matters of doctrine, “by Scripture alone” (Sola scriptura).
  • Luther did not aim to create a new church, but his message contained such power that it resulted in a schism in the Western church.
  • Luther was followed by other reformers, such as John Calvin and Huldrych (Ulrich) Zwingli, whose theologies form the basis of various Reformed denominations.
  • Today there are major Lutheran churches in the Nordic countries, Germany, Ethiopia, Tanzania and the USA, among others.