Hanover to host free Reformation symposium

Tribune staff reports

Hanover College will host a free symposium to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses.”

“The Lutheran Reformation: 500 Years Later,” scheduled for Tuesday, will explore the importance and consequences of the historic document.

The symposium will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Science Center, followed in the evening by the Cornelius and Anna Cook O’Brien Lecture.

Luther was an Augustinian monk and professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg, Germany. On All Hallows Eve, Oct. 31, 1517, he posted a list of 95 criticisms of the Catholic Church and its penitential practices and teachings on the doors of the Castle Church at Wittenberg.

He also sent the criticisms to his bishop, Albert of Brandenburg, who, believing them to be heretical, forwarded the document to the pope.

Although intended to start an academic discussion, Luther’s “Disputation on the Power of Indulgences,” commonly known as “95 Theses,” shook the foundation of medieval Catholicism and launched the Protestant Reformation.

Recognized by historians as one of the historic events to mark the beginning of the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity, Luther’s criticisms had a profound social and political effect on Europe, and later, the world.

In addition to reforming Catholic liturgical practices and theology, the ensuing Protestant and Catholic reformations spawned religious wars for the next century and resulted in the political-religious division of Europe into absolute monarchies supported by state religions.

The Reformation era also witnessed wide-ranging debates and transformations in married life, gender relations and political and economic theory and the promotion of human rights and mass literacy.

The event will feature discussions and presentations from professors, independent scholars, clergy and students on topics related to the Lutheran Reformation and its impact.

The Rev. Catherine Knott, Hanover’s chaplain, will deliver the keynote address at the luncheon. Knott will examine Luther’s influence on John Calvin, the famed French theologian and reformer who also heavily influenced Presbyterians.

John Roth, a professor of history and director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism at Goshen College, will present Hanover’s O’Brien Lecture. Roth’s address, “The Importance of Luther’s 95 Theses,” will begin at 7 p.m. in Fitzgibbon Recital Hall, Lynn Center for Fine Arts.

In addition to varied presentations, a collection of rare 16th century Luther-related publications will be on display in the Duggan Library’s Joseph Wood Evans Memorial Special Collections and Archives Center.

Through the support of donors, all events are free and open to the public. Lunch and dinner will be offered free of charge to all symposium registrants. Advance registration is requested.

For information or to register, contact Michael Raley, assistant professor of history and chair of Hanover’s history department, at raleyjm@hanover.edu or 812-866-7205.