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October 22, 2010

ELCIC National Bishop Encourages Members and Congregations to Observe Reformation Sunday with Special Emphasis

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s (ELCIC) National Bishop Susan C. Johnson encourages members and congregations of the ELCIC to place a special emphasis on observing Reformation Sunday, which is celebrated October 31 or the last Sunday in October.

The call comes following The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Acting General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge’s invitation to LWF member churches to recognize this year’s anniversary, “with a special sense of gratitude as they reflect on the contemporary significance of the Reformation’s witness to the gospel.”

“We welcome this invitation by the LWF’s Acting General Secretary to approach our Reformation identity both with a spirit of repentance, and a spirit of expectancy for the future,” says Bishop Johnson. “I urge all ELCIC congregations to use the resources for LWF Sunday.”

In his letter to LWF member churches, Junge reminds the Lutheran communion of the need to reaffirm God’s gift of grace especially in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. “It is precisely because we live by grace that we have the confidence to look with honest eyes at the traditions we cherish and to seek God’s healing hand to make them live anew. Such a spirit is one for which our contemporary world thirsts,” writes Junge.

On October 31, 1517 Luther nailed his “Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, calling for reform in the Catholic Church of his time. Today Lutherans observe the date as Reformation Day.

Junge reminds churches of the July 2010 LWF Eleventh Assembly “Action on the Legacy of Lutheran Persecution of Anabaptists,” in which Lutherans asked Mennonites for forgiveness for the former’s violent persecution of Anabaptists in the 16th century, and for the subsequent harmful depictions of the latter to the present day.

“In coming with repentance even to our own special festival, we are acting from the heart of our faith. We are recognizing that the Spirit of God who called the reformers is still active among us now,” writes Junge.

He notes that Luther’s actions marked “a crucial turning point, a beginning of the Reformation,” and that observing this day has become a practice not only for Lutherans but also for many other churches.

“We recognize that the Reformation is not ours alone; reformation is a continuous need of the Church in every age, including this one. And we continue to work to address painful divisions among Christians, including those which date from the time of the reformers,” he stresses.

ELCIC congregations are encouraged to use the “Service of Repentance” prepared for LWF Sunday 2010. Liturgical materials can be downloaded at: http://www.lwf-assembly.org/uploads/media/Liturgy-Service_of_Repentance.pdf and adapted as needed for local contexts.

(With files from Lutheran World Information.)

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 152,500 baptized members in 607 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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