by Ardith Engel

Reformation Day is a religious holiday celebrated on October 31st in remembrance of the Reformation, particularly by Lutheran and Reformed church communities. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther wrote to Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeberg protesting the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. An indulgence was the full or partial remission of sins after the sinner has confessed and received absolution but also has paid money to the church. Luther severely objected to the saying attributed to Johann Tetzel: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Luther, himself a priest and professor of theology, had no intention of breaking from the church. His famous 95 Theses were a scholarly objection to church practices. While indulgences suggested that through giving to the church one could be saved, Luther proclaimed that we are justified, not by our deeds, but by faith alone. Little did he know when he posted the theses on the church door at Wittenberg that it would spark the Protestant Reformation.

Around the same time, the Anabaptist Movement (meaning “rebaptizers”) was afoot. However, the term was seen as a reproach for they did not intend to be against baptism but rather in favour of “believer” baptism, in which an adult could make a profession of faith, while an infant baptism was performed on a chil unknowingly. These are our Baptist forbears.

The Protestant Reformation was not to destroy the Catholic Church but to reform it and it actually sparked the counter-Reformation in its wake. As present-day Christians, let us join hands with our Catholic brothers and sisters, despite whatever differences we may have in doctrine and unite our hearts as one in the Body of Christ.

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