Martin Luther Lutheranism Essay

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For the Evangelical Lutheran Church everywhere

New Forde Publication: 'America's god & Lutheran Faith'

Click here to read this essay, which was presented to a group of pastors by the late Dr. Forde in 1992.

2017 Featured Essay:
On Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue by Theodor Dieter

Featured Essays for the 500th Reformation Anniversary

17 Lutheran Theses on Government

Click here to read "17 Lutheran Theses on Government" by Martin Lohrmann of Wartburg Seminary.
     From the introduction:
"The following 17 Theses are points for discussion about faith and government. They come from the Lutheran tradition, with the awareness that other traditions also bring insights to this topic that could be great to share together. The title '17 Theses' is a nod to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, a set of statements about indulgences and repentance that launched the Reformation era in Europe in 1517. While times have changed a great deal in the past 500 years, the need for understanding and dialogue remains just as critical."

Re-dedication of Jehu Jones marker in Philadelphia

Rev. Jehu Jones (1786-1852) was the first African-American Lutheran pastor. He led a congregation in Philadelphia in the 1830s and served as a missionary in the Ministerium of Pennsylvania. A historical marker was recently rededicated at the site of his Philadelphia congregation. In honor of that occasion, Lutheran Quarterly is proud to share this 1996 essay by Karl E. Johnson, Jr. and Joseph Romeo on Rev. Jones (click here for essay).

In the 1990s, a student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, [Karl] Earl Johnson, directed by Prof. Richard Stewart, began to do some investigation of Jehu Jones, the first African American Lutheran pastor in the US. Among other things, he discovered that the original building of St. Paul's was in existence and the cornerstone preserved. In 1998, Prof. Stewart and Dr. Timothy Wengert successfully lobbied the Pennsylvania Historical Commission for a marker at the site, 310 S. Quince St., Philadelphia, PA. Within a few years the sign disappeared. Only this year did Prof. Stewart again get the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to restore the marker. On November 19, 2016, a group of Lutheran pastors and laity gathered to rededicate the sign. Profs. Stewart and Wengert made remarks as did Bishop Clair Burkat. 
 
Jehu Jones, born in South Carolina was designated by his pastor, John Bachman, to become a missionary to Liberia. Ordained by the New York Synod, Jones was unable to go to Liberia and instead came to Philadelphia, where in the 1530s with the half-hearted support of some of the Lutheran pastors of the Pennsylvania Synod, he started an African American Lutheran congregation,  St. Paul's.  They built a sanctuary at 310 S. Quince St.  By 1839 the building had been sold in a sheriff's auction for failure to pay loans (in part because the Synod failed to live up to its promises). Jones later faced charges by the New York Synod regarding the legitimacy of his ordination and ministry, which he answered in a tract.  He died in Philadelphia on September 28, 1852.
 
Only through the tireless work of Earl Johnson and Richard Stewart has the life and work of this remarkable pioneer come to light.

editor Paul Rorem on LQ, past & Present

LQ editor Paul Rorem wrote this piece about the past and present of Lutheran Quarterly for an issue of Currents in Theology & Mission that surveyed a variety of journals produced by and for North American Lutherans.
Read Dr. Rorem's essay here. [Shared with permission of Currents in Theology & Mission]
Want more? Click here to visit the Table of Contents for this inspiring issue of Currents!
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Committed to the idea that salvation could be reached through faith and by divine grace only, Luther vigorously objected to the corrupt practice of selling indulgences. Acting on this belief, he wrote the “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” also known as “The 95 Theses,” a list of questions and propositions for debate. Popular legend has it that on October 31, 1517 Luther defiantly nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. The reality was probably not so dramatic; Luther more likely hung the document on the door of the church matter-of-factly to announce the ensuing academic discussion around it that he was organizing.

The 95 Theses, which would later become the foundation of the Protestant Reformation, were written in a remarkably humble and academic tone, questioning rather than accusing. The overall thrust of the document was nonetheless quite provocative. The first two of the theses contained Luther’s central idea, that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone, and not deeds, would lead to salvation. The other 93 theses, a number of them directly criticizing the practice of indulgences, supported these first two.

In addition to his criticisms of indulgences, Luther also reflected popular sentiment about the “St. Peter’s scandal” in the 95 Theses:

Why does not the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?

The 95 Theses were quickly distributed throughout Germany and then made their way to Rome. In 1518, Luther was summoned to Augsburg, a city in southern Germany, to defend his opinions before an imperial diet (assembly). A debate lasting three days between Luther and Cardinal Thomas Cajetan produced no agreement. Cajetan defended the church’s use of indulgences, but Luther refused to recant and returned to Wittenberg.

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