Conference in Thessaloniki: 500 Years of Reformation

An important international conference on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation took place in March of this year at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. It was organized in cooperation with the universities in Strasbourg and Kiel, Germany, along with the Institute for Ecumenical Research. The festive opening lecture was given by André Birmelé.

Given the number of conferences being held on the Reformation anniversary, this one may not initially seem particularly noteworthy. However, a rich scholarly discussion about the Reformation took place indeed precisely in a place where that had never yet happened, marked as it is by the Orthodox heritage of Greece. More than forty internationally renowned researchers of various ecclesial backgrounds were invited to offer lectures under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The great hall of the university was packed at all times. Among the attendants were numerous students and docents of the university who were greatly engaged in the wider conversation.

On the Orthodox side there was interest first of all in the classical themes of Reformation history. Accordingly the Institute staff offered lectures on these themes: Theodor Dieter presented Luther’s theology in ten concise theses, while Jennifer Wasmuth demonstrated the Reformation’s reception of central aspects of the Nicene Creed.

Furthermore, the ecumenical dialogues of the present era were accorded great significance—as a fruitful harvest of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, striving to overcome divisions that occurred in the Reformation era. The various dialogues were described in some detail along with their most important outcomes. As a participant in the International Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission, Jennifer Wasmuth gave a brief introduction to the history of this dialogue and pointed out prospects for future work.

Additionally, questions of method occupied a good portion of the conference. Theodor Dieter was for this reason invited to speak about the method and goals of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue. The texts that have emerged from it, “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” and “From Conflict to Communion” played an important role in this and other lectures and discussions, taken up on the Orthodox side with impressive eagerness.

Altogether, within the framework of the conference a meaningful exchange took place on questions of both content and method, which it may be hoped will continue to reverberate beyond the confines of the conference itself. A publication of the conference papers is in the works.






Photos: Theodor Dieter