Chattanooga Clergy Members Reflect on the Reformation's 500th Anniversary

Nov 2, 2017

October 31st marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther publishing his objections to the Roman Catholic Church's theology, an act that led to the Protestant Reformation. In this feature, we hear how Chattanooga clergy are marking the occasion: with hymns and reflections on the Reformation's continued relevance.



More than 500 years ago, a German monk named Martin Luther struggled with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Luther believed mankind was sinful, and God could forgive sins... but did Luther really deserve forgiveness? Could it be earned? Ed Rosser, a pastor raised in the Lutheran tradition of the Missouri synod, explains how he heard Luther’s story.


ROSSER: Some of the things that we learned was a fancy word when I was just a little kid. And that is flagellation. He would beat himself. With something called a cat of nine tails and he would rip the skin on his back as he beat himself. He would go through all kinds of fasting because he never felt like he was good enough to really please God.


Luther came to believe self-sacrifice was not the way to salvation. Faith—and faith alone—was the key to salvation, in Luther’s view. Here’s what Rosser and other Lutherans believe.


ROSSER: God will never love you more than he does. There's nothing that you can do. To cause him to love you more. So stop trying.


October 31st marks the five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther publicly expressing his views, so controversial at the time that the Catholic Church excommunicated him. Luther inadvertently sparked the Protestant reformation… Protestants splitting from the Catholic church.


We spoke to several area pastors, to find out how they are commemorating this this 500-hundred-year milestone, and what the Reformation means to them, today.


Paul Bushur is the pastor at Chattanooga’s First Lutheran Church, where several congregations gathered for a hymn festival.




BUSHUR: We’re having a special service here in honor of the 500th anniversary of the reformation. Special service of Luther hymns. Luther wrote some 36 hymns, and so we sang some of them tonight, our choirs did and the congregation, and reflected on those hymns about the Word of God.




FARRINGTON: Although I believe the Reformation needed to happen, because the reforms needed to take place, it was not ever Luther's intent to start a different church body but only to have the debates within the Roman Catholic Church to reform the Roman Catholic Church.


Pauline Farrington lives in Knoxville. She’s an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor, and she used to work at Resurrection Lutheran in Ooltewah. In fact, she was one of the first female Lutheran pastors in the area.


FARRINGTON: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as it is in Chattanooga, is very much more progressive than some of the other congregations some of the other church bodies there.


For her, this 500-year milestone isn’t a cause for celebration.


FARRINGTON: We don't celebrate Reformation, we commemorate it, because our hearts are still broken over this the splintering of the church.




WILLIAMSON: God is still speaking.


Reverend Scott Williamson is with Pilgrim Congregational Church in Chattanooga, which has its roots in Lutheranism. For them, the Reformation is ongoing.


So we believe that God still speaking to us and nature and and through the interpretation of the Bible through all kinds of means. But we also believe that God is still reforming that the Reformation didn't wasn't a one-time event it's a constant flow.




Reformation to me is a constant is a constant struggle if you will of believers to look at the life of Jesus and see how we can apply it to our own modern society. How can we understand and reform this message and refine it to make it relevant to our society today.