Reformation Anniversary

Reformation Anniversary (1517 - 2017) 

Reformation Roadmap visits England Tuesday 21 February to Saturday 25 February

The Reformation Roadmap 'storymobile' visited England in February 2017  with three cities in its itinerary: Liverpool on Tuesday 21 February, Cambridge on Thursday 23 February and London (Trafalgar Square) on Saturday 25 February.

A full day of events at Cambridge on 23 February included a symposium at St Edward's Church on the theme 'Reformation then and now', with a presentation from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth.

Information about this initiative as a whole can be found here, with more details about what is happening in England here.

How the Reformation started in 1517: Martin Luther challenges the church

On 31 October 1517 the protest of Martin Luther, Doctor of Theology, against the practice of indulgences took expression in 95 Theses touching on questions of grace, repentance and forgiveness. He announced his intention to defend his statements orally in that place or by letter with those who could not be present. 

Reaction from church leaders and scholars, at first on a small scale, gathered momentum with lives changed radically in German states and in many countries across Europe. Two years later, King Henry VIII of England started to write his Defence of the Seven Sacraments while he was reading Martin Luther's attack on indulgences. Luther himself composed a reply to King Henry, answered in turn by Thomas More. Although Luther's writings were banned in England, a small group started to meet in Cambridge to study them, along with other material emerging from the new movement on the Continent. Many of them would become key figures in the English Reformation.

500th anniversary

The 500th anniversary of Luther's action provides a significant opportunity for churches to

  • strengthen relationships with one another
  • deepen reconciliation between us, for the sake of our witness to the gospel
  • promote reflection on what reformation means for us today

The Ecumenical Commemoration hosted jointly by Roman Catholics and Lutherans in Lund on 31 October 2016 and attended by Pope Francis and the President of the Lutheran World Federation has put the anniversary commemorations on the map internationally, and much more will be happening in 2017 itself.

The Church of England, with its ecumenical partners, is involved in a number of ways, some of which are listed below. Further information can be found in many cases on the external websites that are mentioned.

Statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

On Tuesday 17 January the Archbishops of Canterbury and York made a statement about the Reformation Anniversary. The Statement can be read on their websites at:

Archbishop of Canterbury / Archbishop of York 

The Archbishop of Canterbury is one of the Presidents of Churches Together in England, whose joint statement on how to mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation can be read on their website

Church of England Bishops talk about the Reformation

 The Bishop of Truro on the call to be one.

The Bishop of Kensington on the rediscovery of God as a generous giver, and the affirmation of the role of the laity.

The Bishop of Huddersfield on the centrality of grace, and the relevance of the reformation to social and political life.

General Synod debate 13 February 2017

On Monday 13 February General Synod passed a motion in the following form, on a motion moved by the Bishop of Coventry and including an amendment moved by the Revd Angus MacLeay of Rochester.

"That this Synod, in the context of the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the European Reformation and the Church of England's understanding of the doctrine of justification as expressed in our historic formularies:

(a)    Give thanks to God for the rich spiritual blessings that the Reformation brought to the Church of England

(b)   welcome signs of convergence between the churches on the doctrine of salvation, noting Resolution 16.l7 of the Anglican Consultative Council in 2016 regarding the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and its relation to the Helsinki Report and ARCIC II's Salvation and the Church; and

(c)    commend initiatives in this anniversary year to foster mutual understanding and reconciliation between churches, for the sake of our deeper renewal in the grace of God and our ability to share the gospel of salvation with all the world."

The General Synod will debate a motion about the Reformation Anniversary at its session in London in February.

The briefing paper for the debate is available here.


Kirchentag May 2017

The 36th German Protestant Kirchentag will take place from 24 to 28 May 2017 in Berlin und Wittenberg. Reflecting on international ecumenism, interfaith and intercultural dialogue, it will also look ahead to the next 500 years of Protestantism. The theme of the 2017 Kirchentag is "You see me" (Gen 16:13) and will include over 2500 single events.

The website of the British Kirchentag Committee at has articles about the evolution of the link between the Berlin Kirchentag and the Reformation Commemorations in Wittenberg. The main Kirchentag website is here

Finale Tuesday 31 October 2017

The finale of the celebrations on Tuesday 31 October 2017 will centre in England, on a service at Westminster Abbey, with church leaders from many denominations in Britain and guests from other countries. This will be followed by a symposium on the theme "Liberated by Grace," featuring theologians, historians, and a lively debate on contemporary resonances of the Reformation, in the adjoining St Margaret's Church at 3pm.

The Council of Lutheran Churches in Great Britain is taking a leading role in sponsoring and planning this event, as well as other aspects of the Reformation Anniversary in this country. Their dedicated website here.

Resources for the Reformation Anniversary prepared by the Lutheran World Federation along with other information about global commemoration can be found here.



Churches Together in Britain and Ireland are centrally involved the Reformation Anniversary programme in the Four Nations. For more details see: