The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) is returning to the birthplace of the 16th-century Reformation to demonstrate that this now belongs to Christians around the world.
The WCRC executive committee this week decided to hold the 26th general council in Erfurt, Germany, in 2017. The WCRC meets in general council every seven years.
This marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Wittenberg, along with other historic Reformation sites, will play an important part in the general council, although most business meetings will take place in Erfurt.
“Holding the council here reminds us that Germany is only one small province in the huge worldwide map of Christian churches,” said Peter Bukowski, president of the Reformed Alliance, one of the four German member churches that will host the meeting. “It is so important to widen the perspective of this jubilee.”
One goal of the 26th general council is to invite other Christian traditions to join the anniversary in Germany and then take the celebration around the world.
“Our choice of Germany in 2017 says that the Reformation belongs to the whole world but also aims to provide new ways of understanding how churches are called to work together,” said Jerry Pillay, president of the WCRC. “We are looking forward to an amazing celebration that will draw people from every continent.”
The executive committee also decided on a theme for the general council: “Living God, renew and transform us.”
“The 1517 Reformation was about the renewal of the church,” said Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the WCRC. “This council will gather our churches worldwide to reflect on how the church is renewed today and on our calling to be God’s agents for transformation and justice.”
Germany was chosen after an invitation to all WCRC member churches to submit proposals to host the event. Besides the four German churches, a member church from the global south also expressed interest.
Erfurt was selected after careful analysis and discussion. Several reasons were given, including Erfurt’s connection to Luther: he was a student and an Augustinian monk there in the early 1500s.
Erfurt is the headquarters of the Evangelical Church of Central Germany, a church from the Union of Evangelical Churches (UEK), with which the WCRC has been working to strengthen its relationship.
The executive committee also appointed a council planning committee, with Lisa Vander Wal, of the Reformed Church in America, as its convener.
The general council is the main governing body of the WCRC. The executive committee, elected at a general council, acts as the WCRC’s governing board between councils, meeting annually.