Sentinel Progress

500 Years Later

NEWBERRY — Oct. 31 will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This act led to the Protestant Reformation and the creation of Lutheranism.

Pastor Earl Schafer, a retired Lutheran pastor, said the Theses were statements for discussion that began the Reformation and later, the Thirty Year’s War.

“The church door, at the time, was the community bulletin board. They did not have newspapers back then. Whoever had an event, they posted it on the church door and people would read it,” he said.

Schafer further explained that Luther basically wanted to talk about Indulgences.

At that time the Roman Catholic Church was selling Indulgences — which was a piece of paper — and depending on how much you paid, you could have all of your sins forgiven (or partially) forgiven.

You could even get a family member out of purgatory — if you paid enough, he said.

“Luther was a parish pastor as well as a doctor of theology. He wanted to debate these issues and there were all kinds of debates that happened,” Schafer said. “He was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church of 1521.”

According to history, Luther was brought before a religious court and was asked if he would take back the words he wrote. Luther asked for some time to think about it and the court gave him overnight. When he came back, Luther refused to recant, declaring “Here I stand.”

“He was declared an outlaw, he went into hiding. During these years he translated the bible into German, the first time in history that the bible was in the language of the people,” Schafer said.

During his time in hiding, Schafer said Luther’s life was in jeopardy. When he reemerged and returned to Wittenberg, changes were happening. There was a break off from the Roman Catholic Church and when this happened, Luther did not want the name “Lutherans,” he wanted everyone to be called Christians.

“It started as ‘oh those Lutherans,’ about as nasty of a term you could come up with,” Schafer said.

Lutherans were the first Protestants, Schafer said, but with some changes: for example, one of Luther’s most profound changes from the Roman Catholic Church was deciding clergy would be permitted to marry.

Today, 500 years later, there are approximately 73 million Lutherans world wide, according to the Lutheran World Federation 2013 membership figures.

“I am a life-longer, Illinois born and bred, German Lutheran all the way. I went to Lutheran college and struggled, I did not want to go to church anymore, 50 years ago almost. The people of the church kept pulling me back and kept loving me no matter what I did in my life. I have been a pastor since 1974, I am also the father of a pastor,” Schafer said.

Schafer added that Lutheranism has been the foundation that allowed him to bury his parents with hope and celebrate his marriage of 46 years.

Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Courtesy photo

By Andrew Wigger

Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.