Faith Matters

500 years on, does the Reformation still matter?

Presbyterian seminar series will feature Catholic contributions

When Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on October 31 1517, he helped trigger the start of the Reformation

OCTOBER 31 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his famous Ninety-five Theses on the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, an act which is widely regarded as triggering the start of the Reformation.

It is a significant milestone for one of the most epochal movements in world history - the Protestant schism from the Roman Catholic Church - and a prompt for much reflection and assessment.

Among this is a series of four seminars organised by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's Union Theological College in Belfast, with speakers from the Reformed and Catholic traditions looking at different aspects of 'The Unfinished Reformation'.

Dr Francis Campbell, from outside Rathfriland, who is the UK's former ambassador to the Holy See and the current Vice-Chancellor of St Mary's University, Twickenham, will address the subject of 'The Roman Catholic Church and Reformation' on October 2.

A week later Fr Tim Bartlett, Secretary General of the World Meeting of Families which takes place in Dublin next year, will take a joint seminar with the Rev Trevor Gribben, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Clerk of the General Assembly.

They will speak about 'Presbyterians and Catholics: Areas of common concern'.

The two other sessions will be taken by Union College staff.

Professor Laurence Kirkpatrick will speak on 'The Presbyterian Church in Ireland: A Reformed Church and Always Reforming?' this Monday, September 25.

Dr Marty Cowan and Dr Zach Cole will close the seminar series on October 16 with 'The Reformation Continues: By Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone'.


Union College principal Prof Stafford Carson said the seminars were an opportunity to further explore the question of whether the Reformation has any continuing relevance for Churches today.

"One of the slogans of the Reformation was 'The Church reformed and always reforming'," he said.

"We will look at what areas has the church continued to be reformed in since the 16th century, and in what areas does it still need to be reformed," he said.

"The speakers that we have brought together will help us reflect on these questions from their different perspectives.

"I hope in running this series it will create a greater awareness of the Reformation, its meaning and ongoing legacy, especially in Ireland.

"We also wish to affirm that the insights of the Reformers have a continuing relevance for key Christian doctrines and continue to provide the Presbyterian Church in Ireland with important biblical guidelines as it undertakes its mission and ministry in the contemporary world."

:: The Unfinished Reformation series will be held in Union Theological College, Belfast at 7.30pm on four consecutive Monday evenings from September 25 to October 16. Each seminar costs £7.50 or tickets for all four cost £25. For more information visit

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