To All Members and Clergy of The United Methodist Church:

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ! This year marks a significant moment in the life of whole Christian Church: the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Already the year has been punctuated by moments of commemoration across the world. Churches from many traditions have gathered to give thanks for the renewing impulses unleashed by the Reformation, repent for the ongoing brokenness and dividedness of Christ’s body, and look forward in hope to the healing and unity of the Church.

Each year many churches observe Reformation Day on October 31st or the preceding Sunday, remembering the day Martin Luther first made his 95 theses public in 1517. As we approach the fall and look toward the 500th anniversary of this event, I encourage United Methodists everywhere to mark this occasion throughout the month of October with study, prayer, and joint worship with ecumenical partners. You may wish to commemorate this anniversary in one of the following ways:

  • Convene a month-long Sunday School study of the Reformation and its major themes
  • Incorporate Reformation Day prayers into your worship services on Sunday, October 29th
  • Host a joint Reformation Commemoration service with a neighboring Lutheran church or local ministerial association
  • Host a viewing and discussion of a documentary or biographical film about Martin Luther
  • Invite a scholar or pastor in your area to offer a public lecture on the Reformation and its implications for today
  • Attend a local commemoration event with a group from your congregation

These are but a few suggestions from among many ways you might wish to honor this occasion. As a support to the organizing of these kinds of activities please find a list of planning, study, and worship resources appended to this letter.

As a body of believers born out of an ongoing movement for reformation and renewal, we Methodists should not let this moment pass by without marking its significance. I hope you will join me in remembering the events that sparked the reformation with thanksgiving, repentance and hope.

Bishop Watson Signature
Bishop B. Michael Watson
Ecumenical Officer – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

Reformation 500 Resources


Reformation 500 Sourcebook: Anniversary Resources for Congregations (Resources for planning Reformation commemoration)

Living and Growing into Full Communion: A model for local celebrations, formation and theological reflection (Guide for bringing together ELCA and UMC churches for worship and learning about each other’s traditions)

Reconciled with One Another: An Ecumenical Statement by the General Assembly of the Council of Christian Churches in Germany on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation(available in English and German)

Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, by The Evangelical Church in Germany


Freed & Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Commemoration Planning Resources, Study and Educational Resources, News and Events)

Lutheran World Federation, Reformation 2017 (News, Events, Study Booklets available in English, French, German and Spanish)

Reformation Basics, Fortress Press (Interactive Educational Resources, Timelines, Maps, Videos, Quizzes, and Introductory Information)

Reformation Notes, Candler School of Theology, Kessler Reformation Collection (Newsletter, Events and Exhibits)

Reformation 500 Resources, Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA

Books, Study Guides, Educational Resources

October 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the Day That Changed the World, by Martin E. Marty (Short introductory text, good for book group or small group study)

40-Day Journey with Martin Luther, edited by Gracia Grindal (Devotions, Small Group Reflections)

Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses: With Introduction, Commentary, and Study Guide by Timothy J. Wengert (Primary text with Study Guide)

Revisiting the 95 Theses Today, Leader’s Guide, by Jonathan Linman (presentation guide and discussion questions, based on above Wengert text)

From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (available in English, Finnish, French, German, Polish, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Hungarian, and Arabic)

From Conflict to Communion Study Guide

Together by Grace: Introducing the Lutherans, ed. by Robert Farlee and Kathryn A. Kleinhans

The Reformation: A Very Short Introduction, by Peter Marshall (Short introductory text, good for book group or small group study)

Martin Luther: A Very Short Introduction, by Scott H. Hendrix (Short introductory text, good for book group or small group study)

Liturgical Resources:

Joint Common Prayer Lutheran–Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017(Can be adapted for use with wider denominational focus, available in English, Spanish, French, German, and Dutch)

Reformation Day Liturgical Resources from Discipleship Ministries of The UMC

Service of Prayer for Christian Unity, Council of Christian Churches in Germany (available in English and German)

Reformation Day Lectionary Resources, by

Youth and Children’s Resources

Luther Learns from Paul: The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, (Free lesson for October 29th, 2017 for ages 5-10)

The Protestant Reformation: Youth and Young Adults, (5 session introductory history curriculum)


Luther and the Reformation, by Rick Steves

Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World

Luther (Biopic)

Martin Luther (Documentary), by PBS (parts 1 and 2 available to stream online here)

About the Council of Bishops
The Council of Bishops provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 12.3 million-member church and its mission throughout the world. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The Council of Bishops is made up of all active and retired bishops of The United Methodist Church, and comprises 45 active bishops in the United States; 20 active bishops in Europe, Asia and Africa; plus 87 retired bishops worldwide.

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