A forum in Canberra on Monday 29 May will assess the continuing controversy sparked 500 years ago when Martin Luther nailed his '95 Theses' to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany.
The forum is being hosted by the Ecumenical Studies Centre (ESC), which is part of the Charles Sturt University (CSU) Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture (ACC&C) in Canberra. The ecumenical roundtable discussions are organised by the Director of the Ecumenical Studies Centre, the Reverend Dr Ray Williamson, and the Executive Director of the ACC&C, Rt. Reverend Professor Stephen Pickard.
Professor Pickard said the forum will weigh several questions pertinent to our time.
"Does it matter whether Christians are content to exist in division, and does seeking unity mean we have to sacrifice the truth?" Professor Pickard asks.
"Can the divisions of the church be healed and does it matter? What would it take? Does God care?"
He says such questions cannot be easily ignored or dismissed.
"Why? For a start our ancient Creed states that the Church is One. And here it echoes the Scripture: 'there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism' (Ephesians 4:5).
"So it seems plain that Christian unity is an imperative of the gospel and the will of God. Yet Christians continue to justify divisions and dissension, exclude, persecute and ignore brothers and sisters in Christ. In doing so, Christian witness is undermined. If Christians worship a God of love, then it is incumbent upon Christians to love one another. This transforms lives. People are drawn out of darkness towards the light of God."
Professor Pickard (pictured left) said this goes to the heart of our present situation because our age is an age of anger and division.
"We see it unfolding with great pace across the world," he said. "Some might say it has ever been thus. Yet it is hard to resist the conclusion that this is a particularly fractious and divided period of history.
"Previously hard-fought agreements, unions, and cooperative arrangements between countries are under strain. Even some of the most powerful world leaders seem more interested in snarling at one another rather than seeking the common good.
"Think of the slogans of separation and division: 'Brexit', 'America first'. 'Border security' seems to trump a previously hospitable and compassionate approach to those in need. The closure of communities and the reassertion of a new secular tribalism point to a resurgent self-interest. This is the heat-beat of nations, it infects institutions, politics, and family life.
"If love for one another transforms people, then Christian unity as a concrete expression of love and respect has something to offer a divided and violent world. It's not just a churchy thing to do. It's for the sake of the wellbeing and healing of the nations. Christian unity goes hand-in-hand with Christian mission."
Speakers at the Roundtable will come from Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist (NZ), Greek Orthodox and Baptist churches to work towards a greater shared understanding and renew working together for the sake of the Gospel of God.
Professor Pickard said it was important for the forum and all to remember the words of St Augustine in the 4th century: 'In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity'.
The Roundtable Luther at 500: Taking the Ecumenical Pulse at the ACC&C, 15 Blackall St (corner of King's Avenue), Canberra, on Monday 29 May follows two successful Ecumenical Roundtables in 2015 and 2016.