When Martin Luther inadvertently began the Protest Reformation in 1517, he, of course, had no clue that the church he helped split asunder would still be divided almost 500 years later.
But the Protestant-Catholic separation remains (along with the even-older Catholic-Orthodox split), as does the internal Protestant divide, which has simply atomized the faith communities that came out of the Reformation.
Still, in the last century there have been halting -- and occasionally successful -- efforts to begin to reconnect the various branches of what Christians call the body of Christ.
It's a slow, frustrating process, in part because of the tenacity with which various branches hold on to their differences and their distinct traditions.
But here and there we see progress. The most recent -- and, in terms of commemorating the start of the Reformation, perhaps the most important -- example has come with an interim agreement between the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
At the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly, delegates voted to approve something called the "Declaration on the Way," which outlines various areas in which the ELCA and Catholics have agreed to agree (along with listing some still-pending issues).
The Lutherans and Catholics, God bless them, have taken seriously the task of healing this 500-year-old divide. It's not fully fixed yet -- and, in fact, may never be. But the willingness to spend years and years in conversation (as opposed to a more violent approach to settling issues) is admirable. And, indeed, both sides have devoted a lot of time and energy to these matters.
Martin Luther himself was divisive and sharp-tongued and was often willing to call whoever was pope the "anti-Christ." He jackhammered his way through life and helped to create the angry divisions that only now are finding at least tentative resolution.
My guess is he either wouldn't be all that thrilled with theological compromise or he'd simply declare victory and go home. For that reason, it's probably a good thing he's not still around.
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I'VE FOUND 'EM
This Harper's piece asks where all the Christian intellectuals are these days. Uh, right here in the blogosphere. Where else would we be today? (Insert your own emoji here.)