Almost 500 years ago, Martin Luther gave a decisive impetus for the theological and spiritual reform of the Church. What began with Luther's rediscovery of the doctrine of justification by faith and his fight over indulgences developed into a worldwide reform movement that made Wittenberg known on all continents. The fundamental insights of his theology continue to have an impact today, and not just in the churches that arose out of the Lutheran branch of the Reformation. Thanks to the ecumenical movement, which bore great fruit through intensive dialogue particularly in the 20th century, the Christian world community has developed into a spiritual community.
In 2017, when the LWF and its member churches commemorate the 500th anniversary of the posting of the 95 Theses in Wittenberg, it would like to use the opportunity to give expression to a core understanding found in its Constitution: "The LWF confesses the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and intends to serve the unity of the Church." And so, the LWF is taking great care in the preparations for 2017 to find ways to emphasize the ecumenical magnitude of this commemoration and its importance for ecumenical relationships.
This should find expression in a concrete project, and not just anywhere, but in the birthplace of the Reformation - in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Something permanent, but not yet complete, should be established, something that continually grows and enriches Wittenberg - a sign that symbolizes the vitality and life connectedness of the reform movement and its worldwide resonance.
Planting trees will allow a garden to emerge that not only will offer the living beauty of a park, but that will give meaning to theological insights as well. As the first stones were laid at the official opening of the Luthergarten in 2008, ELCA Presiding Bishop and LWF President Mark Hanson said: The time when Martin Luther lived was haunted by nightmares and fantasies about what the future would bring. They were nightmares of divine judgment and the fantasies of some utopia ironically created out of violence. There is a well-known story that Luther, when asked what he would do if God's final judgment were to arrive the next day, replied that he would plant an apple tree. Although the story is likely a legend, it reflects the confidence that the life lived in Jesus Christ can be lived in evangelical repentance that is both joyfully attentive to life in this creation and joyously hopeful for life in the new creation. May the dedication of this garden provide the occasion for our witness to the repentant life in Christ and our joyous hope of life where Jesus lives.
In connection with the "planting of a small apple tree" quote ascribed to Luther, and as part of the preparation for the 500-year Reformation Jubilee, the Luthergarten is being created. This interactive monument, in the best sense of the word, will take shape in the coming years (up to 2017) on the grounds just south of the Old Town, according to the plans of the renowned landscape architect, Andreas Kipar (Duisburg/Milan).
It will be established as a sign of solidarity, connectedness, and reconciliation of churches worldwide. And, thus once again, an impulse will emanate from the garden for the town, the region, the country and finally, again, for the world.
This was emphasized by then-leading bishop of the VELKD and chair of the German National Committee of the LWF, Bishop Dr. Johannes Friedrich: "The project design already gives us a sense that the Luthergarten will have a worldwide resonance. This stems from the persuasive design suggestions of the landscape architect Dr. Kipar, clear in construction, differentiated in detail, world encompassing in its implementation. I am convinced that this on this location there will be one of the most meaningful monuments to the Reformation created in the 21st century."
Besides the other well-known places in Wittenberg that are connected to Luther's influence, the town will receive an additional Luther symbol in the form of an open-air space that will be accessible to all. The history of the Lutheran-influenced Reformation will come to light in this setting. It will be a location for cultural events and other activities.