Root causes of global poverty must be tackled, ICC’s 90th Annual Meeting told
The recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of Christian Aid Ireland, Rosamond Bennett, stressed to the 21st March 90th Annual Meeting of the Irish Council of Churches that the agency is seeking to go beyond humanitarian disaster relief to tackle the root causes of poverty in the developing world and to get people out of poverty.
Ms Bennett, who took over as Christian Aid Ireland’s CEO last September and who came to the organization from a communications career in the banking industry, underlined the importance of the interagency ‘If’ campaign highlighting the potential for addressing need across the globe (Gazette report, 22nd February).
FIGURES IN CHURCH HISTORY – 31
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546)
According to a leading authority, over 1,000 books and learned articles are written about Luther every year.
He is certainly one of the most significant people in history and one of the great, if still controversial, theologians of Christendom. The son of a miner, Martin Luther entered the order of the Hermits of St Augustine – the ‘Austin Friars’ – and became a lecturer at Wittenberg University, where he was made a Doctor of Theology and Professor of Biblical Exegesis. He rose to a position of responsibility in his order, being given charge of 11 Augustinian monasteries.
His conversion to an evangelical theology was by no means instant and seems to have taken place over a number of years, during which he was lecturing on the Bible and reflecting particularly not only on the Psalms but also on the message of Romans, Galatians, Hebrews and 1st Peter. From these came his insight into, and recovery of, the doctrine of justification by faith, to which he added the word ‘alone’.
Luther’s first clash with ecclesiastical authority came about through his protest against the sale of indulgences by the German Dominican, Johann Tetzel, when, following the established custom for starting an argument or debate, he nailed his 95 ‘theses’ to the door of the church at Wittenberg.
Increasingly bitter clashes occurred in debate with Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg and the learned Johann Eck at Leipzig, Luther putting himself beyond the bounds of Roman orthodoxy by denying the primacy of the Pope and the infallibility of General Councils. Protected by the secular authority of the
rather conservative Frederick III of Saxony (Frederick the Wise), Luther expanded his prophetic ministry by the publication of three influential major works: The Address to the German Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity and The Freedom of the Christian Man. Such was the effect of these and other writings that, within his lifetime, a great part of Germany had been won over to the cause of Reform. However, the exceptional popularity of the early years of the Reformation movement was compromised by the violence of Luther’s reaction to the Peasants’ Revolt, in which he urged everyone who could to “smite, slay and stab” the rebels. Furthermore, his doctrinal position was by no means invariably supported by his fellow-Reformers, the Swiss Huldrych Zwingli in particular taking strong exception to Luther’s defence of the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
Martin Luther’s long-term influence was secured by his translation of the Bible, which became a German classic, and his hymns, which in effect sang the Reformation into people’s minds and spirits. His titantic stature is well expressed by words attributed to him and which he is reputed to have spoken before the Emperor at Worms: “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear.
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