Key facts about Protes­tantism

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Protes­tants form a branch of the Chris­tian faith that broke away from the Ro­man Catholic Church dur­ing the Re­for­ma­tion 500 years ago. Pope Fran­cis has nonethe­less strength­ened ties with sev­eral Protes­tant de­nom­i­na­tions, and his trip to Swe­den to take part in events mark­ing the an­niver­sary of the Re­for­ma­tion could mark a new high in re­la­tions. Here are some key points about Protes­tantism:

Oc­to­ber 31, 1517

This is the date that marks the be­gin­ning of the Re­for­ma­tion, when Ger­man the­olo­gian Martin Luther pub­lished his “95 The­ses”. These no­tably crit­i­cized how the Catholic con­cept of “in­dul­gences”-whereby a re­pen­tant sin­ner could re­duce the pun­ish­ment for his sins in pur­ga­tory in re­turn for a mone­tary con­tri­bu­tion-had been cor­rupted into a lu­cra­tive cash-for-sal­va­tion scheme. Luther was ex­com­mu­ni­cated-ex­pelled from the Ro­man Catholic Church-on Jan­uary 3, 1521. But his mes­sage spread quickly across Europe, dis­sem­i­nated by the print­ing press.

Ar­ti­cles of faith

There are sev­eral the­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween Protes­tants and Ro­man Catholics, in­clud­ing the fol­low­ing: Protes­tants be­lieve the Bi­ble alone is the high­est author­ity in mat­ters of faith. Catholics ac­knowl­edge the com­bined author­ity of the Bi­ble along with the tra­di­tions of the Church. For Protes­tants, sal­va­tion is through faith alone, while Catholic doc­trine says “good works” can in­flu­ence one’s stand­ing with God. There are also doc­tri­nal dif­fer­ences over the bread and wine used in the eucharist or holy com­mu­nion. For the Catholic Church, the bread and wine mys­ti­cally transform into the ac­tual body and blood of Je­sus, while for Protes­tants, they re­main a sym­bol of his sac­ri­fi­cial death on the cross.

The Protes­tant move­ment di­ver­si­fied into three main branches: Lutheranism, Calvin­ismwhich in­cludes the Re­formed Church and Pres­by­te­ri­an­ism-and Angli­can­ism. The Church of Swe­den, which will host the pope, is Lutheran and ad­heres closely to prin­ci­ples estab­lished by Luther. Other size­able Lutheran congregations are lo­cated in neigh­bor­ing Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries, as well as in Ger­many, Ethiopia, In­done­sia, Tan­za­nia and the United States. Calvin­ists are in­spired by French the­olo­gian John Calvin, who in 1536 founded the Re­formed Church in Geneva. This is present pri­mar­ily in Europe, North Amer­ica, South Africa and Aus­tralia. The Angli­can Com­mu­nion can be found on al­most all con­ti­nents, and ad­her­ents ob­serve rites com­mon to both the Catholic and Re­formed de­nom­i­na­tions. The Catholic Church re­serves the priest­hood for men, who must re­main celi­bate; within Protes­tantism, cler­ics can marry and have chil­dren, and in many churches, women have been ad­mit­ted to the priest­hood and hi­er­ar­chy.

In ad­di­tion to its ma­jor branches, the Protes­tant church com­prises many de­nom­i­na­tions that num­ber tens of mil­lions of mem­bers. They in­clude Baptists, Evan­gel­i­cals, Methodists and a group of more than a half-dozen churches based in Africa. Other com­mon de­nom­i­na­tions in­clude Con­gre­ga­tion­al­ists, Sev­enth Day Ad­ven­tists, Quakers, Uni­tar­i­ans and Men­non­ites such as the US-based Amish peo­ple that re­nounce mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. Non-de­nom­i­na­tional, evan­gel­i­cal and charis­matic or Pen­te­costal churches are cur­rently among those grow­ing the fastest.

800 mil­lion faith­ful

The pre­cise num­ber of Protes­tants is dif­fi­cult to es­tab­lish given the num­ber of churches and off­shoots. The in­de­pen­dent Pew Re­search Cen­ter has es­ti­mated that in 2011, Protes­tants num­bered more than 800 mil­lion, “broadly de­fined to in­clude Angli­cans as well as mem­bers of in­de­pen­dent and non­de­nom­i­na­tional churches.” —AFP

WIT­TEN­BERG: Peo­ple at­tend a fes­ti­val ser­vice at the Schlosskirche (Cas­tle Church, All Saint’s Church) in Wit­ten­berg, east­ern Ger­many, to cel­e­brate the Re­for­ma­tion Day. — AFP

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