In late July, two Luther Seminary professors joined a distinguished group of hundreds of international Martin Luther scholars in Wittenberg, Germany, for the 13th international congress for Luther research, an event held every five years.
Mary Jane Haemig, professor of Church History and director of the Reformation Research Program, and Steven D. Paulson, professor of Systematic Theology of Luther Seminary, both attended the week-long event and also delivered short presentations to the group.
Haemig spoke on “Promises and Pleas: Luther on Prayer,” and Paulson spoke on “Deus Absconditus in Luther’s Early Sermons (to 1517),” which refers to “the hidden God.”
“This is a meeting of Luther scholars coming from all over the globe,” Haemig says. “Attendees came from Australia, China, South America and many other regions. It really was an international meeting, and that’s part of the excitement, that you meet other Luther scholars and have a chance to interact with them.”
Haemig has served on the 10-person Continuation Committee involved with planning the event since 2007, as one of three North American representatives. She and the planning group met in Wittenberg in 2014 to determine the week’s events.
“We had plenary addresses four of the mornings, and on the fifth morning, there were short presentations in separate rooms,” Haemig says. “The plenaries of course were delivered to everyone together, where we listened to one speaker. In the afternoons, we met in small groups and that is consistently a part of the Congress that people rate very highly. You stay in the same small group all week and explore one particular theme, so you might present work in progress or discuss a particular piece by Luther. I, for instance, was in one on preaching. It’s a nonthreatening setting to discuss all of our ongoing work on Luther.”
In past years, the Congress has met in different areas worldwide, including Helsinki, Finland, southern Brazil and even at Luther Seminary itself in 1993.
“The exchange of ideas at this event is wonderful,” says Haemig. “You hear people who have very different perspectives and who are dealing with very different contexts, and Luther, of course, can resonate differently in different contexts. It allows us differences in perspective and to appreciate differences in context, and it really helps keep alive the question, ‘What is Luther for today?’ In fact, Luther is a voice that continues to inform and shape our churches around the world.”