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Conference – Reformation in Rhondda

January 2018 | by Huw Kinsey

During October 2017, we were increasingly aware of the darkness and superstition pervading our land. While the state church has been apologising for ‘perpetuating division’, Rhondda Evangelical Church, in Wales, has unashamedly celebrated the 500th anniversary of the commencement of the Protestant Reformation.

Greatest legacy

This Reformation promoted the English church’s greatest legacy — the Word of God in our own language. In the greatest spiritual movement since the apostolic age, centuries of misguided theological obfuscation were challenged by the Word of God itself and liberated from the obscurities of Latin.

As part of our commemorations, headteachers of local primary, secondary and bilingual schools were contacted and provided with Reformation Commemorative Bibles. Martin Luther tracts were widely distributed and invitations extended to join our Reformation anniversary lectures.

In these lectures, Rev. Dafydd Morris from Carmarthen spoke on the great privileges and liberties we owe to the Protestant Reformation. Outlining the life and spiritual journey of Martin Luther, he traced the vital part played by the Scriptures in Luther’s conversion.

Focusing on Bible translation, he spoke of Luther’s great desire to produce the Scriptures in the language of the common people, when, as a result of a series of providential events, he was able to translate the Scriptures into his mother tongue and make ‘the German lark sing as well as the Greek nightingale’ (the title of the lecture).

This, in turn, led to an explosion of Bible translation throughout Europe, so that the spiritual darkness was dispelled and the gospel light shone out.

The translation work of William Tyndale in England was highlighted. In spite of the burning of Tyndale New Testaments and his martyr death, Tyndale’s legacy lives on, with an estimated 90 per cent of the Authorised Version’s New Testament being his work.

In Wales, the William Morgan Bible, produced in 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, was a further direct legacy of the Reformation. It was the Bible used by the Welsh dissenters and puritans and by the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist fathers. It was the Bible version for which Mary Jones walked to Bala.

Conscience liberated

Rev. Richard Holst of Cardiff based his lecture, ‘The captive conscience’, on Luther’s famous declaration at the Diet of Worms: ‘I do not accept the authority of popes and councils … my conscience is captive to the Word of God … to go against conscience is neither right nor safe’.

Mr Holst traced the development of Luther’s conscience: from being enslaved and captive to false doctrine and superstition; to being troubled by his sin and the fear of judgment; to being renewed and liberated, as he became exposed to the teaching of the Bible. This, in turn, led Luther to a conscience controlled and captivated by the Word of God.

The need to have a high view of and frequent exposure to Scripture, which is ‘alive and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword’, was also emphasised. (The lectures can be listened to online at www.rec.wales).

Huw Kinsey