October 31, 2017 marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's fateful posting of his 95 Theses and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, a theological and ecclesiastical movement with ideological descendants in the present day in evangelical Protestantism, a group of churches and individuals that I define as the Reformation's "legacy collective." This study examines the commemorative practices of a subset of that legacy collective: the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest evangelical Protestant denomination in the United States. In contrast to scholarship surrounding the anniversary, marked by diversity and thematic innovation, a centralized, top-down approach characterized the SBC's commemoration of the 500th anniversary. It seems that denominational leadership consistently emphasized religious liberty and the Reformational tenet of Sola Scriptura in its commemorative communications in order to lead local SBC churches in collective self-redefinition. Finally, I hypothesize that anniversaries themselves generally offer collectives similar opportunities for self-(re)definition and hope that further scholarship will substantiate this position.
How to Cite:
Oland, L. M., (2022) “Anniversaries and Collective Self-Definition: The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation as Commemorated by the Southern Baptist Convention”, Footnotes: A Journal of History 5, 43-66.