“The fundamentalism of the last century is waning. And the liberalism of the last fifty years has failed to reform the Church.” –Adam Hamilton
If you don’t sense deep, unsettling change in our ways of doing church and being Christians in the world today, then I don’t know what planet you live on, or what church you attend (or have quit attending). I certainly have felt the winds of change, not only as a Christian writer/publisher, but as a church member and a person seeking to live on mission as a Jesus follower today.
My studies at Northwind Seminary (where I received my Masters Degree in Specialized Ministry) guided my thinking to gain a broader perspective on what many are calling “a New Reformation.” You’d be right if you said, “Didn’t we have a Great Reformation already?” But look back through history, and you will see that many times of renewal, revival, awakening, and reform have occurred during periods of upheaval in the world and a mix of self-satisfaction, apathy, and spiritual hunger among Christians.
If you want to be involved in what God is doing in the church and in the world, you pay attention, you listen to the winds of the Spirit; and you join hands, prayers, and efforts with other “listeners.”
In that spirit I want to share Northwind Seminary’s take* on the “New Reformation” we seem to be experiencing:
Ecclesia semper reformanda is a common Latin phrase used by church reformers to remind the people of God that “the church must always be about reforming.” The early Jesus Movement and Apostolic Church, the Imperial Church of the Holy Roman Empire, the Protestant Reformation, and Roman Catholic Counter Reformation, all had their day and role to play in the growth of the Christian tradition. At least three “Great Awakenings” in the history of American Christianity served to renew the Church at critical times. The “Great Emergence” of new church forms and fresh expressions of ecclesia at the turn of the third Millennium of Christianity served to prepare the way for a Global Church—no longer centered in Europe or America, but growing in the global south, Asia, and Africa. What next ‘new thing’ will the Spirit of God do in the world? What new ways and forms will characterize the next Church?
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; do you not perceive it? –Isaiah 43:19
…Affirming a both/and approach, we affirm the great classical Creeds of the Christian tradition as well as the prophetic radical edge of what it means to follow Jesus today in a postmodern, post-Christian, traumatized world. As Richard Rohr reminds us: “The prophets of old were both radicals and traditionalists. With penetrating insight and wisdom, they saw into the heart of their own tradition and called the people of God to embrace a new day. We shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves falling in love with our tradition and wanting to radically change the way things are.”
…“I believe that Christianity is in need of a new reformation,” writes Adam Hamilton….“The fundamentalism of the last century is waning. And the liberalism of the last fifty years” has failed to reform the Church. “The new reformation will be led by people who are able to see the gray in a world of black and white.”
…”The new Reformation,” says theologian Elaine Heath, “is all about the emergence of a generous, hospitable, equitable form of Christian practice that heals the wounds of the world.”
According to Robert J. Duncan, founding president of Northwind Seminary, “The Church is moving from the modern to a postmodern world, fueled by digital media and innovative uses of new technology. We have an opportunity to redeem the technology of the global culture and use it for ministry in the digital age….Electronic circuit riding in the twenty-first century is the new form of evangelism and mission.”
Professor Leonard Sweet identifies an important parallel between the modern and the postmodern Reformations: “If the technology that fueled the Protestant Reformation was the printing press, and the product was ‘The Book,’ the technology that is fueling the Postmodern Reformation is the microprocessor and the product is ‘The Net.’
As a Christian futurist, Professor Sweet adds: “The NextChurch has two challenges: getting clear and clearing out.” Getting clear about who Jesus is and clearing out spiritual deformities that dis-order the church’s structural life and dis-able mission.” In the process, “the role of pastoral leadership is dramatically shifting from representative to participatory models” in the priesthood of believers.
…Professor Thomas Jay Oord sees a light at the end of the revolution. As we walk in God’s light we are becoming all that God has called us to be… as our ever-loving and relational God “guides us, inspires, nurtures, nudges, and coaxes us” into greater creativity and wholeness.
*The entire article, originally written and posted by Michael J. Christensen, can be found here: https://kairos.edu/2023/10/27/partnership-spotlight-northwind-theological-seminary/
More about Northwind Seminary here: https://www.northwindseminary.org/
The beautiful photo by theologian/photographer Thomas Jay Oord is used with his generous permission.(I added the bolding of phrases.)
On hopeful paths of prayer and poetry,