Always Reforming: A Series on the Reformation 500 Years Later

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The art piece displayed is titled “Ecclesia Dances Across History,” shared here with heartfelt thanks to Mandy Smith.

500 years ago, an outspoken German monk approached the doors of his hometown church and nailed to it a list of 95 objections he had to the Roman Catholic beliefs and practices of his time. The Protestant Reformation unleashed a watershed moment in the history of Western Christianity. Church and society undeniably and significantly shifted as Reformers battled to understand what faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ looked like in their changing world. From their efforts, our allegiance to Christ as Savior, our love for God’s Scriptures, and the joyful, direct access we have with our Father were revived.

Yet the Church finds herself in changing times once again. Emerging generations of Christians are seeking a new reformation—one that honors the best gifts of our heritage while moving past the categories and assumptions of the 16th century.

How do we give thanks for the legacy of the Reformers while also re-imagining the kind of ongoing reformation we need for the 21st century to faithfully engage in the mission of our God?

As we move forward 500 years later into greater faithfulness to the gospel of Christ and seek to join God’s redemptive work, my hope is that while we receive with gladness the Word-centered forms of worship the Protestant Reformation gave us, we would also be able to reimagine fresh expressions of being the church in our neighborhoods that challenge us to embody the Word in our contexts. My hope is the Church would be reshaped in character to live out gospel unity to replace the division which has characterized us for too many centuries, and in so doing, reclaim our witness to one Lord, one faith, and one birth. My hope is that we would make room to hear from voices that were egregiously neglected during the period of Reformation history and whose contributions to Reformation movements have remained largely unsung since then—namely women and people of color. We need their voices if we are to continue in our re-forming. There is no doubt in my mind that as the Church embraces ongoing reformation in the 21st century, it must include ongoing repentance for the ways we have fallen short.

Starting today and for much of November, we will be hearing from some of our Leading Voices and others in the Missio Alliance community who will be addressing these very topics. We will celebrate the legacy of the Reformers. We will explore the many gifts and tools they have passed on to us, as well as their shortcomings, for both are instructive for us.

After spending this past weekend at SheLeads, where women and men across the United States reimagined shared leadership between the genders with hope for the sake of God’s mission, I can think of no better way to launch our series than with Missio Alliance Leading Voice Carolyn Custis James’s article, “Always Reforming: The Pigtails That Sparked A Revolution.

Ecclesia semper reformanda est. The Church must always be reformed. I invite you to join these significant conversations as together we seek to be the Church that is #AlwaysReforming.

“We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

Martin Luther, Defense of All the Articles