Live to learn and you will learn to live. Portuguese proverb

Ecclesia semper [reformanda]: A plea for the church

by Christoph Email

One of the basic tenets of the Protestant Reformation, particularly of Martin Luther is ecclesia semper reformanda, the position that the church always has to keep reforming itself. In many areas where tradition and institutionalization have done their work, this has become a dire need. I greatly appreciate the many good questions raised by a lot of my postmodern friends, writers, and the emerging church. We cannot close our eyes to the need to be the Church of Christ in a way that communicates our faith appropriately in our times. The church does need to be reformed -- always!

Yet, in reading books, blogs, facebook comments and status lines, I keep noticing a trend that disturbs me: I find that many people who ask all the right questions and strive to live and be the church in a meaningful way have adopted a stance toward the church at large that basically says this: Everything's wrong! Fortunately, we are here now to set things right and make the Church what it is supposed to be.

Dear Friends: You cannot make the Church what it is supposed to be. It already is. It is and always has been the Church of Christ. The beloved bride, which he has cherished, protected and carried through the centuries. The ecclesia semper reformanda is first of all ecclesia semper [lat. always the church]-- and nothing has ever changed about that. You are not about to invent the wheel, nor the church. Christ has founded this church many centuries ago and he said the gates of hell would not prevail against it -- much less the currents of time, tradition and philosophy.

You are asking the right questions. You are criticizing habits, traditions and ways of life in the Church of Christ that are not right in our times. You are pointing out areas where the wrong priorities have been set. You are rebuking people who have led the church without regard for its environment. But the methods you criticize may have been a blessing in their time -- and Christ has used them to save and bless people. The priorities may have been correct for their context -- and Christ was present within that context, too. The people you look down at have done great things for God. 

You are correct in seeking reformation for the church. But, please, don't do it by despising the precious church that is and has always been the Church of Christ. 

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