Posted by: smstrouse | October 26, 2013

Re-thinking Re-formation at the Jesus Seminar

What a mind and spirit boggling week it’s been!  First, I spent two days at the Fall Meeting of the Westar Institute (yes, the Jesus Seminar people), where the theme was “Early Christianity: Heritage or Heresies?”


If you’ve ever been to a WI event, you know how academic it is. The intellectual pursuit is the be all and end all. One brave soul dared to ask a question about mystical experiences and was quickly dismissed, and further discussion was squelched.

I enjoyed the lectures, though. There was some good information and interesting ideas. But, for me, something was missing.


So, off I went on Saturday to an all-day session on Interspiritual Meditation. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum!  Just thinking about bringing those two groups together makes me giggle.

But here’s the thing: both groups are dealing with the quest to find meaning beyond the traditional teachings with which many of us were raised. As an heir to the Reformation tenet of  “Ecclesia semper reformanda est (“the church is always to be reformed”), I have mixed feelings.

On one hand, I applaud and affirm these explorations. On the other, I wonder what is to become of the church as we know it. Someone at the Westar conference asked one of the speakers if he thought the church could change and become accepting of these new ways of thinking. His answer was “No.”  The Baby Boomers (like most of us in the audience) can’t do it, and Millennials aren’t interested.

Indeed, interspirituality may be the choice of those who identify as “spiritual but not religious.”

So what am I to think as I prepare for tomorrow’s Reformation Day service?

First of all: Hooray for Martin Luther, posting those 95 theses as items of discussion on the church door!  And: Hooray for Martin Luther making a courageous stand for change!


But I’m also left with questions.  What will change look like as we move further into the 21st century? What will emerge from our new initiative of outreach to the  “spiritual but not religious” folks of our community? How will we be changed by their presence? How will they be changed by ours?

Lots of questions as Re-formation continues.
But Hooray! anyway.
Let’s celebrate – even with all our questions and uncertainties.
Ecclesia semper reformanda est!



  1. Just thinking about bringing these two groups together makes you giggle, eh, Pastor? Well, you must have a life of mirth because these groups come together graciously, passionately in you.

    Yesterday I was humbled and also disturbed by the effusive thanks I received from a group of transpeople whom I invited to have a meeting at St. Matthew’s (they had been in need of a place for a large group to meet). I was humbled because, shucks, what’s the big deal (from my perspective, which is, we at St. Matthew’s need to share once in a while, and not just “rent”)? Disturbed by the astonishment that my guests felt that they were welcome in a church.

    I am ambivalent about the institutional church. When I see stuff like this, I say the church needs to die. Why am I supporting an institution that so parochially mirrors the dominant culture of whatever setting in which it finds itself — right down to hating whomever the dominant culture hates — simply for the sake of survival and often abandoning the Gospel along the way?

    Yet, when I see what happened when a small group of people from a little rural church took into their own hands the response to a devastating flood in their community — because they love Jesus and their neighbors their rapid “We can’t wait for FEMA to show up!” response blossomed into an amazing relief and now a successful, ongoing recovery effort — that warm spot that I have in my heart for the church starts glowing, and I am glad that we ain’t dead yet!!!

    Go figure, right?


  2. Reminds me of a piece that Marcus Borg wrote this past week on “Does Christianity Have a Future?” (

    The institutional church is an “clay jar” which contains for a moment the “treasure” of the divine spark and/or human possibility. (2 Cor. 4:7). Clay jars get broken, and need to be fixed, altered, or thrown away. It’s the contents that matter.


  3. Upon regeneration, one is immediately added to the invisible church. The local expression handled differently-there is an interview with leadership. You are asked questions in front of the congregation so that the church body and leadership can witness your being added based on your confession.


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