The Second Reformation
Sunday, October 31, 2010
on the 493rd anniversary of the posting of the
Thesis of Martin Luther

Reclaiming the Fundamentals of The Way

Douglas C. Sloan

The Way is to…

* live the sacred life – here and now – of the one universal Good News message as the Kingdom of God.

* worship God, who has never been, at any time for any reason, a capricious God of death, war, murder, destruction, violence, abuse, vengeance, hate, fear, lies, slavery, systemic injustice, oppression, conditional acceptance, exclusion, segregation, discrimination, shunning, ostracism, eternal condemnation, eternal punishment, retribution, sacrifices, patriarchy, matriarchy, empire, nationalism, only one culture, only one race or portion of the population, parochialism, sectarianism, dogma, creeds, pledges, oaths or censorship – and who has never behaved as a Greco-Roman or narcissistic deity.

* worship God, who is singular, solitary, nonmaterial, immanent, transcendent – the sacred and ultimate reality, the divine mystery, the more – and who has always been a consistent God of life, peace, creation, truth, healing, rehabilitation, restoration, forgiveness, reconciliation, inclusion, participation, diversity, liberation, justice, resurrection, transformation, love and grace. There are neither multiple nor opposing divine forces or entities or identities or personalities. There is only God.

* know the grace of God to be unconditional and boundless – my acceptance by God requires nothing of me.

* know the love of God…
………to be unrelenting and unlimited;
………makes no exceptions and has no qualifications;
………to be the constant inviting presence of God; and
………to be the unconditional acceptance by God of me in my entirety as a gift.

* worship God, whose will is and who has always yearned for us to…
………be free and independent;
………be curious;
………be intelligent and wise;
………value knowledge over ignorance and compassion over knowledge;
………be creative;
………grow and mature;
………live long healthy satisfying lives;
………live non-violently without vengeance;
………be generous;
………be hospitable;
………be compassionate;
………do no harm;
………heal and rehabilitate and restore;
………forgive and reconcile and include all and have all participate;
………be good stewards of all resources;
………live here and now as one family;
………live in a loving intimate relationship with God;
………be transformed through resurrection; and
………be the kingdom of God.

* worship God, who has always been the same and whose character does not change and who is not capricious or abusive or narcissistic. God performs neither miracles nor acts of retribution. God neither saves nor condemns. God has never required and never accepted a sacrifice by anyone for any reason. God desires worship as relationship, not praise or euphoria. God does not preplan or predestine or interfere with the course or end of my life.

* reject as components or identifying characteristics or requirements of faith and worship and church and Christianity and life and God and Jesus and the Good News message and the Kingdom of God: death, war, murder, destruction, violence, abuse, vengeance, hate, fear, lies, slavery, systemic injustice, oppression, conditional acceptance, exclusion, segregation, discrimination, shunning, ostracism, eternal condemnation, eternal punishment, retribution, sacrifices, patriarchy, matriarchy, empire, nationalism, the superiority of one culture or one race or some portion of the population, parochialism, sectarianism, dogma, creeds, pledges, oaths, censorship, the valuation of thoughts or beliefs or praise or euphoria over justice and service and relationships, and any consideration of post-mortal existence.

* read scripture…
………as a sacrament for the experience and presence of God;
………for inspiration and motivation and contemplation and meditation and
………spiritual truth and insight and illumination about
………how God is a presence and influence in my life and
………to better understand the love and grace of God and
………to discern how God is calling me forward and
………beyond my previous understanding of God
………to a better and more complete and more mature understanding of God and
………how God is calling me forward
………to a more loving relationship with others and with God.

* know the best understanding of scripture requires…
………a scholarly knowledge of the original languages of the scripture and
………the linguistic devices used in the scripture
………(cultural assumptions, coded language, humor, sarcasm, hyperbole,
………poetic metaphor, etc.),
………of the cultural and historical environment in which the scripture was written,
………of the people of that time by whom and for whom the scripture was written.

* know scripture as the metaphorical and narrative and thoughtful writings by the ancestors of my faith, who recorded their contemporary and historical, personal and cultural perception and understanding of the presence and influence of God in their lives and in the life of their community. While, at most, it can be persuasive or instructional, the scripture is not controlling.

* know the community of followers of The Way and worship and living the Good News message as the Kingdom of God to be more important than dogma and creeds and land and structures and debt and continuing expenses and material abundance and wealth accumulation and to be more important than pledges and oaths and empire and nationalism and patriotism and citizenship and civic religion and patriarchy and matriarchy and parochialism and sectarianism and political influence and social standing and financial clout.

* know largess to be more important than largeness and to hold that generosity and hospitality to all is a fundamental element of the Good News message and a defining characteristic of the Kingdom of God.

* know compassionate service to those who are hurt or lost or oppressed as a fundamental element of the Good News message and a defining characteristic of the Kingdom of God. Service requires partnership between the server and the served. Holy and wholesome service requires that the server be competent and healthy. Service is not slavery, not some form of enforceable servitude, and not an opportunity or a justification for the server to be oppressed or abused.

* know that as the children of God, we are one family in one place. There are no races, no tribes, no indigenous peoples, no ethnic groups, no castes, no nations, no royalty, no aristocracy, no social classes, no economic classes, no genders, no sexual orientations, no geography, no religions, no denominations, no sects, no churches, no elite, no privileged, no saved, no unsaved, no slaves, no outcasts, no untouchables – none of these are a consideration or a barrier or a limitation to the possession and development and utilization of time and effort and gifts and talents for service to others or participation in the Kingdom of God – there is no “us” and no “them”, no “here” and no “there”, no families other than the one family of all people together in one place as the children of God.

* know Jesus as: an intelligent compassionate Jewish mystic who had a strong persistent connection to and participation in and understanding of God; who could explain the reality of God to others and introduce them to a personal experience of God and a personal relationship with God; a messenger of the Good News and an example of the Kingdom of God. Because Jesus was effective as a messenger and successful as an example, he was killed. Both in message and self-understanding, Jesus was non-messianic and non-eschatological.

* know an experience of “the resurrected Jesus” or any other positive divine experience as an experience of the immediate and tangible presence of God, to know with confidence the reality of being and being in and of the Kingdom of God.

* not regard Jesus as divine or as a sacrifice or atonement or ransom or a substitute for me. The Good News message and the Kingdom of God and the presence and experience of God are what are divine in mortal life. Because of the love and grace of God, sacrifice and atonement and ransom and substitution on my behalf are not required for me to be accepted by God and to participate fully in and as the Kingdom of God.

* know the reemergence and revitalization of the disciples after the death of Jesus:
……–– as the first followers of The Way;
……–– as the first Good News resurrection and transformation;
……–– as the first example and witness that
……–– resurrection and transformation do exist and
……–– do not require death as a precedent;
……–– as example and witness that
……–– resurrection and transformation are available to all; and
……–– as example and witness that
……–– the Kingdom of God is here and now and active.

* know baptism, regardless of the method used, as a public act of private intent – to commit to living as a follower of the Good News message by being the Kingdom of God. Other followers are to provide the new follower with tolerance (ideally, acceptance) and the safety of time in a place devoid of condemnation and retribution which is necessary for the new follower to put behind and to put away a past life, to let the previous life die and in its place resurrect a new transformed life and person.

* know communion, regardless of the frequency it is shared or what elements are used, as a public act of universal unity. We gather at an open table where, without exception and without qualification, all are invited. At an open table, we celebrate and affirm the ever-present life of the Good News message and the ever-present all-inclusive unifying love of the Kingdom of God.

* proclaim “Jesus is Lord” and mean that I have no other Lord, that no person of any social or political or religious position has dominion over my life. To proclaim “Jesus is Lord” is to take a moral and spiritual stance and to commit an act of radical counter-cultural non-violent defiance of the oppression and systemic injustice committed by empire and civic religion and by individuals who are more interested in power over others than in service to others. My faith is personal. My faith is not a matter of proxy or the authority of others.

* know that the Good News message is not a loss of my freedom or independence, indeed, it is a much fuller realization of my freedom and independence; is not a forsaking of intelligence or wisdom or knowledge or the search for new knowledge or learning or finding new ways to see reality, or new insights into the workings and purposes of reality, or discovering or creating new visions of what reality could be; is not to forsake seeking or questioning or doubting or examination or reexamination or analysis or reanalysis. The Good News is dynamic, not static; is life, not death, not after death; is growth, not stunted development; is moving forward and moving beyond my current existence and is moving forward and moving beyond my current understanding of my existence and of God.

* be guided and instructed by the Good News message, which is:
……–– God is unconditional boundless grace and unlimited unrestrained love
……–– and always has been;

……–– God wants to have a loving intimate relationship with each of us
……–– without exception and without qualification;

……–– seek justice as healing and rehabilitation and restoration;

……–– seek universal reconciliation and inclusion and participation;

……–– in healthy partnership,
……–– compassionately serve all who are hurt or lost or oppressed;

……–– be generous and hospitable to all;

……–– live non-violently without vengeance and
……–– with a cheerful fearlessness of death and worldly powers; and

……–– be – here and now – the Kingdom of God.

Whatever we do –
Whatever we are –
Wherever we are –
– can never separate us from the love and grace and
the surrounding and inviting and welcoming and inclusive presence of God.

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PDF FILES – to download and print
REFORMATION II – poster size — 11″ x 17″, 1 page
(appropriate size for posting on the doors of churches and other institutions)

REFORMATION II – letter size — 8.5″ x 11″, 6 pages
(appropriate size for copying and sharing)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Doug is a member of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 4950 East Wabash Avenue, P.O. Box 3125, Terre Haute, IN 47803-0125 (812-877-9959). Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is an open and affirming congregation where Doug has served as Elder and Treasurer and enjoys his continuing membership in the choir as the lowest voiced bass. He graduated in 2009 with a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana State University and a BS in Management Information Systems from Ball State University in 1997. Since August 2005, he has been a member of the CIS Adjunct Faculty at the Terre Haute campus of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He has been published in DisciplesWorld and Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. In the summer of 2010, Doug became a contributor to [D]mergent. Of the 7 articles he wrote, 5 are in the top 10 most-viewed articles at [D]mergent. Doug is married to Carol, a First Grade teacher, and is the father of two sons.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

To better understand the theology of Reformation II,
please read the previous seven [D]mergent articles by Doug Sloan,
listed here in order of publication:

……….GOD IS…
……….RECLAIMING the GOOD NEWS – an epistle
……….RECLAIMING FORGIVENESS – it’s personal



12 thoughts on “REFORMATION II

  1. REFORMATION II is a personal statement. It is not a creed. As a personal statement, it is dynamic and, over time, is expected to evolve and be refined.

    REFORMATION II is a call for reformation. It is an invitation to a dialogue. This time, 493 years after the first Reformation, how do we reform for unification instead of schism? How do we reform to emphasize the love and grace of God and eliminate the abuses and excesses of church institutionalism and authoritarianism? How do we reform to emphasize an individual loving intimate relationship with God? How do we reform to make that relationship with God be more important than ritual and creed and dogma and rote attendance?

    How do we reform to share the Good News? How do we reform to be – here and now – the Kingdom of God?

    • Keep on proclaiming the message that God has placed in your heart! While my rusty brain grasps the Gospel through a different method of expression, I affirm your passionate call for reformation and unity. I especially applaud your stand against any hint of church authoritarianism. The Church Universal, and our humble little movement, needs the strong leadership of laity like yourself.

      Some day I look forward to sitting down with you face to face. You are my brother.

      (Darn it Doug, you got me all wound up and emotional!)

  2. Years ago, I discovered the theology of cultural anthropologist Louis J. Luzbetak. In the introduction to his book, The Church and Cultures, Luzbetak writes, “The task of incarnating the Gospel in the minds and hearts of people, in allowing Christ to be born here and now, lies principally with the local Christian community–with the people themselves under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in communion with the universal Church–and not with the “outsiders,” however helpful, and indeed necessary, they may be.”
    I believe that this statement must lie at the heart of any conversations about Reformation II. Moreover, I believe it is the context in which the Gospel must be understood, proclaimed, and lived.
    In my ministry with Kentucky Appalachian Ministry and Appalachian Educational Resource Center I am blessed to listen to the people of God as we gather in Eastern Kentucky from a variety of places. What a joy it is to drink coffee and listen to students from Pacific School of Religion in California visit with coal miners in Whitesburg, Kentucky. I have also take note as a hospice chaplain ministering in Portland, Oregon discovers the rich eschatological beliefs of the indigenous Baptist congregations nestled in the hollers of Pine Mountain. Again and again I see that God’s Spirit is among the people.
    I am thankful for Doug Sloan’s invitation to think deeply about Reformation II. While my theology is driven by liberation praxis and informed by Minjung and Appalachian faith stories, I am at home in the Reformed heritage. Needless to say, Doug and I differ on our ecclesiology and Christology. But I celebrate Doug’s struggle to proclaim a theology that seeks “unification instead of schism” and emphasizes “the love and grace of God and eliminates the abuses and excesses of institutionalism and authoritarianism.” Moreover, our Theology converges in many wonderful and provocative ways.
    I would offer that Doug’s goal of a Reformation II will also require us to embrace the local community and culture with a new determination to hear afresh God’s voice among the people. This will require us to spend time in bowling alleys, pubs, boys and girls clubs, nursing homes, grocery stores, barbershops, beauty parlors, backyard barbeques, and after school programs fiercely listening to the stories of the people.
    As I was reading Our Appalachia, an oral history of the Appalachian people, the remarks of Richard Jackson gave me pause:

    Loving one’s neighbor means being responsible to him as well as for him, and willing to be affected by him, as opposed to just [being] willing to affect him, which is part of my objection to a great many of the church and federal programs. It’s sort of a professional do-gooder viewpoint: I’m here to help. I don’t know what all you other slobs are here for, but I’m here to help.

    I would hope that Reformation II would find each of us willing to be affected by our neighbor. Because, on the streets of our neighborhoods and in the stories of the people we will discover that God is already giving birth to Reformation. Yes, God is up to something and bringing reformation in people and in places we might never have imagined.

    [Louis J. Luzbetak, The Church and Cultures (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1993), xvii.
    Laurel Shackelford and Bill Weinberg, ed., Our Appalachia: An Oral History (New York: Hill and Wang, 1997), 377-378.]

    • Lon,

      Thank you for a wonderful comment. With it, the dialogue is both moved forward and expanded.

      I heartily agree that “Reformation II will also require us to embrace the local community and culture with a new determination to hear afresh God’s voice among the people.” Part of the problem with institutionalism and authoritarianism is the attempt to control how the story is told and by whom. As a storyteller, I know that the more voices there are telling the story, the more enriched is the story.

      Your comment about being responsible to your neighbor as well as being responsible for your neighbor is what I tried to address when I talked about service. Holy and healthy service requires partnership and relationship wherever possible. Sometimes it is about giving and sometimes it is important to receive. Sometimes it is about telling and sometimes it is important to listen – attentively and willing to learn.

      Lon – thank you for your gracious and grace-full contribution.


  3. Lon,

    I agree with you. I find a disconnect between how mainlines often do mission work overseas vs in North America.

    In overseas missions we are very careful not to impose our values onto the people. We honor the people (Christ incarnated) and try to help them be more fully themselves.

    In North America I often hear pastors portray the people (Christ incarnated) as being self-absorbed, stuck in their ways, and in serious need of a prophetic witness to set them right.

    Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Christ is also the same in India, Africa, and North America.

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