Happy Reformation Day no. 500 -- but it's not over yet!

Happy Reformation Day no. 500 -- but it's not over yet!
Bloom in progress, late August 2015. Photo by Margaret H. Laing

Today, Oct. 31, isn’t merely Halloween. On this date in 1517 — 500 years ago — Martin Luther touched off the Protestant Reformation. I’ve heard recent scholars raise questions about whether he really, literally nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittemberg, Germany, but at the time, that was the method of spreading the news. It was his door the way other things are our walls, real or virtual. 

But fellow Protestant Christians, if you haven’t had your celebration yet (as I did on Sunday), don’t worry. The Reformation isn’t over. 

Beside me as I write is the bulletin (or order of worship) for Reformation Sunday, Oct. 29, at Fourth Presbyerian Church. As is our wont, the cover is decorated with a picture from some element of the church’s architecture and a quotation which (again, as usual) turned out to be in the sermon. Actually, it was the source of the title of the Rev. Matt Helms’ sermon — and the idea for this post:

The church reformed,

always reforming, 

according to the word of God.

— Jocodus van Lodentstein

So that’s why when I’ve heard references to “the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,” it’s been with mixed emotions. It’s the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation. Protestant churches didn’t all just break away 500 years ago today and say “Goodbye, Rome!” A lot of things had to be remade — re-formed, get it? — in the breakup(s).

That’s why I picked this particular sunflower photo as an image for this piece. Not because I don’t have time to track down Tudor roses, Scottish thistles or other appropriate images — but because this sunflower is still in the process of blooming.

Good things take time. God isn’t finished yet.


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  • As I indicated elsewhere, some folk think the reformation never happened. Thus, for such reasons, if I had to go to a religiously affiliated hospital, I would rather go to Lutheran General than any Presence or Loyola one.

    But a more substantial question: Craig Ferguson claimed on his trip to Scotland that he was a member of the Church of Scotland, not Presbyterian. Is there any difference?

  • In reply to jack:

    The Church of Scotland has long distinguished itself from both the Anglican and the Presbyterian churches, which are also very common in Scotland. You can see more at:

    Also, I have long used Loyola University Medical Center. I am not a Catholic, but I have never been made uncomfortable by proselytizing or religious restraints. But then, I never sought an abortion.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    My impression was based on a former acquaintance who had me drive her 20 miles each way and pass 4 hospitals and then complain about the results. I looked up her doctors and none of them went to a U.S. medical school, although the department chairman did. But I have to distinguish this from Florida, where none of the doctors graduated from a U.S. medical school and one claimed "boy genius" graduated from a Dominican Republic med school that closed 2 years later, according to Web MD.

    BTW, the NWI Times article I cited was not only abortion, but also refusal to do a caesarean or tie tubes when medically indicated. So, unless you were never a woman...

    Thanks for the Church of Scotland reference, I knew that the Presbyterian Church was distinguishable from the Anglican/Episcopal one in that it doesn't recognize the Queen as the head of the church, nor bishops. However, the site does muddy the waters in that it does say that the Church of Scotland is organized on presbyterian principles, in that no one person is the "head of faith."

    The other church in Scotland is the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The U.S. one doesn't seem that closely related to either.

  • In reply to jack:

    There are plenty of churches in Scotland, Jack -- even Anglican (i.e., Episcopal -- or English!) ones.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Jnorto, thanks, but see my reply to Jack -- the U.S. Presbyterian church shares close ties with the Church of Scotland. They started the model of being ruled by groups of elders. Even the moderator (leader) of the Presbyerians in the U.S. is elected for a set term. Like the pastor I told Jack about, "Fourth Church" here in Chicago has supplied a moderator from among our pastors during the 30 years I've been a member there.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    I stand corrected.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Thanks, jnorto, for your continuing contributions.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'll leave aside the hospital comment, which I don't follow well, for your question, which is exactly for me. The Presbyterian Church in the U.S. is descended from the (established) Church of Scotland. Some non-established (non-government-supported) churches may also call themselves Presbyterian. Here's the clearest connection I know, literally: A former pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago left there to become pastor of St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland. (It's called a cathedral, despite Scotland's lack of bishops, because it was a cathedral long before the Reformation.)

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    So, based on your understanding, the US Presbyterian/Church of Scotland distinction isn't one, but similar to the Anglicans here calling themselves Episcopal. In either case the U.S. organizations aren't acknowledging the state religion, but otherwise that religion's beliefs.

    If I didn't get it, I'd appreciate any further clarification. Thanks.

  • In reply to jack:

    Well, you got most of it, Jack, and you're welcome. I wouldn't say there isn't a distinction; the distinction is that neither U.S. Presbyterians nor U.S. Episcopals are "established," i.e., state-supported. I'll grant that this is similar in each church's case.

  • Your perspective is beautiful. I appreciate this idea that re-forming is ongoing, and that as we grow and evolve as human beings, so do our religious and spiritual institutions.

  • In reply to folkloric:

    Thank you, folkloric. It's my personal perspective, but also the perspective of my home church and Protestantism in general. I think it's worth exploring and defending at regular intervals.

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