Reform and Reformation
Changes and Change
The mission of At the Threshold (AtT) is to champion reform and reformation, changes and change. Perhaps it will help to distinguish the terms and thus spell out the mission in better measure.
Reform addresses the changes that need to be made now. This can refer to the institutional life of the church, and it can refer to a given society. To date we have focused on North American society; we always speak to the whole church, ecumenical and global.
Church reform is usually discernable in listening to the outcry of those being left out or abused, and in noting what gets in the way of proclaiming the good news of what God’s love means as revealed in the Christ. From a Christian perspective, comparing what is taking place in society to the vision of the kingdom for which we pray can identify specific needs for social, political, and cultural reform. Both society and the church are, obviously, in need of constant and unrelenting reform. Often, problems in church and in society mirror one another. The lists of changes that are needed today in the church and American society are formidable. We are to keep doing our best and then try harder.
It is the job of AtT to identify where change is needed, to draw the needs to your attention and to the attention of as many people as possible, to educate you and others about them, to advocate for the needed changes in any and all possible ways, and to provide a vehicle for organization and action.
Reformation is a term used in reference to the church. Sometimes AtT refers to reformation as “transformational reform.” It addresses watershed change that reaches into every nook and cranny of the church to transform its theological posture and institutional life.
Reformations occur when the level of pain caused by the need for changes overwhelms the internal life of the church and simultaneously the society as whole goes through change so radical that the page of history seems to be turning. Holding an incarnational faith, and claiming to be the incarnate presence of Christ to the world, it is necessary for the church to adjust to the changes within society in order to serve it and influence it. There have only been a few such reformations, the Constantinian Settlement of Greco-Roman antiquity, the Gregorian Reformation that established of the medieval church of Christendom, and the Protestant Reformation of the Renaissance and Modernity.
AtT strongly suspects that we have already entered into the next Reformation, what we hope will be the Ecumenical Reformation. No one knows what is coming, what the future will look like as the rapidly changing world and the demands for change within the church produce a new era for the church. We can guess, and we might even see as though looking through a dark glass, but we cannot know how the church will reshape itself. The early church would never have pictured a Vatican. The medieval church would never have pictured the individualism of the 21st century church. What is to come that we cannot picture?
It is the job of At the Threshold to bring us together in a community alert to the future, willing and even anxious to embrace it and the step-by-step changes that are leading us forward, and to think together about God’s unfolding will. AtT does not think the church should try to hold fast to its past or to make traditions into absolutes, nor should the church allow forces and eventualities that will suddenly loom and come at the church like storms and sunshine to define its future. At the Threshold wants to work with you and all others willing to start thinking and dreaming together about what God is calling us to be.