Summer 2017

Editorial

ECCLESIA SEMPER REFORMANDA was our unanimous decision for the title of SEARCH’s biennial Colloquium this year. In this quincentennial year of the Reformation, focus on the need for continuing reform in the church, rather than reinterpretation of the past, seemed crucial to all on the editorial committee. “The (Reformed) Church always in need of Reform” – the Latin phrase apparently dates back only to the 17th century in the Dutch Reformed Church; but the concept is much older and also much younger – having returned prominently in the thinking of Vatican II.

Yet as our keynote speaker Werner Jeanrond points out, we have to look back as well as forward if we are responsibly to consider why reform of church structures as well as theology is always required. “God is always greater”. Jeanrond reintroduces us to Paul Tillich and his teaching on the need for constant interplay of “Protestant principle” and “Catholic substance”.

As a historian specialising in the Church of Ireland, Alan Ford notes the danger of absolutising the Reformation confessions and placing loyalty to past concepts and adversarial positions before the call always to move forward to deeper understanding. Maurice Elliott then selects themes from the reformed heritage which can usefully be re-visited and makes four specific proposals relating to continuing reform and re-thinking in the areas of doctrine, Christian formation, ecclesiology and ministry.

Re-thinking, both in terms of personal spirituality and church structures, is strongly urged by Bishop Kenneth Kearon from his experience as secretary general of the Anglican Communion. Our expectations of God, reception of the Bible and decision-making in the churches are his themes. Taking our thinking “into all the world”, Linda Hogan re ects on how the church can best promote human ourishing in a world of massive poverty and deprivation, in which religious pluralism and the re-politicisation of religion are the norm. She concludes “the church must be the champion of a multi-religious, cross-cultural, ethical conversation about how to live a moral life today”. Two thoughtful responses, from Kate Turner and Eimhin Walsh enlivened discussion at the Colloquium, and Bishop John McDowell presided genially over the day with help from Salters Sterling. An unexpected arrival, Gerard Walsh SJ, has contributed a final reflection. Our warmest thanks to all our speakers, organisers, advisers, and to the participants at the Colloquium.

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