A Necessary Tragedy

This year (2017), and this month (October) marks the 500th anniversary, ‘officially’ of the Protestant Reformation. I was at a theological forum that commemorated this event, and looked at the original break event 1517 and subsequent years from a traditional Protestant viewpoint, a post-Vatican II Catholic viewpoint, and a Separatist viewpoint. A term that came up a few times was that the Reformation was a “Necessary Tragedy.” It was further noted, that Catholics have tended to look at it as a tragedy but not all that necessary, while Protestants tended to see it as necessary, but not all that tragic.

For me, I see it as necessary because the church lutherof the West sought not only spiritual unity, but ecclesiastical unity, and they did not simply seek unity, but sought uniformity. Such an undesirable state needed to change. To ignore regional cultures and language, and have a governance that is not empowered locally certainly needed to go away. In the East, that happened much earlier (with 1054 AD being thought of as the pivotal year, although they could mark back time as far as they want). In Northern Europe, it started in 1517 with the “magisterial reformers” with separatist reformers both before and after. For the Philippines, one has to go to the American Occupation, as well as the Aglipayan movement. With the rest of the Catholic Church, Vatican II seems to be the pivotal time frame. Yes it was necessary, sooner or later. And it still is.

As far as tragic, I don’t see tragedy in Ecclesiastical disunity. Centralization of power— perhaps even more so Ecclesiastical Power— creates deep problems. So one religious governance seems to me to be something of which to be horrified. And it wasn’t tragedy for lack of uniformity. It seems like diversity was identified as a good thing in the first century church… but its goodness became more deeply questioned over time. There is no tragedy in diversity.

Where there is tragedy was that people on all sides of the unity/disunity, uniformity/diversity divides saw that it was appropriate to fight and kill each other over it. It is hard to appreciate diversity. At an ecumenical gathering recently to which I was invited, it began to be clear to me that even those who theoretically should embrace unity with diversity, struggle with appreciating some forms of diversity. Some forms of diversity are embraced, while others are squelched or castigated. The tragedy is that we identify people within our own ecclesiastical neighborhood as US, and those from other ecclesiastical neighborhoods as THEM… and we tend to see diversity as a problem to overcome, rather than something to embrace.

Centuries of fighting with words, laws and guns was needless. While it is easy to blame the Catholic church for this, as one from a Separatist tradition, I know that the Protestants also had blood on their hands.  And, in fact, the Separatists have had their moments of shame as well. But it was not necessary. I am reminded of Paul and Barnabas having different visions for ministry. They could have supported each other and gone their separate ways in peace… but instead had to fight with each other, wound each other, and be an embarrassment to the church. And still they ended up going their separate ways anyway. I have come across people almost 2000 years later still arguing about who was right.  They truly miss the point. BOTH WERE RIGHT— AND NEITHER.

So I guess the answer is that it may be correct that the Protestant Reformation was a Necessary Tragedy. It was indeed necessary, but it was not necessary that it was a tragedy.

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The Lutheran Church invited the Pope to join in the celebration of the 500th anniversary year of the Protestant reformation on October 31st, 2016. The Catholic church asked if the term could be changed from “celebration” to “commemoration.” The Lutheran Church actually agreed to it, and they joined together to mark this important year. Perhaps commemoration is the better term. Letter us all remember this together. A necessary date. A date that did not have to be tragic… and yet in some ways did become tragic. But an important day of embracing  Unity with Disunity and Diversity. Prayerfully, we will figure out how to actually do that.

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Projects Update

I don’t normally add personal updates here. But once in awhile it seems like it may be appropriate.

Books. My book work has gone down, partly because my teaching load has gone up.  But I still am trying to plug away on things.

  • The Dynamics in Pastoral Care.” This book I have been working on for awhile. It has been going slow because of other priorities. However, I have been getting good research done lately in Pastoral Theology and Theological Reflection. Both of these are major topics in this work that includes Group Dynamics, Family Systems, Pastoral Supervision and more. The goal is for the book to be a follow-on for our first book “The Art of Pastoral Care.” The first book is for beginners in Pastoral Care, or CPE. The other book is for more advanced work, especially 3rd and 4th units of CPE.
  • Ministry in Diversity.” I am doing a moderate revision of it. I have taught a couple of Cultural Anthropology classes using it already and can see some modest changes. However, also had my son techedit it, and he found lots of little problems to fix. So I am around 1/3 of the way done with that. As soon as I am done, I will get the book updated on Amazon. I don’t really want more people ordering it until these changes are made.
  • The Art of Pastoral Care.” This is our most popular book. My son is also doing tech edit work on it as well. The problems with this one are much smaller, in my opinion. But I will be updating things on Amazon soon. Still, unlike “Ministry and Diversity” I still feel good about this book, so feel free to check it out on the web if you want.  THE ART OF PASTORAL CARE.
  • Iam also looking into helping a friend of mine get his book cleaned up and published. It is another pastoral care book… but this one dealing with substance abuse. That is an important topic… especially here in the Philippines.

Articles.  I don’t really do much work on articles, preferring the rampant freedom of blogging. However, I am working on an article: “Holy Defect: Reflections on Wabi Sabi as a Metaphor for Christian Perfection.” It is about half done. I have hopes that it will be a valuable work. Planning to present it in January.

Classes. As I said, my writing has been slowed by my classes. I will be teaching four classes this coming semester here in Baguio City. They are:

  • Interreligious Dialogue. I taught this last year, and felt it went quite well. It is a frustration of mine that preaching/polemics is taught extensively in seminary, as is teaching/didactics. Argument/Apologetics is taught far less, but Dialogue is almost always ignored. It is really time for this to change.
  • Strategy and Management of Missions. This is the first class I ever taught at seminary. I get to do it again. It is almost always a fun course because of its hands-on quality.
  • Introduction to Missiology. It is a long-time since I have taught this course. I have to admit that it is not my favorite course. However, the number of students for it should be low (because it is a bachelor-level course here) so I hope it will be exciting.
  • Clinical Pastoral Orientation. This is an introduction to the training system known as Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). My wife supervises CPE (two groups this semester) while I take CPO. This will be the third time I have taught it, but the first time that I will take the lead on it.  The last time we taught it, we had illness, travel complications, and a household move… so it was very hard. This time things SHOULD go better.

Along with two CPE groups, my wife Celia will also be teaching “Interpersonal Relationships” at seminary.