The New Reformation

Reflections on The New Reformation by Greg Ogden

The portion of Ogden’s book that impacted me greatest was his discussion of call.  I found myself in tears when reading about the awareness of “inner oughtness” or burden of “I must do.”  I identify with this sense of “oughtness”, with the “burden” of God’s call.  I have been carrying a huge burden by not fulfilling my call, feeling that I’ve disobeyed God’s will.  Yet, in spiritual direction when I was 30, I was advised that my call at that time was to take care of my health, my mental health, and that my deep desire for a husband and children was also a calling.  I have taken significant progress in obtaining the proper care for my mental illness, yet I feel more vulnerable now than ever before.

Ogden describes call as a place of joy.  When I open myself to God, serve him by praising him, touch others in a healing manner with faith and inspiration, channel God’s love, so to speak, I feel great joy.  Uplifting another soul uplifts my own.

Jeremiah (20:9) shared his experience that genuine call took more energy to stifle than to release.  I have tried to stifle the call, told myself that I was unworthy, too broken.  Doing so has caused me great pain and anguish.  Before applying to and being accepted by Fuller, I told my husband that I would be sinning if I did not attend seminary.  He responded that that was ridiculous.  I countered that if God tells to go to seminary, and I don’t, then I disobeying God by not following his will, not saying “Yes!”

Initially, I was taken aback by Odgen’s criticism of the Roman Catholic church.  I was baptized a Roman Catholic, confirmed at 30 an Episcopalian, and only recently became a member of a Lutheran church.  My involvement in the Lutheran church came about primarily because we preferred their children’s program and community over the local Episcopal church, not because I was committed to Luther’s reformations.  Even after I became a member of our MissionLutheranChurch, I preferred the Episcopal liturgy and ritual.  On the other hand, I was impressed that Lutherans placed Bibles in the pews – something that Catholics and Episcopalians do not do.

As I read Ogden’s book and attended class, my interest in the Reformation and in the New Reformation – in the theology of Luther, Calvin, and Ogden – has increased.  (Hopefully, my Irish Catholic ancestors aren’t rolling in their graves.)  Still, I remain more familiar with Roman Catholic and Episcopal theology, in spite of the fact that I now attend a Lutheran church.

The priesthood of all believers makes sense, yet some are more gifted and knowledgeable than others to lead a congregation in understanding the Bible and to impart an empowering, healing, and loving theology.  Yes, we can all directly encounter the living God via the Holy Spirit, but without wise guidance, there is a threat of straying from God’s true purpose, of misinterpreting one’s experience.  I agree also that we are all ministers, especially when collaborating with an equipping pastor.

In summation, I found Ogden’s book to be a great manual on how to move the church from a hierarchical structure to one empowering to the congregants as well as the clergy – advancing collaboration rather paternalism.  He provides concrete suggestions, backed by sound Protestant theology.

– Written October 2005