Closing the Reformation Divide


Convivium, 3 November 2017

It barely made the news, but this week 500 years of Christian theological division could justifiably be called closed.

I spent Reformation Day –October 31 2017, five centuries on from Martin Luther in 1517 – in New York at an all-day seminar on evangelization sponsored by First Things, the journal founded by Richard John Neuhaus. The Lutheran pastor turned Catholic priest spent his entire life working in common cause, witness and intellectual engagement across the divide of the Reformation. The topic was evangelization of the “nones,” those who report no religious belief, a large and growing segment of the population.

That Catholics and Protestants – and Jews – could discuss together theology and pastoral practice is a phenomenon that at Reformation 400, just a century ago, would been hard to imagine. That’s a grace. It is also sobering that we were discussing the substantial part of the population for whom religious faith – Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or otherwise – is considered superfluous, irrelevant, or even false and dangerous. That, too, is a big difference from even 50 years ago, let alone 100. That is not a grace.

Both Convivium and its home, Cardus, participate daily in the grace of common cause, witness and intellectual engagement across the divide of the Reformation. Cardus has its roots in the Dutch Reformed tradition, and Convivium is a project conceived by Catholics, but intended from the beginning for a broader ecumenical and inter-religious audience. Our publisher, Peter Stockland, and I are proud of what Convivium produces, but it is good to remember that just the fact of its existence is a blessing to us, and a small but real contribution to Christian unity.

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