Reformation Celebration: I Will Drink Your Tears With My Champagne

In late October, every year, without fail, a group of well-meaning people (men) in mainline […]

Sarah Condon / 10.3.17

In late October, every year, without fail, a group of well-meaning people (men) in mainline denominations go into an official state of mourning because the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is fast approaching. They bemoan (this particular) schism in the church. They talk a lot about Christian Unity (preferably with people who vote the same way they do).

This October is going to be especially difficult for them, because it marks the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Sad.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Mrs. Condon (wife of the Rev. Mr. Condon) will be somewhere all:

I first noticed this we-don’t-feel-good-about-the-Reformation gang when I was in seminary. They would correctively tell me that the Reformation “wasn’t something we should be celebrating” because the church should never have split. Oh, “progressive” dudes, arbitrators of what I am supposed to celebrate. Y’all are the most fun. And by most fun, I mean, PLEASE STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO.

Here’s the deal banana peel: I would not be ordained if it were not for the Protestant Reformation. Period. I wouldn’t be married to my husband either.

When I gently remind the all-knowing Reformation Haters of this fact they’ve apparently forgotten (#somepriestshaveboobs), they jump to reassure me, “Oh of course! I love women’s ordination!”

Wow. Thanks brother. You’re an amazing feminist.

Oftentimes, we look back on history and wonder, what would have happened if x historical event had never taken place. Guess what? When it comes to women’s ordination and married clergy, we know what would have happened. We still wouldn’t be ordained! And my husband would either be single or in another job. It’s like an Outlander episode where we know how everything works out.

’Cause, while I love me some Pope Francis, he is not eager to have me wear my collared dress and high heels behind one of those Catholic Church altars. Also, obvious from a local visit to your Catholic Church, priests would still be celibate. Whenever men tell me how sad they are about the Reformation, I begin to wonder about things that are not my business.

*clears throat*

Funny thing about all of that. Before the Reformation, clergy did have women that they lived with, made love to, and made babies with. And those women were called concubines when people were being nice and whores when they were not. Those women were often ostracized. They were regularly denied midwives when they gave birth. Call me crazy, but as someone who is married to a priest, I feel like our current situation is better?

Also, we have actual records of Martin Luther’s wife, Katharina, interjecting herself into his theological Table Talks. Which means I stand in a long, proud line of clergy wives who do the important work of telling our husbands when to “reign in it.” This alone would be a real win for Christianity.

But let’s just say that none of the above registers with your life. 

Well then. There is this other thing that happened in the Reformation. And it is Good News too good to deny. People began to hear the message of God’s Grace clearly. The Bible was translated into native tongues. The church began to teach children the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. We learned that we had never been justified by our works. Believers were reminded afresh that we are only forgiven through the redeeming work of the Cross.

This sounds so obvious to us now. But 500 years ago, such Gospel truth was highly obscured if not forbidden.

Which brings me to the final aspect of my love for the Reformation:

God is Sovereign. And sometimes he asks us to burn it all down.

God tells Noah to get everybody on a boat because the flood is coming. He gifts Deborah with the military orders that save her people. God tells Jeremiah to warn Judah and Jerusalem of their impending doom.

God binds up and loosens as He pleases. Jesus heals on the Sabbath, breaks bread with notorious sinners, and strikes up watercooler conversations with the town floozy.

When we start feeling regretful about the Reformation, we miss out on what God has done. Besides, it is ill advised to look over our shoulders and wonder what might have been—unless you like being a pillar of salt. History tells us that when the Reformation took place the state of the church felt beyond repair. Christians were doing unspeakable things in the name of Jesus.

So, God burned it down His own self. Because make no mistake, Martin Luther had no intention of turning the church on its head when he nailed the 95 Theses to the door of a church on October 31, 1517. That was God’s work in the world. We’d be wise not to badmouth it.

But what do I know? I’m just a sinner/saint/mother/wife/ladypriest who loves the Protestant Reformation.

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24 responses to “Reformation Celebration: I Will Drink Your Tears With My Champagne”

  1. Keith Kenny says:

    Indeed, the Catholic church was much in need of reform. I think it is not a coincidence that the reform came during a particularly low period of Medici bought-and-paid-for popes.

    The radial Reformation idea that everyone should—and should be able to—read the Bible flew in the face of clerics who wanted to control and spin God’s message their own way … many of whom were illiterate (particularly in Germany) and made up what they wanted thought. The Reformation heralded in universal education, i.e. not just for the selected few. Otherwise it is hard to say when this idea might have caught on.

    I also don’t think it was a coincidence that another Augustinian monk and a contemporary of Martin Luther, Nicolaus Copernicus, was only a few provinces away.

  2. Ben Maddison says:


    (I literally gave this same rant to Ashley less than a week ago. Protestant doesn’t mean anti-Catholic; it means anti-works righteousness lol.)

  3. Jim Moore says:

    You describe the destruction two ways here and I think that’s good. First, you say, “God is Sovereign. And sometimes he asks us to burn it all down.” And you give three examples of things God did. And later you say, “So, God burned it down His own self. Because make no mistake, Martin Luther had no intention of turning the church on its head . . .” I think you get this exactly right. God is the one who did the reforming.

    Luther, (and Noah, and Deborah, and Jeremiah) just did the thing they could do. So often people stand up and make grand demands that everything change in the church or world generally. I’m growing suspicious of those people. Because the people who actually change things usually are doing something much more human-sized and efficacious.

    This is why I’m telling people now the line in Micah 6:8 is “DO justice.” Not TAKE A STAND FOR justice. Those aren’t the same things.

    Can’t wait to meet at the end of the month. It’s going to be awesome!

  4. Susan C says:

    Preach it, Sister!

  5. Patricia F. says:

    Oh–PREACH IT, Sarah!!! What you’ve written is funny (in a semi-sarcastic way), and so SPOT-ON.

    I thank God for the Reformation, every day!! If Martin Luther hadn’t nailed those Theses to the door at Wittenberg church, we might still be reading the Bible in Latin. And there’d be more ‘concubines’ amongst the clergy. And you might have been burned at the stake, Girl!!!

    I love semi-sarcastic humor; it’s right up my alley. Well done!

    Wish I could be at Mockingbird in Maryland later this month. Can’t wait to hear about it afterwards.

  6. Don Conger says:

    Hear! Hear!

  7. India says:

    Blah blah blah. So much self-reverential malarkey in this and so much wrong. Jesus only began 1 church on this Earth and that is the Catholic Church. Nothing you say can change that fact. And while humans were and are in need of reform, the Catholic Church remains.

    • Sarah Condon says:

      India! Thanks for your “blah, blah, blah!” That’s one of my go-to’s! We have so much in common! Won’t it be great and annoying when we are in heaven together and not communicating through a screen? Your sister in Christ, Sarah

    • Sean says:


      Just two little things: 1) catholic (little c bruh) 2: Always remember the first item on this small listy.

  8. Ryan S. says:

    Y’know what’s underrated? The GREAT SCHISM of 1054. When those pesky Roman reformers threw off the yoke of the other historic episcopates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Chalcedon, so that they could separate off and do their own “Latin” thing!

  9. Richard Cruse says:

    This belongs in anybody’s list of best essays

  10. Rev. Sarah says:

    THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING TODAY. I am laughing and crying and shouting “AMEN.” Thank you for this.

  11. Andrew says:

    Probably true vis a vis women’s ordination, but if not for the Reformation, the Latin Church would have gone back to married clergy sooner. The only thing really holding it up is the fear of seeming “too protestant”. My guess is that, without the Reformation, that particular reform – along with vernacular bible translations and liturgy – would have come about a couple centuries earlier than they did.

    • Don C. says:

      Vernacular bible translations had come about before the Reformation. The Reformation was about reform. Reforms, which the Latin Church did not want to acknowledge, were needed. As for going back to married clergy sooner, any statement to say they would have gone back sooner is speculation. The fact is, they have not, and to excuse that with a fear of seeming “too protestant” is a cop out.

    • LLB says:

      Already done in Russia, Greece, Georgia, et. al. Sts. Cyril and Methodius, anyone?

  12. LLB says:

    You really should go back to what happened in what led up to 1054. Your Reformation was just a byproduct of what happened when some cardinal marched into the Hagia Sophia, rudely interrupting the service, and tried to tell the Patriarch of Constantinople what to do and waving that bull (which didn’t really have any authority in the relevant ecclesiastical territory excommunicating him. THAT is the real tragedy of what caused this motion, thus bringing through the reformation that has now led to over 20,000 denominations claiming to know the way to Christ nowadays.

    Priests WERE allowed to have wives, services WERE held in the vernacular, and children WERE educated in he church teachings. Imagine what would have happened if Martin Luther had swallowed his pride and reached out to the East . . .

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