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.