A Post-Protestant Church for the Nation

In 1953, the year I began my seminary studies, Charles Clayton Morrison published a provocative book on Christian unity that envisions a post-Protestant church for the United States. Morrison’s thesis, which explains the title of his book, The Unfinished Reformation, is that the original reformers in Germany, Switzerland, France, and England did not intend to divide the one Church of Christ. Their goal was to overcome its wrongful developments and reform the church so that it would be what Christ intended it to be.

Because of the political and social struggles of their time, however, the reformers were isolated from one another and a divided church was the result. Describing the growing interest in the ecumenical movement of his time, Morrison asserted that the Protestant churches were expressing their Reformation character as they sought to reestablish the unity of the Church of Christ on earth.

In another book, published twenty years earlier, Morrison had discussed other ideas that dealt directly with the divided state of the churches of his time and place. Throughout the 1933 book, Morrison urged the churches to reclaim their gospel heritage, recover their autonomy from the social order, and move together to recover their unity. While developing a history of the Consultation on Church Union, a forty-year effort to recover the unity about which Morrison had written, I reviewed the ideas that he had presented in these two books.

To my surprise, I discovered that he had anticipated some of the principles that emerged during the period after 1960. I also realize that he had anticipated some of the problems that would later cause the Consultation to fall short of its goal, which had been to develop a post-denominational church to serve the people of the United States. Read more … CCM Completing What the Reformers . . .

2 Responses to A Post-Protestant Church for the Nation

  1. eirenetheou says:

    Had the Reformers been able to transcend their geographic “isolation,” they would likely have become even more divided than they were when apart. Witness the Marburg Colloquy — Luther and Zwingli could not be reconciled in their understanding of Real Presence or Real Absence in the Eucharist, and therefore could not come to the Table of the Lord together. Because, therefore, the Swiss refused to participate in the Schmalkaldic League, Philipp of Hesse spent some years as an involuntary guest of the Emperor.

    There is even more irony in that story, and the Lord’s Table plays in all of it. In history, irony abounds.

    May God have mercy.


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