Ecclesia semper reformanda est

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Ecclesia semper reformanda est (Latin for "the church is always to be reformed", often - as usual in Latin - shortened to Ecclesia semper reformanda) is a phrase first used by Karl Barth in 1947, deriving from a saying of St. Augustine.[1] It refers to the conviction of certain Reformed Protestant theologians that the church must continually re-examine itself in order to maintain its purity of doctrine and practice. An early example is Jodocus van Lodenstein, Beschouwinge van Zion (Contemplation of Zion), Amsterdam, 1674-1678,[2] who claims the "truth [...] that also in the Church there is always much to reform" ("Sekerlijk de Gereformeerde Waarheyd [...] leert dat in de Kerke ook altijd veel te herstellen is"[3]).

A variation of the term, Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda ("the reformed church (is) always to be reformed"), also used by Karl Barth, refers to the desire of an "erudite man" cited by Jodocus van Lodenstein that the Church should not be called "Reformata", but "Reformanda".[4] It is widely but informally used in Reformed and Presbyterian churches today (for example, the French Reformed Church use "Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda" as motto).

The first term was used by Hans Küng[5] and other ecclesiastical reformers of the Roman Catholic Church who were caught up in the spirit of Vatican II of the 1960s.[6] This latter usage appears in a 2009 pastoral letter by bishop R. Walker Nickless that encourages a hermeneutic of continuity in Catholic teaching and practice.[7]

The phrase (without the est) is also put into the mouth of the fictional Pope Gelasius III in Mary Doria Russell's 1998 novel Children of God.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ . Theodor Mahlmann: "Ecclesia semper reformanda". Eine historische Aufarbeitung. Neue Bearbeitung, in: Torbjörn Johansson, Robert Kolb, Johann Anselm Steiger (Hrsg.): Hermeneutica Sacra. Studien zur Auslegung der Heiligen Schrift im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert, Berlin - New York 2010, p. 382-441, here p. 384-388
  2. ^ Michael Bush, "Calvin and the Reformanda Sayings," in Herman J. Selderhuis, ed., Calvinus sacrarum literarum interpres: Papers of the International Congress on Calvin Research (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008) p. 286. ISBN 978-3-525-56914-6
  3. ^ Cited according to Theodor Mahlmann, p. 423.
  4. ^ Cf. Theodor Mahlmann, p. 387.
  5. ^ Cf. Theodor Mahlmann, p. 387.
  6. ^ 50 Years of Vatican II - A time of orphans. Two veteran Catholic journalists express their sadness
  7. ^ Pastoral letter