Organization Worship and Preaching

In the words of Jean Monnet, who had so much to do with achieving European unity in the twentieth century, "Rien n'est possible sans les hommes, rien n'est durable sans les institutions."1 Monnet's point is simple: individuals make things happen, but for those things to survive, institutions are required. No movement can exist without structures. As Protestantism emerged and consolidated itself in the 1520s, the question of how its core ideas could be sustained in the longer term became increasingly pressing. At first, this matter was not seen as critical; as time passed, however, it could not be ignored.

Many of the first generation of Protestants believed that their separation from the Catholic church was temporary. It was only a matter of time before that church would concede the need for reform and those who had been forced to leave could return. This rather pleasing aspiration was certainly plausible throughout much of the 1520s and 1530s. In the 1540s, however, it became clear that separation and alienation were likely to be permanent. The failure of the Colloquy of Regensburg (1541), which had brought together like-minded senior Catholics and Protestants to explore possibilities of rapprochement, was an important straw in the wind.2 More significantly, the Council of Trent—the foundation of the Catholic Reformation—sent out signals at a very early stage that it was not concerned with seeking reconciliation with Protestantism but rather with offering a robust restatement of the Catholic position, coupled with explicit criticism of Protestant views, particularly those on the relation of the Bible and tradition and the doctrine of justification by faith.3 The countering of the Protestant Reformation would be an explicit part of the renewal of Catholicism. The Catholic Reformation would thus also be a Counter-Reformation.

From the late 1540s, institutional questions assumed a new priority within Protestantism. By this stage, however, Luther was dead and his mantle had passed to his successors. The fixing of denominational structures would be a task for the second generation of Protestants. The first generation had hoped this would never be necessary, believing that provisional interim arrangements would suffice until reunion took place. By 1550 it was evident that a reunion would never take place.

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