The Reformers of the 16th Century believed that the Church would always need to be re-formed; as soon as the Church stopped being self-critical it would fossilize.
Over the years this has meant that Reformed Churches have been able to adapt to, and learn from, what God was saying to us through our culture and context. We were the first mainline tradition in the United Kingdom to recognise that God was calling women to the ordained ministry and Constance Coltman, left, was ordained to a Congregational church in London in 1917. We recognised that God was telling us that marriages don’t always last forever and we should offer healing and a non-judgemental welcome to those who wish to remarry after divorce. When much of the Church has been divided over the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people we have heard God’s call to live with difference of opinion whilst ensuring that membership and ministry is open to all. We were the first mainline Church in the UK to allow local churches, if they wish, to offer marriage to same sex couples.
At the heart of our tradition, therefore, is a need to be self-aware and self-critical. All our structures, ideas, theology and ways of working are provisional – as God is still speaking. This idea is encapsulated by George Caird in his hymn:
Not far beyond the sea, nor high above the heavens,
but very nigh, your voice O God is heard.
For each new step of faith we take
you have more truth and light to break forth from your holy word.