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Getting the Gospel Plough Going: The Case of Hugh Latimer

In the new issue of Credo Magazine, “The English Reformation,” Sam Fornecker contributed an article titled, “Getting the Gospel Plough Going: The Case of Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester.” 

Samuel Fornecker (M.Div, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is an assistant minister at All Saints Little Shelford, and a PhD candidate in historical theology at the University of Cambridge.

Here is the start of Fornecker’s article:

Preaching on the afternoon of June 9, 1536, the Bishop of Worcester, Hugh Latimer (c.1487-1555), cast a startling vision for the reforming of the English pastoral ministry. Startling because it was at the feet of his audience—a crowd including bishops and deans, archdeacons and diocesan clergy—that Latimer laid the responsibility for England’s spiritual decrepitude. Imagine how jolted Latimer’s contemporaries must have felt, after hearing something like this:

[Y]e that be prelates, look well to your office; for right prelating is busy labouring, and not lording. Therefore preach and teach, and let your plough be doing. Ye lords, I say, that live like loiterers, look well to your office; the plough is your office and charge. If you live idle and loiter, you do not your duty, you follow not your vocation: let your plough therefore be going, and not cease, that the ground may bring forth fruit. (WHL, p.65)

For Latimer, the burden of responsibility for England’s reformation rested squarely (from a human point of view!) on the shoulders of her ministers. If England wanted reformation, therefore, she needed reformed ministers. And reformed ministers was precisely what Latimer aimed to provide.

The following year, Latimer issued a “to-do” list for his clergy, called visitation injunctions. What’s striking about this to-do list is how it illuminates one way in which Latimer went about forming reformed ministers: He gave them a crash course in Christian discipleship.

Thankfully, Latimer’s instructions don’t have a sell-by date! The wisdom on offer here, for any Christian, is very much alive. Restoring these practices ourselves, if and when we stray from them, may well prove the first step toward getting the gospel plough going in our own lives and ministries, “that the ground may bring forth fruit” once again. …

Read the rest of this article in “The English Reformation” today!

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