The Order of St. Luke was founded in 1946 under the leadership of the Rev. R.P. Marshall, a former editor of the Christian Advocate. It was dedicated to the cause of liturgical renewal, and led the way in a serious liturgical awakening across the Methodist Church and much of post-war protestantism.
In its early years, the Order of St. Luke struggled to define a mission more thrust upon it than sought out. In those days, most seminary worship departments focused on preaching. The necessary undergirding of theology and history were missing, or at least separated from the worship curriculum so as to have little relevance to the task of liturgical leadership. The new ecumenical movement and post-war reaction to theological idealism spotlighted these gaps within the non-Roman churches, and especially the Methodist Church. For Methodism, this was an era of ingenious but often quite dogmatic efforts to compensate for these deficiencies, particularly by pastors in the local churches. By and large, spontaneous experiments with “worship enrichment,” ceremonial niceties, and chancel “restorations” were the fruits of a liturgical understanding devoid of historical, ecumenical and theological grounding.
The Order has outgrown its early years of trial and temptation when it was the object and perhaps the cause of considerable caricature and misunderstanding. A maturing comprehension of liturgical renewal in an ecumenical era has become the guiding vision of members within the Order, just as it has become a dawning concern in the minds of many persons in the Church presently outside the Order. Recent evidence of this emerging vision may be seen in the design of the official worship books of many denominations.
The additional emphasis of directed spiritual formation, adopted in 1980, sets the direction in which the Order believes itself called.
While it will shun doctrinaire positions, the Order is dedicated to the task of breaking down the barriers of historical ignorance, theological sectarianism and liturgical illiteracy in the Church. The Order has no special revelation about the future of the emerging ecumenical concensus, but will do what it can to encourage the people called Christian to look outward and work toward the greater Church which God is surely gathering for Christ’ s sake from a broken Christendom.