Friday, 19 August 2005
Ecclesiology: Latest Issue
The latest issue of Ecclesiology arrived a few days ago, preceded by the electronic announcement of its contents. For those who don't know, Ecclesiology is a relatively new journal published by Sage, described as "The Journal for Ministry, Mission and Unity". Convening Editor is Paul Avis, and Paul Fiddes is also listed as an editor, representing the Baptist tradition. The journal has the potential to explore all sorts of contemporary issues at a serious academic level, and it should be taken by every major theological library. The current issue is devoted to exploring the question of why structural ecumenism is in crisis by reflection on a number of issues of ecumenical method. Here are the abstracts:
Does Doctrine Still Divide?
Against an old adage that ‘doctrine divides, service unites’, this article argues that all features of the ecumenical enterprise - evangelistic, humanitarian, moral, liturgical, sacramental, ecclesiological - bear a doctrinal dimension; the point is to discern and foster the unity in doctrine that is necessary to their pursuit. Twentieth-century doctrinal dialogues are surveyed, both in the multilateral arena (notably Faith and Order’s Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry) and in some representative bilateral cases. Their achievements are measured, and the remaining (and new) issues are noted. Attention is paid to the effect of the Roman Catholic Church’s official entry into the Ecumenical Movement with the Second Vatican Council’s decree ‘ Unitatis Redintegratio’, and Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical ‘ Ut Unum Sint ’ is viewed as both a recognition of a century’s progress in ecumenism and the setting of an agenda for continuing work.
The Development of Doctrine: A Lutheran Understanding and its Ecumenical Application
In this essay, a Lutheran understanding of the development of doctrine is developed, in contrast with what George Lindbeck calls ‘historical situationalism’, the limitations of which are analysed. While the final authority of doctrine is a function of its evangelical content, a particular historical development of church teaching can possess a subordinate, distinct, formal authority as an authoritative sign of the material authority of its content. Such developments of doctrine can be irreversible. This understanding is placed in relation to the most prominent doctrine on the development of doctrine, the Catholic teaching on papal infallibility. The comprehensive narrative of the Western church’s struggle over authority since the late Middle Ages should be seen as including both Catholic and non-Catholic developments and as still unresolved.
The Common Statement Called into Question
The forms, structures and conventions of ecumenical texts, and the methods of their production, play a determinative role in shaping the successes and failures of the quest for Christian unity. The textual genre of the ‘common statement’ has played a particular critical role in the development of the modern ecumenical movement, but hermeneutical problems inherent in this genre demand a re-evaluation of the viability of these texts as effective vehicles for ecumenical dialogue. The re-imagination of ecumenism for the twenty-first century must begin with a reassessment of the role of this traditional text form as part of a broader re-imagination of the entire textual life of the movement.
What is Communion and When is it Full?
Joseph D. Small
‘Full communion’ has become the favoured term to characterize forms of reconciled life between and among churches in North America. Yet the term is problematic. This article examines ‘full communion’ in light of its genesis in the ecumenical movement, challenges from Orthodox and Roman Catholic perspectives, the biblical witness, and the actual life of churches that are in ‘full communion’. The article concludes by suggesting a way to retain and employ koino nia categories in ecumenical relations.
Whose History? Historical Method and Ecclesiology in Ecumenical Context
This article explores the concealed relationship of changing historical formulations of Christian doctrine to the statements of doctrine contained in ecumenical dialogue reports, and argues for a form of church history that would be ecumenically and theologically useful. Through a series of specific examples, it points to the hidden history of the ecclesiological contexts in which doctrine is situated. Noting limitations in the concept of ‘paradigm shift’, as well as in theories of doctrinal development, it argues that church history needs to attend to three levels of historical argumentation, covering doctrines, institutions, and social context, and proposes a historical methodology cognizant of all three, and above all of the links between all three.
Structures of Unity: The Next Ecumenical Challenge - A Possible Way Forward
William G. Rusch
The modern ecumenical movement with its primary goal of the visible unity of the churches has given attention to ecclesiology. This has been true both in the work of Faith and Order and in many of the bilateral dialogues. Yet both Faith and Order and the dialogues have stated remarkably little about the structures needed for church unity. This article suggests that by building on the concept of differentiated consensus it may be possible to recognize and utilize a concept described as differentiated participation to move the churches toward greater visible unity. In conclusion some examples are given.