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The Open Body

Essays in Anglican Ecclesiology


Edited By Zachary Guiliano and Charles M. Stang

The Open Body emerges from a conference held at Harvard Divinity School in April 2011. The essays in this book reflect on ecclesiology in the Anglican tradition, that is, they debate whether and how humans should gather as a «church» in the name of Christ. While the prompt for this collection of essays is the contemporary crisis in the Anglican Communion regarding homosexuality and church governance, this book provides a capacious re-interpretation and re-imagination of the central metaphor of Christian community, namely «the Body of Christ». By suggesting that the Body of Christ is «open», the authors are insisting that while the recent controversy within the Anglican Communion should prompt and even influence theological reflection on Christian community, it should not define or determine it. In other words, the controversy is regarded as an «opening» or an opportunity to imagine and to examine the past, present, and future of the Church, both of the Anglican Communion and of the entire Body of Christ. Some of the essays begin their reappraisal by looking backward and offering creative theological retrievals from the early Church; some essays offer fresh perspectives on the recent Anglican past and present; others examine the present ecclesiology from a comparative, interreligious perspective; and still others are keen to anticipate and influence the possible future(s) of the Body of Christ.


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Part Two: Governing the Open Body


Part Two Governing the Open Body Chapter 3 Exploring Trans-Atlantic Tensions within Contemporary Anglicanism Robert Tobin IT WAS the outspoken Bishop of Durham Hensley Henson who once dismissed the organisation of the Anglican Communion as “a subject of portentous dullness.”1 Seventy years later, many Anglicans long for the day when such a description might once again prove accurate. For, however portentous the debates about Communion governance and composition may remain, few would claim they have continued to be dull. Since Henson wrote, the prolifera- tion of autonomous Anglican provinces, the indigenization of leadership, and the advent of mass communication, among much else, have all contributed to an unprecedented sense of multiplicity within Anglican experience. Often this diversity, not to say divergence, is regarded as novel, driven by the growing confidence of the so-called “Global South” churches in challenging Western assumptions of normativity.2 Yet whatever kernel of truth there may be in such a reading, it tends to downplay or ignore the abiding differences in social and ecclesiological outlook that have predominated among the western Anglican churches themselves. And given that such differences continue to foster misunderstanding and grievance even now, it is surely worth making some effort to explore this history on its own terms. What follows is a brief inquiry into certain “trans-atlantic tensions” that have persisted between the Church of England and the Episcopal Church USA since the late eighteenth century. Restricting such an exploration to these two particular churches does not imply that the contributions and...

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