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Division, Diversity, and Unity

A Theology of Ecclesial Charisms

Series:

James E. Pedlar

The term «charism» is drawn originally from Pauline literature and refers to a gift given by the Spirit for the upbuilding of the body of Christ. Since the mid-twentieth century, Christians from a broad spectrum of theological positions have applied this term, in varying ways, to groups within the Church. However, no book thus far has provided a rigorous and sustained critical investigation of this idea of ecclesial charisms. In Division, Diversity, and Unity, James E. Pedlar provides such an investigation, drawing on biblical and systematic theology as well as literature on church renewal and ecumenism. Against those who justify denominational separation in order to preserve particular gifts of the Spirit, Pedlar insists that the theology of charisms supports visible, organic unity as the ecumenical ideal.
Division, Diversity, and Unity argues that the theology of ecclesial charisms can account for legitimately diverse specialized vocational movements in the Church but cannot account for a legitimate diversity of separated churches. Pedlar tests and develops his constructive proposal against the fascinating and conflicted histories of two evangelistic movements: the Paulist Fathers and The Salvation Army. While the proposed theology of ecclesial charisms stakes out a legitimate and important place in the Church for specialized movements, it excludes any attempt to justify the permanent separation of an ecclesial body on the basis of an appeal to an ecclesial charism.
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Chapter 1. Introduction

Extract

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INTRODUCTION

It is difficult for us to imagine what a shock must have been given to the tender frame of second-century Christianity by the lapse of Tertullian into Montanism. It was as if Newman had joined the Salvation Army.1

Ronald Knox’s comparison of Montanism to the Salvation Army is amusing (especially for those of us with Salvationist heritage), but also indicative of the ways in which “enthusiastic” Christianity has been viewed by many scholars standing in the established Christian churches: as a country cousin, slightly embarrassing at best, and heretical at worst. The history of the Church bears witness to the perennial presence of conflict between such “movements” and the mainstream tradition. Such conflict has even, at times, marked the history of those Catholic movements which received the Church’s official approbation, such as the Franciscans. This book is, in part, an effort to provide a theological framework through which this conflicted history might be interpreted and understood.

“Charism” is a concept drawn originally from Pauline literature, and refers to a gift given by the Spirit to persons in the Church for the upbuilding of the ← 1 | 2 → body of Christ.2 Since the mid-twentieth century, Christians from a broad spectrum of theological positions have applied this term, in varying ways, to groups within the Church.3 My argument specifies the particular ways in which we can legitimately speak of “group charisms.” I begin with a constructive theology of ecclesial charisms and demonstrate the...

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