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Division, Diversity, and Unity

A Theology of Ecclesial Charisms


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 7. The Formation of the Movement


· 7 ·


I have been arguing that charisms are personal gifts of grace which bring a particular vocational obligation, and that ecclesial charisms should be understood, not as supra-personal gifts, but as charisms which are shared among a group of persons who are gathered together in the Church in a distinct ecclesial body. That body, then, can be seen as an institutional means of grace, whereby the personal charism in question is cultivated and exercised. The normative form that such ecclesial bodies ought to take is that of a specialized movement, characterized by a particular charism. Such movements are to be contrasted with churches, which are characterized by the plurality of charisms. While these two basic forms of ecclesial bodies (movements and churches) remain normative from the perspective of ecclesial charisms, many ecclesial bodies exist, descriptively, in the hybrid forms of separated movements and movement-churches.

The Paulist Fathers and the Salvation Army began as specialized movements in the Church. A specialized movement often forms around a particular person, usually identified as the “founder” of the movement, and identification of the charism of the movement begins with the charism of the founder. I have identified the charism of Paulist founder Isaac Hecker as that of an evangelist for America, and the charism of William Booth as that of an evangelist for the ← 151 | 152 → neglected. In this chapter, I examine the founding of each movement, in order to identify how these...

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