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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 8. The Movement in the Church


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The theology of ecclesial charisms carries significant ecclesiological implications, particularly in terms of the relationship between specialized vocational movements and the Church. In this chapter I will examine the ecclesiological assumptions of the Paulist Fathers and the Salvation Army, to see how each movement understood itself in relation to the Church, and explore the ways in which the movement’s ecclesiological self-understanding relates to my normative proposals regarding specialized vocational movements. How did each movement articulate its particular vocation in relation to the mission of the Church as a whole? How was the relationship between movement and church lived out, practically speaking? How did each movement see its particular charism as providentially related to the challenges of the Church in the late nineteenth century? How might my proposed theology of charisms help to clarify the ecclesiological ambiguities associated with each movement?

The Paulists understood their movement in a way that accords well with my proposal concerning ecclesial charisms for the most part. They saw themselves as a special body of priests raised up by God to meet the needs of the age. The theology of ecclesial charisms, however, might have made a significant difference if it had been embraced by the Paulists and the Catholic hierarchy of their day. Had the bishops been committed to the idea that a ← 177 | 178 → movement, such as the Paulists, should focus exclusively on their particular charism, they might not have assigned the...

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