Show Less
Restricted access

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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 9. Ongoing Interpretation of the Charism


· 9 ·


A specialized vocational movement, as it continues beyond its formative stage, is faced with the need to discern God’s providential leading in new times and places. This often calls for a re-evaluation or re-articulation of the movement’s charism. Furthermore, because ecclesial movements are social institutions, they are subject to the same tendencies as other social institutions, and therefore run the risk of allowing the forces of institutionalization to interfere with the exercise of their vocation. Often the tension that arises within the movement over time relates to a choice between mere imitation of the acts of the founder and interpretation of the charism of the founder.1 Simple imitation might actually be a sign of a problematic institutionalization of the movement. For example, a particular practice may be preserved by a community because it was done in the early history of the movement, regardless of whether or not it furthers the movement’s vocation in a new context. In Paulist history, the practice of using “mission bands,” to be discussed below, is a relevant example. On the other hand, there is a danger that the movement might falsely in-graft other distinctive practices or ideas into ← 207 | 208 → its charism, thus providing them with a form of triumphalistic divine sanction for their particular historical decisions. Some strands of mid-twentieth century Salvationist thinking about the sacraments evidence this tendency, as will be discussed at the end of this chapter. Further, the provisional nature of...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.