"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ecclesiology in Our Time

I maintain, of course, an active interest in all matters ecclesiological, having authored a study in the area which, if you somehow managed to escape 2011 without reading it, you will want to be sure not to allow one more day in 2012 to pass before rectifying this lapse: Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity.

Ecclesiology is often considered the youngest of the so-called theological sciences. In their The Theology of the Church: A Bibliography, Avery Dulles and Patrick Granfield noted that the twentieth century was often called the "century of the Church" because it was during this time that ecclesiology came to be studied more widely (and, for some, "systematically") than it had in previous centuries.

We have therefore seen an outpouring of works in ecclesiology, some of which I have noted on here in the past. The best such book released in 2011 was, as I argued at length here, was Radu Bordeianu's work on Dumitru Staniloae. (I interviewed Bordeianu here.)

Later this spring, Ashgate tells me that they are set to bring out a big collection entitled appropriately enough A Reader in Ecclesiology (Ashgate Contemporary Ecclesiology). Under the editorship of E. Stanley Jones, this volume, projected to run to 256pp., covers a wide sweep of history and personages. The publisher provides the following overview:
This Reader presents a diverse and ecumenical cross-section of ecclesiological statements from across the twenty centuries of the church's existence. It builds on the foundations of early Christian writings, illustrates significant medieval, reformation, and modern developments, and provides a representative look at the robust attention to ecclesiology that characterizes the contemporary period. This collection of readings offers an impressive overview of the multiple ways Christians have understood the church to be both the 'body of Christ' and, at the same time, an imperfect, social and historical institution, constantly subject to change, and reflective of the cultures in which it is found.

This comprehensive survey of historical ecclesiologies is helpful in pointing readers to the remarkable number of images and metaphors that Christians have relied upon in describing the church and to the various tensions that have characterized reflection on the church as both united and diverse, community and institution, visible and invisible, triumphant and militant, global and local, one and many. Students, clergy and all interested in Christianity and the church will find this collection an invaluable resource.
Of interest to Eastern Christians in particular will be the many chapters on the early patristic sources as well as the Didache; and then, in the modern period, chapters on Alexander Schmemann and John Zizioulas.

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