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Conscience, Interdependence, and Embodied Difference: What Paul's Ecclesial Principles Can Offer the Contemporary Church

Kathryn L. Reinhard


One of the perennial concerns of ecclesiology seems to be that of unity and difference. Are there limits to the kinds of diversity which church unity can sustain? Can a unified community sustain disagreement and dissent? This paper attempts to situate the current debate over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion within a biblical context of Pauline ecclesiology. Through careful exegesis of 1 Corinthians and Romans, the author identifies three core principles of Paul’s ecclesiology: conscience, interdependence, and embodied difference. The author argues that, for Paul, ecclesial unity is not a concept that precludes difference in identity or in practice. Paul’s theological and pastoral convictions led him to articulate ecclesial principles that attempt to respect diversity in identity and practice, even as he advocates for a robust and dynamic understanding of unity and mutual relationship. Ultimately, the author suggests that the Anglican Covenant currently under consideration by the Communion might be understood in this “Pauline” way—pointing toward an ecclesiology within controversy.

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