The End of Ecumenism (Again)

David Congdon has just written this piece following up on this one from Halden Doerge & Ry Siggelkow which I commented on here. Congdon sounds the same Christological note as Doerge & Siggelkow, but now extends their commentary to the suggestion that the Spirit’s work in enacting this unity in Christ entails cultural translation and difference. This leads him to say the following (my emphases):

What is the practical payoff of this dense theological reflection? There are many aspects that could be developed, such as the claims that “mission makes the church” and that the gospel is intrinsically translatable. I want to focus on the nature of Christian unity. If it is indeed the case that our unity in Christ is inseparable from our being bound up in a pneumatic event of cultural translation, then this has rather dramatic implications for what it means to be part of the body of Christ. We are not dealing with a stable, static body whose limbs are all clearly identifiable as part of a single historical organism. We are instead dealing with a diasporic body whose limbs and parts are scattered and broken in every corner of the earth. It is the very confusion of Babel that is sanctified by the Spirit, because the infinitely translatable Christ is present and active in the midst of this confusion as the one who binds all the scattered remains together in his singular person—but not in a way that could be made phenomenally observable or dogmatically objectifiable. The post-pentecostal Christ cannot be definitively located; he cannot be tied down to any particular church or creed. His future cannot be directly identified with the future of any worldly institution or historical entity.

I’m afraid that all I can say to this is: Nein!

2 thoughts on “The End of Ecumenism (Again)

  1. Nein indeed. What an unfortunate denigration of the visible Church. One must wonder, what is the difference between a strictly invisible church and no church at all?

  2. Steve,

    I found your blog by way of your comments over at Fire and the Rose. I greatly appreciated your response.

    RE the end of ecumenism and related conversations, I’m always left wondering, what’s the alternative? It’s usually ends being some vague appeal to the Spirit, one that it terribly abstract. And it’s evoked in such a way, I think, that ends up closing down the conversation.



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