In an essay published today in the Australian online communication ABC Religion & Ethics, the American theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, identifies a common thread in the thought of John Howard Yoder, Rowan Williams, and Bruce Kaye's 2009 book Conflict and the Practice of Christian Faith: The Anglican Experiment. That common thread? "We are in the odd situation of needing one another in our diverse localities in order not to be subject to the power of false universals."
For Yoder, writes Hauerwas, "locality and place are the forms of communal life necessary to express the particularity of Jesus through the visibility of the church. Only at the local level is the church able to engage in the discernment necessary to be prophetic."
Next, Hauerwas finds, "According to Williams, the role of church is to take up space in the world, to inhabit a place, where Jesus' priesthood can be exercised. Such a place unavoidably must be able to be located on a social map so that it does not have to be constantly reinvented."
Kaye, he writes, "provides a fascinating account of Anglicanism that puts flesh on Williams's suggestive comments about the relation of Christology and locality by focusing on the Anglican Communion."
Kaye is not suggesting that truth does not matter, but that truth demands that those whom we do not understand not be cast beyond the pale of fellowship. Anglicans have been committed to the local expression of the faith which means that the challenge confronting its reality as an international fellowship of churches should not be how we can enforce uniformity, but rather how we can be known through our love of one another.
Catholicity is, therefore, that name we give to the priority of the local for the determination of faithfulness that can only be sustained by engagement with other local expressions of the faith, as well as engagement with the whole. As Rowan Williams reminded us at the 2008 Lambeth Conference:
"The entire Church is present in every local church assembled around the Lord's Table. Yet the local church alone is never the entire Church. We are called to see this not as a circle to be squared but as an invitation to be more and more lovingly engaged with one another."
Such engagement, moreover, is crucial if the church is to be an alternative to the forces that threaten to destroy locality in the name of peace. We are in danger of confusing the universality of the cross with the allegedly inevitable process of globalization. We are in the odd situation of needing one another in our diverse localities in order not to be subject to the power of false universals.
Read the whole thing.
Hauerwas is saying something about the proposed Anglican Covenant, isn't he?
I found these sentences on community in the Wikipedia entry on Hauerwas of interest:
Hauerwas’s bottom line is that there can be no real society if its members only relate in terms of noninterference. The language of rights destroys society because we regard people as strangers instead of assuming the responsibility towards them as family and members of the community that we share.That echoes not the language the covenant but the language of the Toronto Congress of 1963 recalled by the “Consultation of Bishops in Dialogue” meeting held in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania last month.