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Kenneth A. Locke, The Church in Anglican Theology: A Historical, Theological, and Ecumenical Exploration.

Kenneth A. Locke, The Church in Anglican Theology: A Historical, Theological, and Ecumenical Exploration. Farnham, U.K., and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2009. Pp. 219. $99.95.

This is a compelling study that will nourish a variety of ecumenical conversations related to ecclesiological matters. Locke's presentation achieves the ambitious aspirations of its subtitle and delivers an exploration that is at once historical, theological, and ecumenical. At the core of this well-balanced study and perhaps the very subject matter it addresses is the inherent challenge of securing ecclesial identity wholly apart from institutional coerciveness. In short order Locke escorts the reader through an efficient account of the historical forces that have helped shape the theological understanding of the church in Anglican theology. After reviewing the most pertinent ecclesiological issues of the Elizabethan Settlement, Locke demonstrates the ways in which that tenuous balance, which accommodated theological diversity through a broadly construed conception of liturgical unity on the one hand and addressed the question of governing authority with Parliamentary oversight on the other, fared in subsequent centuries, as the religious uniformity of England and Parliament dissolved and the churches within the Anglican Communion took root in a variety of cultural and political contexts worldwide.

At the heart of this study is the fifth chapter, "The Anglican Approach to Ecclesial Authority." Here Locke addresses the present ambiguity of ecclesial authority in the worldwide communion with a firm grasp of the formative historical forces and a keen understanding of the theological issues involved. Drawing on the work of Paul Avis (which figures prominently in this study), Locke explores "the eminent realism"(p. 115) of Anglicanism that accepts an inherent pluralism within its own eeclesiological boundaries and how the tradition has come to mitigate its untidy procedural effects through historically developed conceptions of "conciliarity" and "collegiality." The goal is not synthesis or uniformity but the productive tension that this realism creates. "The survival of a doctrine through history, without coercive force," Locke writes, "is an indication that it is true" (p. 120). Authority's task, therefore, is not to resolve the tensions that accompany pluralism or to impose a fixed doctrinal definition for all times and contexts but, rather, "to guarantee the continuous interpretation of the Church's proclamation so that it can remain faithful to the Gospel message in changing historical circumstances" (p. 104). If the Elizabethan Settlement "ducked rather than resolved" the question of governing authority in the Anglican tradition, this book demonstrates bow the crucible of history has nonetheless shaped a unique ecclesiology capable of addressing controversial matters of authority, but resolution always takes time.

The question looming in the background of this excellent study is whether the combination of existing ecclesial structures and the church's leaders can hold the communion together long enough for these conversations to play themselves out in history.

Jason M. Donnelly, Emmanuel College, Boston, MA
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Author:Donnelly, Jason M.
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2010
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