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Durham e-Theses
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Ecclesiology in a time of Institutional Diminishment: The Paschal Trajectory of Church Reform and Renewal

O'TAYLOR, ADAM,JAMES (2020) Ecclesiology in a time of Institutional Diminishment: The Paschal Trajectory of Church Reform and Renewal. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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This study seeks to articulate a constructive theology of ecclesial change in contexts of institutional decline. It considers how paradigmatic the full arc of the paschal mystery should be (notably, through death) for an ecclesiology of institutional diminishment. It then explores whether this is appropriately appreciated in contemporary Catholic diocesan reform and renewal efforts.

For at least fifty years, British society has been experiencing a process of religious transformation, often labelled secularisation. Notwithstanding the exact nature of this change, what is not disputed, but much less systematically theorised and explored, is that most institutional churches are under significant organisational strain. This strain is requiring them to change how they operate substantially; most often they are diminishing and, in some forms, are dying. Taking both theological and historical perspectives, this should not necessarily be a cause for concern. However, it calls for understanding. This thesis examines such change theologically, within the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Following a literature review, it begins by outlining key principles for material change within the Church, following the work of Karl Rahner. It then explores the merits of a paschal ecclesiology with Hans Urs von Balthasar, as well as further work from Rahner on death. With these perspectives, it analyses the sufficiency of pastoral approaches to change followed by over half of Catholic dioceses in England and Wales in the period 2005-2019, as outlined in their publicly available restructuring plans. The conclusion discusses the extent to which, pressing beyond the occasionally used idea of ‘dark night’, the full paschal process of passion, death, and resurrection (a process so often extolled at the level of the individual believer) offers ecclesiological and practical clues for the journey ahead.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:church; catholic; ecclesiology; reform; renewal; secularisation; decline; diminishment; death
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:12 Jun 2020 15:27

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