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  • January 30, 2009

    The Noted Ecumenist, Canon Paul Avis


    In the last two days I have had the privilege of hearing Canon Paul Avis, General Secretary of the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity, speak twice.

    The first was a discussion of Dr. Avis’ book Beyond the Reformation: Authority, Primacy and Unity in the Conciliar Tradition. Dean Ian Markham of Virginia Theological Seminary convened a faculty discussion of this work at his home on campus this past Wednesday evening. He was kind enough to include me.

    The book is very informative on the history of Conciliarity and the Conciliar movement in the church. The history is complex. Avis argues that the Conciliar movement affected the Reformation. Themes of conciliarity are with us today in our ecumenical discussion but we sometimes fail to appreciate the long history of Conciliar thought.

    Yesterday Canon Avis gave a lecture at Catholic University in the late afternoon on ethics and communion–at the invitation of Msgr. Paul McPartlan and Dean Irwin. Since I am a moral theologian by training, I was very interested to see what he would say. I was not disappointed.

    He confirmed my belief that there is not much literature on ecumenical ethics and personal morality–there is more on social ethical questions. In his detailed presentation, he proposed a starting point and some principles to guide the discussion. A version of this presentation will appear in a book he is writing for T&T; Clark.

    What I am happy to see is that a leading ecumenist is beginning to address issues of personal morality. I think this is necessary. In fact I have convinced the Board of the North American Academy of Ecumenists to have its annual meeting, to be held here in Washington September 25-27, focused on ecumenical ethics. I will present more on this in a later blog.

    It was two days of intense learning–something good for me.

    It also was an intellectual feast for our Celebrations of Christian Unity.