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Parochial Ecology on St Briavels Common: Rebalancing the Local and the Universal in Anglican Ecclesiology and Practice

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    Rights statement: © Northcott, M. (2012). Parochial Ecology on St Briavels Common: Rebalancing the Local and the Universal in Anglican Ecclesiology and Practice. Journal of Anglican Studies, 68 - 93. 10.1017/S1740355311000167

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68 - 93
JournalJournal of Anglican Studies
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


The rise of the global market economy has advanced forms
of centrist, corporatist and statist rule that are insensitive to
local indicators that this novel social order is ecologically,
and socially, unsustainable. For many political theologians,
and for secular political ecologists, the related crises of species
extinction and climate change, combined with structural
economic crisis, require a fundamental relocalization of the
global economy and of the harvesting of natural resources.
The contest between the political economy of global ‘free’
trade and a relocalized economy and polity bears analogies
with debates around the relation between the local and the
universal in Christian ecclesiology. In the eucharistic body
politics of Saint Paul Christian communion is focused in the
eucharistic gathering. However, centrist tendencies in
ecclesiastical polity emerged in fourth-century accounts of
the universal church. The subsequent doctrine of the
primacy of Peter gave a powerful push to centrist over
localist accounts of the esse of the Church in the West, and
the contest between local and universal in Anglican and
Catholic ecclesiologies continues to this day. Orthodox
theologians Zizioulas and Afanassieff, describe and fill out
the doctrinal implications of a primitive ecclesiology in
which ‘the eucharist makes the church’.2 This recovery of a
local eucharistic ecclesiology offers valuable resources for
thinking about the nature of communion between Anglicans
1. Michael S. Northcott is Professor of Ethics in the School of Divinity,
University of Edinburgh, and a Priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church.
2. Paul McPartlan, The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri de Lubac and John
Zizioulas in Dialogue (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1998).
Journal of Anglican StudiesVol. 10(1) 68–93 [doi:10.1017/S1740355311000167]
r The Journal of Anglican Studies Trust 2011
in a Communion increasingly riven by controversy, and for
thinking about the nature of the parish in aChurch of England
prone in the last forty years to centrist and managerial
conceptions of the Church, and to the denigration of the local
parish church as the esse of the ministry and mission of the
Church in England.

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