When "The Church Is Most Truly Itself": the Eucharistic Ecclesiology of Rowan Williams

J. K Melton, Fordham University


This dissertation argues that Rowan Williams’s theology centers the eucharistic communion that motivates both a synodal communion of diverse people and a missiological communion that engages a wounded world. The dissertation considers the broad contours of Williams’s theology, arguing for the centrality of a eucharistic ecclesiology to his oeuvre. In particular, it examines Williams’s methodology, which privileges theological provisionality for the sake of comprehensiveness. Then, it systematizes Williams’s eucharistic ecclesiology from across his highly occasional yet extensive body of work. This eucharistic communion centers on the transformation of a community that offers itself as a living sacrifice, which reflects Jesus’ hospitality, creates an assembly of sinners that seeks ongoing reconciliation, and focuses the assembly on solidarities that it does not choose. The eucharistic communion constitutes the basis of the Anglican communion and motivates reaching out to other Christians around the world, resulting in wider forms of synodal communion that must address the wound of colonialism. As a result, the dissertation considers the situation of the Anglican Communion during Williams’s tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, evaluating the response to conflicts related to human sexuality, namely the Windsor Process and the Indaba Method employed at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, in light of Williams’s own ecclesiology and decolonial theory. Further, the eucharistic communion is oriented outward toward the secular world, which makes it a missiological communion that seeks to engage the world through a certain political theology. The dissertation demonstrates that Williams’s political theology and his eucharistic ecclesiology are mutually illuminating, since both seek a similar goal of privileging diversity for the sake of comprehensiveness. Williams’s engagement with the secular world is examined, and the dissertation then builds on a description of the prayers of the people to develop a notion of ministry for the assembly, where the people engage the world sacramentally, interceding in action and in prayer. Williams’s political theology is evaluated in light of his own eucharistic ecclesiology and in conversation with secularization theories. Lastly, Williams’s ecclesiology is critically examined in light of the ecclesial sin of colonialism, its own values of comprehensiveness, and liberative praxis.

Subject Area

Theology|Political science|Divinity|Religion|Clergy

Recommended Citation

Melton, J. K, "When "The Church Is Most Truly Itself": the Eucharistic Ecclesiology of Rowan Williams" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28090928.