Continuing a series of occasional posts calling attention to recent doctoral dissertations by Baptists and others in the broader free church tradition working at the intersection of ecclesiology and ecumenical theology:
Scott W. Bullard is Chair of the Humanities Division and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Judson College in Marion, Alabama. His dissertation "A Re-membering Sign: The Eucharist and Ecclesial Unity in Baptist Ecclesiologies" (Baylor University, 2009) was supervised by Barry A. Harvey.
This dissertation argues for the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, as a vital basis of the church’s unity as the body of Christ. It focuses especially on the theology of James Wm. McClendon, Jr., who, though a member of a largely non-sacramental (“free church”) tradition, nonetheless insists upon Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and that through the Eucharist God “re-members” the church as the body of Christ. While the study lauds McClendon’s foresight and direction, it also argues that he ultimately shies away from a sacramental understanding of the Supper and that he skims over the unitive function of the Eucharist. Added to the discussion, then, are two voices from outside the free church tradition: Henri de Lubac, a Catholic, and Robert Jenson, a Lutheran. Together with McClendon, these twentieth century figures and their theologies have had an enormous impact on contemporary discussions about ecclesial unity. In a final chapter, therefore, the study illustrates how they have influenced a number of contemporary Baptists dubbed “new Baptist sacramentalists,” a younger group of Baptist theologians who offer a fresh approach to the ongoing puzzle of the church’s disunity through the Eucharist.
Posts in this series:
Jeffrey Cary on Jenson, Williams, McClendon, and free church ecclesiology
Aaron James on language, Eucharistic identity, and the Baptist vision
Scott Bullard on Eucharist, Unity, and Baptists
Derek Hatch on Mullins, Truett, and de Lubac
Jonathan Malone on Baptists, Ordination, and Catholic "Sacramental Consciousness"
Cameron Jorgenson on "Bapto-Catholicism"