Dis-abling the body of Christ: toward a holistic ecclesiology of embodiment
Hale, Nancy Jill
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One of the primary images for ecclesiology is Paul's "body of Christ" metaphor. The contemporary church, as the body of Christ, sometimes struggles with its sense of identity and mission as well as with its relationship with other social bodies in the world. This study examines the intersection of ecclesiology, disability, embodiment, and liturgy and offers possibilities for developing a general ecclesiology of disability that is grounded in human embodiment and embodied practices. The interconnections between disability theory and theology are explored, followed by an examination of the "body of Christ" metaphor, starting with Paul's context and continuing with an analysis of how the metaphor functions linguistically. A review of how body theology developed and functioned in church history is presented, and then consideration is given to how the work of theologians such as Louis-Marie Chauvet and Edward Schillebeeckx is grounded in a theology of the body. A brief history of ecclesiology is followed by an assessment of the embodied ecclesiology of Chauvet, Schillebeeckx, John Howard Yoder, and Stanley Hauerwas. The relationship among embodiment, liturgy, and Christian formation is probed using the work of Don Saliers, Gordon Lathrop, and James K. A. Smith. Finally, principles are proposed that answer the question, "What would it mean for the church to be a disabled body?" The intention of these principles is to help churches dis-able those beliefs and practices that keep them from being the message of the kingdom of God and from embodying the new social reality of the gospel that challenges the values of other social bodies in the world.