Law and Order in the Church

D W D Shaw

The discipline of canon law is discussed as a context for the exploration of the role of Law in the contemporary church. The New Testament evidence is outlined, and the development of law in the second and third centuries and its ultimate codification from the sixth century on. Canon Law was wide in scope but also had built into it a flexibility. The Reformers critique is outlined: in its overlapping into civil law, its solidifying of the authority of the Pope, the confusion of the Nicaean insight of two disctinct functions: declaring the faith of the church and legislating for what is expedient. How the Scottish reformation both appropriated and rejected aspects of what they had inherited. The article concludes with General Principles. It is always necessary that doctrine and practice are kept separate, not always easy to achieve. This helps to see church law as a servant of expediency (in a good sense), taking account of changing circumstances: an example is of altering the reliance on parish ministry to embrace other forms of ministry. The positive contribution of law should be developed: not just to prevent, but to form and reform structures.

Volume 02, Number 01 May 1972, p21
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