2013 Early Christianity

The opening session of this projected new seminar group will focus on patterns of ministry in the Pauline churches, under the overall title: Leadership and power in the Pauline churches. The focus paper by Loveday Alexander will be posted on the BNTS website.

Session 1

Defining the field: What is 'Early Christianity'?

Introductions, agendas, and interests

Loveday Alexander (University of Chester)

Patterns of Ministry in the Pauline Churches

Session 2

Andrew D. Clarke (University of Aberdeen)

The Source and Scope of Paul’s Apostolic Authority

Paul describes himself as one set apart for the Gospel and called by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. Although, in Paul’s view, this authority comes from the highest source, it is nonetheless clearly limited in scope – both in terms of content and field. After his death, however, the scope of Paul’s authority extends significantly beyond what he had earlier defended. This authority becomes divorced from his person and is rooted instead in apostolic tradition and the canon.

Session 3

Kathy Ehrensperger (University of Wales, Lampeter)

Pauline Leadership and the Limitations of Power

Paul was power conscious. He intended to have an impact on people and events. He claimed to know and understand more than others based on his commissioning to proclaim the gospel to the nations. He asserted his leadership claims in no uncertain terms and did not shy away from exercising power in asymmetrical relationships over against communities he had founded. This has lead scholars to argue that Paul introduced hierarchical structures in the egalitarian Christ-movement and that by doing so he replicated imperialistic patterns of domination. There are a number of issues which need further consideration in Paul’s use of power. Although I do not doubt that Paul did use power in asymmetrical relationships claiming the position of the ‘subject who knows’ (Foucault), I question the assumption that this in and of itself amounts to an exercise of dominating power. Not all hierarchical relationships are infused with dominating power. Power can also be transformative and empowering. The recognition of the limitations of any power claims plays a key role in a transformative and empowering exercise of power. Reading Paul in light of contemporary theories of power I will explore in this paper some of these aspects arguing that limitations of power are actually inherent to the message Paul is commissioned to proclaim. 


Brainstorming ideas for future programmes