“A Radical Middle Way Beyond “Us and Them”

Centrists / Religion

Ken Howard writing about his new book Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them has lays out the details of his thinking regarding the finding of an alternative way through the conflict that has been raging for decades within the Church. In a blog post this afternoon he points toward a reordering of the Church in a way that we’re not focused on maintaining the bounds between them and us, but rather finding a commonality about which we can all gather:

“In creating Christian community, neither Orthoproxy nor Orthopraxy can avoid creating an ‘Us’ and a ‘Them,’ because neither can conceive of Christian unity without some kind of uniformity. Orthoproxy seeks unity in uniformity of doctrine. Orthopraxy seeks unity in uniformity of practice.

To put it in logical, mathematical terms, community in both Orthoproxy and Orthopraxy is defined as a ‘bounded set.’ Both describe an outer boundary of US, outside of which lies THEM. The difference between the two lies in what constitutes the boundary. Orthoproxy locates the boundary in common doctrine; Orthopraxy in common practice. But Paradoxy defines community in a way that doesn’t depend on boundaries, and so doesn’t require an US and a THEM. As a ‘centered set,’ it finds its unity in the extent to which the people which make up the set are oriented with respect to that which (or rather he who) lies at the center of the set – Jesus Christ – and the extent to which they are in relationship with the One at the center.

This is not to say that Orthoproxy and Orthopraxy do not have Christ at the center, or that communities practicing Paradoxy can totally avoid the human (and fallen) tendency toward thinking in terms of boundaries. It is to say that for communities practicing Incarnational Orthodoxy – or Paradoxy – it is relationship with the incarnate Center is considered the primary source of unity.

Paradoxy comes from the Greek word paradoxos, a near-literal translation of which would be ‘things which, placed in relationship to each other, inspire awe and praise.’ Paradoxy, then, represents an approach to orthodoxy that comes closer to the literal meaning of the word than either the conservative or liberal approach. It means embracing and celebrating relationship with Jesus Christ, realizing and accepting that the incarnate Truth will always be greater than we can understand or imagine. It is centered on being in right relationship with Christ and celebrating, embracing, and living into the power of the paradoxical reality of the Incarnation and all its implications.”

More here.

His ideas here echo some thoughts that Christopher Evans has posted around the web on a number of occasions, and the ideas of the former Archbishop of South Africa (Njongonkulu Ndungane) who writes that Anglicanism is willing to tolerate differences on our fringe because we keep our focus on the center of the Church, Jesus.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Hi Nicholas,
    I wish I could take the credit for the article, but I didn’t write it. I’m sorry that the blog isn’t clear. I posted the article, but Ken Howard wrote it.
    Thank you for directing folks to the blog, though!
    Amy Moffitt

  2. Thanks, Amy!
    I do have to say, though, that you are quite articulate and incisive in your own writings, and I do like hearing your thoughts.
    And Nicholas, I have really enjoyed reading yor thoughts as well. I list you as a suggested blog on my book website, http://www.practicingparadoxy.com, which includes my mini-blog, “Beyond Us & Them.”
    Blessings to you both!

  3. Thanks both of you – I’ve rewritten the title and beginning of the post to reflect the correct authorship of the blog. Thanks for poking your heads in here, and for the link to your blog Ken. I’ve been reading Amy’s and I’m a subscriber to yours.

  4. Ken Howard says

    Hey Nick,
    Did the changes take place on the blog.
    I can’t see them.

  5. I am reading this book. Here is a direct method for churches and congregations to begin their discussions about inclusion, defining their evangelical style, calling new clergy, elevating the laity, and bringing out the gifts of the excluded in their communities.
    I am in awe of the scholarly writing and descriptive passages.

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