Avis, Paul 1947- (Paul David Loup Avis)

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Avis, Paul 1947- (Paul David Loup Avis)


Born July 21, 1947, in Essex, England; son of Peter G.H. and Diana J. Avis; married Susan J. Haywood (a teacher), July 11, 1970; children: Edward, Jonathan, Daniel. Education: University of London, London, B.D., (with honors), 1970, Ph.D., 1976; attended Westcott House, Cambridge, 1973-75.


Home—Membury, Devon, England. Office—Council for Christian Unity, Church House, Great Smith St., London SW1P 3AZ, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Ordained priest of the Church of England, 1976; curate of South Molton, Devon, England, 1975-80; vicar of Stoke Canon, Devon, England, 1980—. Doctrine Commission, 1989; elected clerical member of General Synod, 1990; prebendary of Exeter Cathedral, 1993; sub-dean of Exeter Cathedral, 1997; Council for Christian Unity, general secretary, 1998; Canon Theologian of Exeter, 2008; appointed Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II, 2008. English Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee, cosecretary. Research fellow, Department of Theology, University of Exeter; Senior Inspector of Colleges and Courses, House of Bishops; director, Centre for the Study of the Christian Church.


The Church in the Theology of the Reformers, John Knox Press (Atlanta, GA), 1982.

Truth beyond Words, Cowley (Cambridge, MA), 1986, published in England as Ecumenical Theology and the Elusiveness of Doctrine, S.P.C.K. (London, England), 1986.

Foundations of Modern Historical Thought: From Machiavelli to Vico, Croom Helm (Dover, NH), 1986.

The Methods of Modern Theology: The Dream of Reason, Marshall Pickering (Basingstoke, England), 1986.

(Editor) The Science of Theology, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1986.

Ecumenical Theology and the Elusiveness of Doctrine, S.P.C.K. (London, England), 1986.

(Editor) The Threshold of Theology, Marshall Pickering (Basingstoke, England), 1987.

Gore: Construction and Conflict, Pickwick (Worthing, England), 1987.

Anglicanism and the Christian Church: Theological Resources in Historical Perspective, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1989, 2nd edition, T&T Clark (New York, NY), 2002.

Eros and the Sacred, Morehouse (Harrisburg, PA), 1989.

Christians in Communion, Liturgical Press (Collegeville, MN), 1990.

Authority, Leadership and Conflict in the Church, Trinity Press International (Philadelphia, PA), 1992.

(Editor) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Darton, Longman & Todd (London, England), 1993.

Faith in the Fires of Criticism: Christianity in Modern Thought, Darton, Longman & Todd (London, England), 1995.

(Editor) Divine Revelation, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1997.

God and the Creative Imagination: Metaphor, Symbol, and Myth in Religion and Theology, Routledge (New York, NY), 1999.

The Anglican Understanding of the Church: An Introduction, S.P.C.K. (London, England), 2000.

Church, State, and Establishment, S.P.C.K. (London, England), 2001.

The Christian Church: An Introduction to the Major Traditions, S.P.C.K. (London, England), 2002.

A Church Drawing Near: Spirituality and Mission in a Post-Christian Culture, T & T Clark International (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor) Public Faith? The State of Religious Belief and Practice in Britain, S.P.C.K. (London, England), 2003.

(Editor) Seeking the Truth of Change in the Church: Reception, Communion, and the Ordination of Women, T & T Clark (New York, NY), 2004.

(Editor) Paths to Unity, Church House Publishing, 2004.

A Ministry Shaped by Mission, T & T Clark International (New York, NY), 2005.

Beyond the Reformation? Authority, Primacy and Unity in the Conciliar Tradition, T & T Clark (New York, NY), 2006.

The Identity of Anglicanism: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology, T & T Clark (New York, NY), 2007.

Also contributor to Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision, Wipf & Stock, 2006. Editor, Ecclesiology. Contributor to theology journals.


As chaplain to the Queen of England and general secretary of the Church of England's Council on Christian Unity, the Reverend Dr. Paul Avis is an important person in the Anglican Communion. Avis, wrote a contributor to the Diocese of Exeter Web site, has a well-deserved reputation as "a distinguished scholar and prolific writer who … [serves as] a senior adviser to the Bishop, as well as bringing his gifts of scholarship and teaching to the work of the Cathedral and the Diocese" of Exeter.

In Beyond the Reformation? Authority, Primacy and Unity in the Conciliar Tradition, Avis examines the ways in which the Western Christian Church has historically been governed over the past millennium. The model for guidance of the Anglican Church has traditionally followed the concept represented by the Papacy: a single authority to which all problems are submitted. There is, however, another model: the Church council, in which major policy and theological decisions are made democratically by individuals meeting together. "Avis … not only argues convincingly that this was the rock from whence we were hewn, but also points to its relevance today for Anglicans and other Christians," wrote Christopher Hill (himself an Anglican bishop) in the Church Times. "Conciliarism sought ‘the common good’."

The principles of conciliarism have important consequences for the future of the Christian Church in general and the Anglican Church in particular. "The ‘pivotal ecclesiological axiom’ of conciliarism was its belief that responsibility for the status ecclesiae, the well-being of the church (its doctrine, worship, and mission) rests with the whole church," stated Gerald Christianson in Church History. "This was joined by the conviction that responsibility for the well-being of the church is exercised in a constitutional and representative way not only through general councils, but also through councils and synods of all sorts. Conciliar theology thus elevated the well-being of the whole over that of its constituent parts and tempered notions of authority with ideas drawn from natural law." "Having himself come to the conclusion that ‘the Continental and Anglican Reformers adhered in slightly different ways to a modified conciliarism,’" Francis Oakley declared in the Catholic Historical Review, "he expresses the hope that ‘closer acquaintance with the conciliar contribution to Reformation thought’ will foster among members of all Christian denominations the "sense of a tradition that bridges the Roman Catholic-Reformation divide." "Avis suggests that Anglicans have come closer than anyone to the principles of conciliarism. Yet, as he concedes, the Anglican Communion showed itself unprepared for the ordination to the episcopate of Gene Robinson," the first openly gay Anglican bishop, declared Jonathan Baker in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History. "Whether medieval conciliarism provides the answer, Avis has written a book which will certainly help" define and shape the debate over how the Church can be governed.

Paul Avis once told CA: "From my position as a parish priest, I am committed to the advancement of theological education and inquiry, to liberal reforms in the church, and to ecumenical advancement through theological criticism and reconstruction.

"In my work I aim to mobilize the resources of historical theology to facilitate a constructive engagement with contemporary issues. Truth beyond Words was prompted by my profound dissatisfaction with the results of a dozen years of Anglican-Roman Catholic discussions. In this book and Anglicanism and the Christian Church: Theological Resources in Historical Perspective I show that, contrary to a common assumption, there is a coherent Anglican theology and theological method that draws on both the Reformation and the Enlightenment. To reassert this is my contribution to the renewal of Anglican identity. But my interests are not merely confessional: I am concerned with developing an ecumenical theology in dialogue with the insights of the human sciences."



Anglican Theological Review, winter, 2004, William Seth Adams, review of Anglicanism and the Christian Church: Theological Resources in Historical Perspective; fall, 2006, Ian T. Douglas, review of A Ministry Shaped by Mission.

Catholic Historical Review, October 1, 2007, Francis Oakley, review of Beyond the Reformation? Authority, Primacy and Unity in the Conciliar Tradition, p. 938.

Church History, December 1, 2007, Gerald Christianson, review of Beyond the Reformation?, p. 840.

Church Times (London, England), March 14, 2008, Christopher Hill, "How We Are Governed: Christopher Hill on Anglican Authority and Its Two Conflicting Traditions."

Interpretation, April 1, 2002, John W. Dixon, review of God and the Creative Imagination: Metaphor, Symbol, and Myth in Religion and Theology, p. 223.

Journal of Church and State, June 22, 2005, Andrew D. Kinsey, review of A Church Drawing Near: Spirituality and Mission in a Post-Christian Culture, p. 649.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, July 1, 2007, Jonathan Baker, review of Beyond the Reformation?, p. 596.

Religious Studies, December 1, 1998, review of Divine Revelation, p. 511.

Theological Studies, December 1, 2007, Richard R. Gaillardetz, review of Beyond the Reformation?, p. 964.


Church of England Web site,http://www.cofe.anglican.org/ (September 2, 2008), "Double Honour for Coordinator of Church's Unity Work," and author profile.

Diocese of Exeter Web site,http://www.exeter.anglican.org/ (September 2, 2008), "Paul Avis to Be Chaplain to the Queen and Canon Theologian of Exeter."

New Horizons in Faith and Order,http://www.ncccusa.org/ (September 2, 2008), Rachel Lyle, review of Paths to Unity.

Polanyi Society Periodical (Missouri Western University), http://www.missouriwestern.edu/ (September 2, 2008), Barbara Baumgarten, review of God and the Creative Imagination.

Society for Ecumenical Studies Web Site,http://sfes.faithweb.com/ (September 2, 2008), David Carter, review of Church, State and Establishment.