Subsidiarity and a Conciliar Future

Charles M. Wood


Conciliarity is a feature (or mark) of the church that has not received its proper share of attention from Methodists, despite its apparent links with such Wesleyan themes as “conference” and “connection.” An important aspect of a conciliar understanding of the church is a principle that has come to be known as subsidiarity. Subsidiarity denotes a relationship between a larger community or political entity and the smaller communities and individuals it includes, in which the larger community does not assume the tasks and responsibilities that rightly belong to the smaller communities and individuals that constitute it, but rather provides them assistance when needed, and coordinates their efforts in achieving together those proper ends that they cannot achieve—or cannot as readily achieve—on their own. In this article, I aim to provide a brief exposition of conciliarity and subsidiarity as ecclesiological concepts, to consider the vital role a principle of subsidiarity has to play in any adequate embodiment of a conciliar vision, and to explore some factors that either hinder or foster the realization of that vision.


Subsidiarity; Conciliarity; Connectionalism; Unity; Community

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