Date of Award

Spring 2008

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Del Collee, Ralph

Second Advisor

Carey, Patrick

Third Advisor

Dabney, D. L.


Scripture testifies to the existence of Mary, the mother of Christ, making her a part of the common religious heritage of all Christians. Various interpretations of her story, however, reveal confessional differences pertaining to a wide range of doctrinal issues considered church-dividing during and after the Protestant Reformation. Tragically, as Reformation and Post-Reformation Era polemics intensified, the mother of Christ became symbolic of Christian division. Her image was raised to the apex of argument, representing all that Catholics loved and all that Protestants deemed idolatrous. Now that many of these intra-Christian polemics have cooled, we can all look back on this phenomenon and begin to appreciate the bitter irony of having placed the mother of Our Lord in such a position. Certainly our shared fault breaks the heart of Mary's divine Son whose perfect virtue is not lacking in filial love. Surely devout, well-intended Christians might find a way to repair this fissure and see in Our Lady a symbol of that which unites us within the Body of Christ. There has already been remarkable progress toward this end, which is evident in certain formal dialogue statements and scholarly ecumenical endeavors focusing on specifically Marian topics, but much work remains to be done. The subject of Mary is still widely regarded as an obstacle to Christian unity that must be overcome, and treatment of Marian topics remains a relatively isolated aspect of ecumenical dialogue with a limited appeal. It is time for ecumenists to build on the foundation provided by "Marian pioneers," moving beyond discussion of Marian "obstacles" and toward the appropriation of the mother of Christ as a symbol of Christian unity so that she might serve as an asset to the ecumenical cause. The following investigation explores the possibility and potential benefits of appropriating Mary as a symbol of unity within the particular context of Catholic Methodist dialogue and focusing on the relevance of mariology to the particular topic, "the Church as a sacramental communion." The results of the investigation have been surprisingly positive, and it is the author's hope that they might inspire similar investigations focusing on other dialogue partners and topics in the near future. Perhaps one day Christians will be able to say in unison with Elizabeth and each other, "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb," feeling blessed indeed for being able to count Mary among the great gifts Our Lord has given his one flock.



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