I recently read a very interesting analysis of the composition of John's Gospel which proposes a two stage composition.* The first stage effectively conveyed a gospel of egalitarian love for a charismatic church untrammelled by the structure of an institution.
Paradoxically, this stage, reaching back to the egalitarian, charismatic kingdom brokered by Jesus himself constitutes reason to think that the Johannine author of the gospel was, at this stage at least, the Apostle John, son of Zebedee.
The second stage, including the addition of John 21 with its rapprochement between the church of the Beloved Disciple and the church of Peter, evidences a church evolving out of the free charismatic movement of Jesus into the institution we continue to have, an institution required to deal decisively with false teachers. The perils of false teachers for the Johannine church are charted through the three Epistles of John; these, on the theory, being composed between the first and second stages of the Gospel.
This is not the only occasion within the New Testament to discern tension between the (original) charismatic and (emerging) institutional church (compare, e.g., 1 Corinthians with the Pastoral Epistles, or Matthew's Gospel with Mark's Gospel).
Running through church history this kind of tension continues as new movements of the Spirit break out and the organisation of the church variously resists or incorporates the movement. A notable British success at incorporation was the Rome-oriented incorporation of the Celtic church at the Synod of Whitby. A notable Anglican failure at incorporation was Methodism which became the Methodist church.
Fast forward to 2015 and we have the Anglican Communion at the crossroads. Will this Communion which has neither resisted nor incorporated the (alleged) movement of the Spirit within TEC find a 'way forward' which clarifies the Communion's approach to same sex marriage? Will this Communion which so far through nearly 150 years existence has resisted becoming overly institutionalised find new momentum towards being an institution in the sense of a 'global church' rather than a communion? Or, will the next few years see the Communion quietly evolve into a series of Anglican movements, ungoverned by prelate or constitution? It is already evolving in that direction but it is not yet determined that we will end all desire to be a global church.
Apropos of which, a comment on the previous post is very interesting! See here.
[*Paul N. Anderson, "The Community that Raymond Brown Left Behind: Reflections on the Johannine Dialectical Situation," in Culpepper, R. Alan and Anderson, Paul N. (eds) Communities in Dispute: Current Scholarship on the Johannine Epistles, Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014, pp. 47-94. Anderson here builds on work by Bultmann, Brown, Barrett, etc.]