Kim's exegesis of 1 Corinthians is detailed and complex and it is not my intention to reproduce it in detail here. Details of the book can be found in the left hand sidebar. My intention is to attempt a hermeneutic based upon the particular context of ecumenism in 21st century Britain and more specifically England.
However, to do this I must attempt a brief summary of the main argument in Kim's text. The primary metaphor Kim refers to is the Body of Christ. The question is how does this metaphor inform our understanding of unity and diversity? Particularly, given the common ways in which Kim argues this metaphor is misunderstood.
Kim's conclusion leads to a paradox. Unity leads to divisiveness whilst diversity leads to unity. Kim puts it like this on page 4:
Paul's argument presupposes that the divisiveness of the Corinthian community results not from a lack of unity but from a failure on the part of its members to acknowledge and respect the diversity present in the community. (...) But unity is not the goal or purpose of Paul's letter because in Greco-Roman society, unity can be a destructive and oppressive language.
The last sentence refers I think to the Pax Romana, where peace was enforced throughout the Roman Empire by the sword. Each conquered nation was allowed to live in peace in return for certain demands form Rome, most notably worship of the Emperor. Nevertheless there was a degree of diversity across the Roman Empire (all large empires and organisations have to manage diversity in some way) and so for example, Paul felt unable to accept contributions from the Corinthian church because of their patronage system whereas he had no such hesitations with the Philippians just up the road but in a different province.
The Corinthians were dividing into factions and each faction drew boundaries around itself, within which there was an expectation of unity. Within these boundaries there was hierarchy, the more powerful, presumably those with power of patronage, set the terms of their faction. This was not a community that was able to accept there might be a diversity of truths (Kim, page 5). This resonates with the writings of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who writes about a dual morality, where 'biblical morality ... adds to ... universals a context bound morality dependent on history and memory'. To a degree I think Kim's book is by accident a Christian commentary on Sacks' work The Dignity of Difference. To follow this up further it is worth reading the posts around the above link which comment on chapter 3 of that book.
The focus of Kim's reading of 1 Corinthians is the implications of reading unity into the Body of Christ, for the marginalised and I'll return to this in future posts. But for ecumenism in England a major problem is the growing rift between centralised formal talks and localised ecumenism. Theology is done differently nationally and locally; to the extent that church leaders and academics do not see what local churches are doing as theology. The discourses are different not only in content but also in form. So, formal talks are based upon written agreements fully cross-referenced and with footnotes. Clearly this is good academic practice but this format tends to make them unavailable to local churches unless mediated through preachers. Locally theology is done through people, property and finance. Walk into any church and look at it, theology is in the walls. Also in its practices and the way it uses its money. Local ecumenism is conducted through these media.
The theological approach to boundaries through formal talks tends to maintain islands of unity. The problem for the churches is that these islands of unity are breaking up.