Friday, February 01, 2008

An Emerging Church Ecclesiology

As the researching and writing of my ThM thesis continues, I will be posting some "thought bubbles" for the purpose of critique and clarification. Questions, comments, and corrections are welcome.

The initial phase of research is complete. Churches included in the study were

A tentative and partial ecclesiology is below. My ecclesiological vantage point is on Laura's Writings.

The content of the faith. The church knows the story primarily through submission and obedience, which are also described as “following God in the way of Jesus.” The story is variously understood. Some see is rather generally as God’s truth while others see it more narrowly as the Word revealed in Scripture. All hold that Scripture has some level of authority, whether as the very Word of God or as a standard by which we live corporate life. Most add experience and tradition as truth sources; the perceived authority of these sources varies. The story is engaged and appropriated through a variety of means. For some, in-depth study of Scripture is the primary means. For others, participatory encounter through worship experiences and dialogue are the primary means. Most use a combination. Two responses are most common among ECs. First, ECs intend to be safe places for spiritual investigation. Second, ECs intend to call members to faithful and obedient life together in the world.

The nature of the church.
The church is church by virtue of its connection with Jesus. This connection is the source and intended end of the church’s communal nature. As a people, church has an essential communal nature founded in the communal nature of the Triune God and the communal nature of humanity created in the image of God. ECs place high value on community, seeing members as one people, not only within local churches, but also among churches across time, culture, and tradition. This high value has great influence on EC practice and structure. Most practice communal spiritual formation, especially through alternative worship and biblical/theological conversation. Most also call for communal obedience, placing a priority on plurality in ministry, service, mission, and life.

The purpose of the church. The church proclaims Jesus through actions and words. Proclamation is essential to church identity; it is not an additional ministry. The content of the proclamation is the person of Jesus and, for most, the Kingdom of God. Many in the EC proclaim Jesus by means of holistic, communal life; they often prioritize orthopraxy over orthodoxy. This lived proclamation denies any sacred-secular dichotomy, insisting that Jesus is Lord of all. Mundane activities, like table fellowship, conversation, and artistic expression, become sacred. This translates into (and flows from) a view that members are missionaries and that church is mission.

NOTE: This is a rumination ("1. The act of pondering; meditation. 2. The act or process of chewing cud." American Heritage Dictionary) in search of synergy ("1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.")


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“Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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