Communion Ecclesiology: A Protestant’s Friend or Foe?

Recent proposals for communion ecclesiology have proven attractive in ecumenical dialogue, especially as the term functions as a doctrinal umbrella to distill the church’s relationship to her God, or to capture the parameters of the church’s practices and ecumenical obligations. Still others prefer the concept to expound upon the church’s eschatological end—communion with the living God for eternity. Communion ecclesiology, however, has not been without its detractors, for its methodology is critiqued as too broad and postmodern, its dogmatic reflections are dogged by accusations of social trinitarianism, and its intellectual proposals are rebuked for minimizing the painful and all too harsh realities of the church’s disjointed history. In this presentation I seek to address some of the perceived weaknesses of communion ecclesiology by re-envisioning* its methodology and pneumatological grounding. With the church understood as a sign community in its identity and practices, communion ecclesiology can do more than merely account for the the identity and telos of God’s people. Because ecclesiology is by nature derivative, communion ecclesiology can (a) safeguard ecclesiology’s relationship to other doctrinal loci without elevating its place in dogmatics, (b) provide ontological insights into the organic nature of the means of grace, and (c) provide structure to ecclesiological partnerships in an age of fragmentation.

I borrow the term ‘re-visioning’ from Australian Catholic theologian, Neil Ormerod, in his book, Re-visioning the Church: An Experiment in Systematic-Historical Ecclesiology (Fortress Academic, 2014).

3 thoughts on “Communion Ecclesiology: A Protestant’s Friend or Foe?”

  1. Scholarly Thesis?
    It would be nice to see a scholarly goal. Is the goal to promote ecumenicalism concerning the Lord’s Supper or merely with fellowship (i.e. communion)? Fellowship is one concept, but the Lord’s Supper involves different requirements. Paul did not offer the Lord’s Supper with division in a church. Divisions would be compounded by crossing denominations. This idea would face a giant hurdle from a biblical perspective.

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