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).