Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

An Introduction to Ecclesiology Part I


Picturesque church of Vernazza

Originally uploaded by Bеn

I want to take a few posts to do a summary of Veli-Matti  Kärkkäinen’s book An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical and Global Perspectives. In part one I will summarize the first section of his book where he talks about Ecclesiological Traditions, in the second entry I will summarize the second section that deals with leading contemporary Ecclesiologist, and finally in the third entry I will summarize the contextual Ecclesiologist.

Kärkkäinen a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary has lived in Europe, Asia and North America; is fluent in several languages and a prolific author. He is a member of three working groups of the World Council of Churches and some of his areas of expertise include Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, Pannenberg, Luther, and Pentecostal-Charismatic theologies.

Part I – Ecclesiological Traditions

Chapter 1: Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology sees the church as an icon of the trinity. God’s grace is both “mediated and experienced by and through the sacraments” (19) and there is a balance of hierarchy and charisms in the structure.

Chapter 2: Roman Catholic ecclesiology, after Vatican II, sees the church as the people of God, “pilgrim people on the way to the heavenly city” (28). It is sacramental, communal, pneumatological, hierarchal, and under the papacy.

Chapter 3: Lutheran ecclesiology sees the church as the gathering of the just and sinful people; it is non-institutional, and a hospital for the sick. The Holy Spirit works through the word and sacraments to make people holy.

Chapter 4: Reformed ecclesiology sees the church as a graced covenant community. There is a stress on “believing the church” instead of “believing in the church” (51). There are various tensions within the reformed camp.

Chapter 5: Free Church ecclesiology sees the church as the fellowship of believers, and includes groups like Anabaptist, Baptist, Methodist and Quakers. Unmediated access to God and the priesthood of all believers are strong values.

Chapter 6: Pentecostal/Charismatic ecclesiology sees the church as a charismatic fellowship empowered by the Holy Spirit. There is sometimes an unhealthy opposition between charism and institution. God’s presence is vital.

Chapter 7: The Ecumenical Movement is trying to live out the reality of being “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”. There are different understandings and prescriptions for unity.

In part II, we will look at some of the leading contemporary ecclesiologist.


5 Responses to An Introduction to Ecclesiology Part I

  1. This is a great book on ecclesiology, in fact, karkkanien’s entire global perspective series is really good.

  2. jrwoodward says:

    Jonathan,

    Yeah, I enjoyed the book as well. Its great for a sense of perspective.

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