In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Christian Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its polity, its discipline, its destiny, and its leadership.
In its early history, one of the Church's earliest ecclesiological issues had to do with the status of Gentile members in what had been essentially a Jewish sect. It later contended with such questions as whether it was to be governed by a council of presbyters or a single bishop, how much authority did the bishop of Rome have over other major bishops, the role of the Church in the world, whether salvation was possible outside of the institution Church, the relationship between the Church and the State, and question of theology, liturgy, and other issues. Ecclesiology may be used in the specific sense of a particular church or denomination's character, self-described or otherwise. This is the sense of the word in such phrases as Catholic ecclesiology, Protestant ecclesiology, and ecumenical ecclesiology.
The word ecclesiology was defined in the 19th century as the science of the building and decoration of church buildings and is still used in that sense in the context of architectural history.
The roots of the word ecclesiology come from the Greek ἐκκλησία, ekklēsia (Latin: ecclesia) meaning "congregation, church"[notes 1] and -λογία, -logia, meaning "words", "knowledge", or "logic", a combining term used in the names of sciences or bodies of knowledge.
We mean, then, by Ecclesialogy, a science which may treat of the proper construction and operations of the Church, or Communion, or Society of Christians; and which may regard men as they are members of that society, whether members of the Christian Church in the widest acceptation of the term, or members of some branch or communion of that Church, located in some separate kingdom, and governed according to its internal forms of constitution and discipline.
...as a general organ of Ecclesiology; that peculiar branch of science to which it seems scarcely too much to say, that this very magazine gave first its being and its name.
The Ecclesiologist was first published in October 1841 and dealt with the study of the building and decoration of churches. It particularly encouraged the restoration of Anglican churches back to their supposed Gothic splendour and it was at the centre of the wave of Victorian restoration that spread across England and Wales in the second half of the 19th century. Its successor Ecclesiology Today is still, as of 2017, being published by The Ecclesiological Society (successor to the CCS, now a registered charity).
The situation regarding the etymology has been summed up by Alister McGrath: "'Ecclesiology' is a term that has changed its meaning in recent theology. Formerly the science of the building and decoration of churches, promoted by the Cambridge Camden Society, the Ecclesiological Society and the journal The Ecclesiologist, ecclesiology now stands for the study of the nature of the Christian church."
Catholic ecclesiology today has a plurality of models and views, as with all Catholic Theology since the acceptance of scholarly Biblical criticism that began in the early to mid 20th century. This shift is most clearly marked by the encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu in 1943. Avery Robert Cardinal Dulles, S.J. contributed greatly to the use of models in understanding ecclesiology. In his work Models of the Church, he defines five basic models of Church that have been prevalent throughout the history of the Catholic Church. These include models of the Church as institution, as mystical communion, as sacrament, as herald, and as servant.
The ecclesiological model of Church as an Institution holds that the Catholic Church alone is the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church", and is the only Church of divine and apostolic origin led by the Pope. This view of the Church is dogmatically defined Catholic doctrine, and is therefore de fide. In this view, the Catholic Church— composed of all baptized, professing Catholics, both clergy and laity—is the unified, visible society founded by Christ himself, and its hierarchy derives its spiritual authority through the centuries, via apostolic succession of its bishops, most especially through the bishop of Rome (the Pope) whose successorship comes from St. Peter the Apostle, to whom Christ gave "the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven". Thus, the Popes, in the Catholic view, have a God-ordained universal jurisdiction over the whole Church on earth. The Catholic Church is considered Christ's mystical body, and the universal sacrament of salvation, whereby Christ enables human to receive sanctifying grace.
The model of Church as Mystical Communion draws on two major Biblical images, the first of the "Mystical Body of Christ" (as developed in Paul's Epistles) and the second of the "People of God." This image goes beyond the Aristotelian-Scholastic model of "Communitas Perfecta" held in previous centuries. This ecclesiological model draws upon sociology and articulations of two types of social relationships: a formally organized or structured society (Gesellschaft) and an informal or interpersonal community (Gemeinschaft). The Catholic theologian Arnold Rademacher maintained that the Church in its inner core is community (Gemeinschaft) and in its outer core society (Gesellschaft). Here, the interpersonal aspect of the Church is given primacy and that the structured Church is the result of a real community of believers. Similarly, Yves Congar argued that the ultimate reality of the Church is a fellowship of persons. This ecclesiology opens itself to ecumenism and was the prevailing model used by the Second Vatican Council in its ecumenical efforts. The Council, using this model, recognized in its document Lumen gentium that the Body of Christ subsists in a visible society governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible structure.
From the Eastern Orthodox perspective, the Church is one, even though She is manifested in many places. Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology operates with a plurality in unity and a unity in plurality. For Eastern Orthodoxy there is no 'either / or' between the one and the many. No attempt is made, or should be made, to subordinate the many to the one (the Roman Catholic model), nor the one to the many (the Protestant model). It is both canonically and theologically correct to speak of the Church and the churches, and vice versa. Historically, that ecclesiological concept was applied in practice as patriarchal pentarchy, embodied in ecclesiastical unity of five major patriarchal thrones (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem).
There is disagreement between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow on the question of separation between ecclesiological and theological primacy and separation of the different ecclesiological levels:
Historical development of the Church of the East outside the political borders of the Late Roman Empire and its eastern successor, the Byzantine Empire, resulted in the creation of its distinctive theological and ecclesiological traditions, regarding not only the questions of internal institutional and administrative organization of the Church, but also the questions of universal ecclesiastical order.
Martin Luther argued that because the Catholic Church had "lost sight of the doctrine of grace", it had "lost its claim to be considered as the authentic Christian church." ; this argument was open to the counter-criticism from Catholics that he was thus guilty of schism and the heresy of Donatism, and in both cases therefore opposing central teachings of the early Church and most especially the Church father St. Augustine of Hippo. It also challenged the Catholic doctrine that the Catholic Church was indefectible and infallible in its dogmatic teachings.
There is no single "Radical Reformation Ecclesiology". A variety of views is expressed among the various "Radical Reformation" participants.
They verily are not the true congregation of Christ who merely boast of his name. But they are the true congregation of Christ who are truly converted, who are born from above of God, who are of a regenerate mind by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the hearing of the divine Word, and have become the children of God, have entered into obedience to him, and live unblamably in his holy commandments, and according to his holy will with all their days, or from the moment of their call.
This was in direct contrast to the hierarchical, sacramental ecclesiology that characterised the incumbent Roman Catholic tradition as well as the new Lutheran and other prominent Protestant movements of the Reformation.
Some other Radical Reformation ecclesiology holds that "the true church [is] in heaven, and no institution of any kind on earth merit[s] the name 'church of God.'"
For historical Protestant ecclesiology, see
Autocephaly (; from Greek: αὐτοκεφαλία, meaning "property of being self-headed") is the status of a hierarchical Christian Church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. The term is primarily used in Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. The status has been compared with that of the churches (provinces) within the Anglican Communion.Caesaropapism
Caesaropapism is the idea of combining the power of secular government with the religious power, or of making secular authority superior to the spiritual authority of the Church; especially concerning the connection of the Church with government. Justus Henning Böhmer (1674–1749) may have originally coined the term caesaropapism (Cäseropapismus). Max Weber (1864-1920) wrote: "a secular, caesaropapist ruler... exercises supreme authority in ecclesiastic matters by virtue of his autonomous legitimacy".
According to Weber's political sociology, caesaropapism entails "the complete subordination of priests to secular power."In its extreme form, caesaropapism is a political theory in which the head of state, notably the emperor ("Caesar", by extension a "superior" king), is also the supreme head of the church (pope or analogous religious leader). In this form, caesaropapism inverts theocracy (or hierocracy in Weber) in which institutions of the church control the state. Both caesaropapism and theocracy are systems in which there is no separation of church and state and in which the two form parts of a single power-structure.Catholic ecclesiology
The ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is the area of Catholic theology covering the ecclesiology -- the nature, structure, and constitution -- of the Catholic Church itself on a metaphysical and revealed level.Chalcedonian Christianity
Chalcedonian Christianity refers to the Christian denominations adhering to the christological definitions and ecclesiological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council held in 451. Chalcedonian Christians follow the Definition of Chalcedon, a religious doctrine concerning the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. The great majority of Christian communions and confessions in the 21st century are Chalcedonian, but from the 5th to the 8th centuries the ascendancy of Chalcedonian Christology (detailed below) was not always certain.
Doctrinally, Chalcedonianism may be regarded as a subset of Nicene Christianity.Church (congregation)
A church is a Christian religious organization or congregation or community that meets in a particular location. Many are formally organized, with constitutions and by-laws, maintain offices, are served by clergy or lay leaders, and, in nations where this is permissible, often seek non-profit corporate status.Local churches often relate with, affiliate with, or consider themselves to be constitutive parts of denominations, which are also called churches in many traditions. Depending on the tradition, these organizations may connect local churches to larger church traditions, ordain and defrock clergy, define terms of membership and exercise church discipline, and have organizations for cooperative ministry such as educational institutions and missionary societies. Non-denominational churches are not part of denominations, but may consider themselves part of larger church movements without institutional expression.Churches Militant, Penitent, and Triumphant
In Christian theology, the Christian Church is traditionally divided into:
the Church Militant (Latin: Ecclesia militans), which consists of Christians on earth who struggle as soldiers of Christ against sin, the devil, and "the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places";
the Church Penitent (Latin: Ecclesia poenitens), also called the Church Suffering (Latin: Ecclesia dolens) or the Church Expectant (Latin: Ecclesia expectans), which in the theology of certain churches, especially that of the Catholic Church, consists of those Christians currently in Purgatory; and
the Church Triumphant (Latin: Ecclesia triumphans), which consists of those who have the beatific vision and are in Heaven.These divisions are known as the three states of the Church, especially within Catholic ecclesiology. In systems of theology which reject the doctrine of Purgatory, such as Lutheranism, the Churches Militant and Triumphant are together known as the two states of the Church. These divisions are often discussed in the context of the doctrine of the communion of saints; although Christians may be physically separated from each other by the barrier of death, they nonetheless remain united to each other in one Church, and support each other in prayer.Communion (religion)
The bond uniting Christians as individuals and groups with each other and with Jesus is described as communion.Communitas perfecta
Communitas perfecta ("perfect community") or societas perfecta ("perfect society") is the Latin name given to one of several ecclesiological, canonical, and political theories of the Catholic Church. The doctrine teaches that the church is a self-sufficient or independent group which already has all the necessary resources and conditions to achieve its overall goal (final end) of the universal salvation of mankind. It has historically been used in order to define church–state relations and to provide a theoretical basis for the legislative powers of the church in the philosophy of canon law.Conciliarity
Conciliarity is the adherence of various Christian communities to the authority of ecumenical councils and to synodal church governance. It is not to be confused with conciliarism, which is a particular historical movement within the Catholic Church. Different churches interpret conciliarity different ways.Connexionalism
Connexionalism, also spelled connectionalism, is the theological understanding and foundation of Methodist ecclesiastical polity, as practised in the Methodist Church in Britain, Methodist Church in Ireland, United Methodist Church, Free Methodist Church, African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Bible Methodist Connection of Churches, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and many of the countries where Methodism was established by missionaries sent out from these churches. The United Methodist Church defines connection as the principle that "all leaders and congregations are connected in a network of loyalties and commitments that support, yet supersede, local concerns." Accordingly, the primary decision-making bodies in Methodism are conferences, which serve to gather together representatives of various levels of church hierarchy.
In the United Methodist Church and Free Methodist Church, where bishops provide church leadership, connexionalism is a variety of episcopal polity. Many Methodist churches, such as the British Methodist Church, do not have bishops. In world Methodism, a given connexion (that is, denomination) is usually autonomous.Dictatus papae
Dictatus papae is a compilation of 27 statements of powers arrogated to the pope that was included in Pope Gregory VII's register under the year 1075.Ecumene
The ecumene (US) or oecumene (UK; Greek: οἰκουμένη, oikouménē, lit. "inhabited") was an ancient Greek term for the known, the inhabited, or the habitable world. Under the Roman Empire, it came to refer to civilization as well as the secular and religious imperial administration. In present usage, it is most often used in the context of "ecumenical" and describes the Christian Church as a unified whole, or the unified modern world civilization. It is also used in cartography to describe a type of world map (mappa mundi) used in late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.Episcopal Church
Episcopal Church may refer to various churches in the Anglican, Methodist, and Open Episcopal traditions.
An episcopal church has bishops in its organisational structure (see episcopal polity). Episcopalian is a synonym for Anglican in the United States, Scotland, and several other locations.Four Marks of the Church
The Four Marks of the Church, also known as the Attributes of the Church, is a term describing four distinctive adjectives—"one, holy, catholic and apostolic"—of traditional Christian ecclesiology as expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed completed at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381: "[We believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." This ecumenical creed is today recited in the liturgy of the Catholic Church (both Latin and Eastern Rites), the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Church of the East, the Moravian Church, the Lutheran Churches, the Methodist Churches, the Presbyterian Churches, the Anglican Communion and by members of many Reformed Churches.While many doctrines, based on both tradition and different interpretations of the Bible, distinguish one denomination from another, largely explaining why there are so many different ones, the Four Marks, when defined the same way, represent a summary of what many clerical authorities have historically considered to be the most important affirmations of the Christian faith.Megachurch
A megachurch is defined by the Hartford Institute as any Protestant Christian church having 2,000 or more people in average weekend attendance. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term, first documented in 1984, as a church with an unusually large membership, especially one preaching a conservative or evangelical form of Christianity and also offering a variety of educational and social activities.The concept originated in the mid 19th century, continued into the mid 20th century as a phenomenon, and expanded rapidly through the 1980s and 1990s; it is widely seen across the US in the early 21st century.National Science Museum at Maynooth
The National Science and Ecclesiology Museum at Maynooth is a science museum and museum of ecclesiology, located on the joint campus of St Patrick's College, Maynooth and Maynooth University (the southern campus of the university), Ireland. It is an institution of the college, having begun as an ecclesiological museum.
The museum holds various artefacts from the history of science in Ireland (the largest such collection open to the public in Ireland), a large collection of scientific equipment used by Nicholas Callan, and one of two death masks of Irish political leader Daniel O'Connell. The museum was founded in 1934 as the Museum of Ecclesiology but has become more focused on science, partially due to Maynooth's association with Callan.Nondenominational Christianity
Nondenominational Christianity (or non-denominational Christianity) consists of churches which typically distance themselves from the confessionalism or creedalism of other Christian communities by calling themselves nondenominational.On the Councils and the Church
On the Councils and the Church (1539) is a treatise on ecclesiology written by Protestant reformer Martin Luther late in life.
On the Councils and the Church is best known for its teaching, in the third part of the book, of the "seven marks of the Church", of which the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church can be recognized. These marks are:
holy word of God, effective means of grace
holy sacrament of baptism, regeneration
holy sacrament of the altar
office of keys exercised publicly, although not the office of pope. Includes also private confession as a means of grace.
it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices, that is, to administer, bishops, pastors, preachers, but not women.
prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God, the liturgy
holy possession of the sacred cross, suffering and carrying the cross as followers of Christ.Protestant ecclesiology
The term Protestant ecclesiology refers to the spectrum of teachings held by the Protestant Reformers concerning the nature and mystery of the Church.