Missional ecclesiology — what is it?
As a retired missiologist I still take an interest in missiology (for those who don’t know, missiology is the study of Christian mission) and so I took an interest in a new development I discovered about 18 months ago when I found that bloggers who listed “missiology” among their interests also listed “emerging church”, and so I tried to discover what that meant.
I’m still not quite sure where most emerging church people are coming from. A lot of them speak of the need to reject the “old” ecclesiology, and of the need for a new “missional ecclesiology”. One of the bad habits many missiologists have is that they do not define the “old” things that they reject.
But perhaps we can take the conversation a bit further, because there is a good blog posting about the “old” missiology here, and I wonder if some “emerging” missiologists could say what it is about it that they reject, and what they would replace it with.
One problem I have found with blogs, and other forms of electronic communication, is that too often “theology” is seen as intellectual and cerebral, a matter for debate rather than living. Truth is seen as “propositional”and therefore as something to be argued about rather than lived. As the blog I cited above puts it:
The insanity of modern American Christianity is the product of sola scriptura, poor or no ecclesiology, and the entrepreneurship of the American spirit. Thus almost every Christian group that exists has something excellent to say about itself (like so many car dealerships). The perfect ratiocination of Reform theology, an Infallible Pope with a Magisterium, or the perfections of an invisible Church (really, how can you discuss an invisible Church?) Even Anglicans, born of divorce and compromise (I know they don’t like to say it like that in Anglican seminaries, but it’s history), can brag about Via Media, or today, “Inclusivity.”
This idea that truth is “propositional” is characteristic of modernity, and one of the things I have found refreshing about the “emerging conversation” is that people involved in it are aware of the limitations of modernity (and are often criticised for their lack of enthusiasm for modernity).
Nevertheless, there is some value in making propositions, as long as we don’t mistake them for the truth itself (a useful metaphor is mistaking the map for the territory). So I suppose I’m asking for a bit of propositional clarity from my emerging and emergent friends, not in order to have a debate and try to score points off each other, but in order to enlarge our understanding.
What do you think a missional ecclesiology would look like? And how would it differ from the model described by Fr Stephen in the post cited above?