Who is the Church?

In case you hadn’t heard, Pope Benedict reiterated the official Catholic position that Protestant churches are not “full churches,” since they are not “governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.”  Instead, they are “ecclesial communities.” 

Some good coverage:

I don’t have anything original to contribute to this discussion, but, a few years ago, Miroslav Volf wrote a terrific book entitled After Our Likeness: The Church As the Image of the Trinity.  Volf lays out a free church ecclesiology based on Jesus’ statement, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20).  He responds to both an Orthodox theologian, John Zizoulas, and a Catholic theologian, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who has since become Pope Benedict). 

I found the book to be very helpful in thinking about my church, which comes from a nondenominational, nonsacramental tradition.  Historically, these types of churches have not had a strong ecclesiology (theology of the church).  Volf helped me to develop my thinking of a Scriptural foundation for the free church style of church governance, based on the intentional gathering of Christians.  I strongly recommend it for anyone who, like me, loves the church  and sees it as integral to God’s Kingdom.  

UPDATE: Christianity Today has linked to an editorial they wrote back in 2000 about these same issues.  Very positive view of the Vatican’s position as a way forward, since it recognizes Protestants as fellow Christians.

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