Models of the church

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Models of the church

  1. 1. Pre-Assembly TalkPre-Assembly Talk The Models of the ChurchThe Models of the Church
  2. 2. Some Questions to ConsiderSome Questions to Consider • What is the Church?What is the Church? • Who is the Church?Who is the Church? • Who founded the Church?Who founded the Church? • What is the purpose of the Church?What is the purpose of the Church?
  3. 3. What is the Church?What is the Church? • Cardinal Avery Dulles developed a way ofCardinal Avery Dulles developed a way of answering this question using models.answering this question using models. The title of his book,The title of his book, Models of theModels of the ChurchChurch, is still important today., is still important today. • His original book contained five models, orHis original book contained five models, or ways of understanding the Church, butways of understanding the Church, but later he added a sixth.later he added a sixth.
  4. 4. The Church as InstitutionThe Church as Institution • This model of Church emphasizes theThis model of Church emphasizes the structure and order of the Church. Jesusstructure and order of the Church. Jesus says to Peter, “You are ‘Rock’, and on thissays to Peter, “You are ‘Rock’, and on this rock I will build my Church.”rock I will build my Church.” • This model emphasizes the hierarchy ofThis model emphasizes the hierarchy of the Church.the Church. • This model of Church is evident in theThis model of Church is evident in the New Testament in the Council ofNew Testament in the Council of Jerusalem, when the question of whetherJerusalem, when the question of whether converts to the Church had to beconverts to the Church had to be circumcised was discussed.circumcised was discussed.
  5. 5. The Church as InstitutionThe Church as Institution • A strength of this model is a clearA strength of this model is a clear understanding of right and wrong. Thereunderstanding of right and wrong. There are clear roles and guidelines for living theare clear roles and guidelines for living the faith.faith. • A weakness of this understanding of theA weakness of this understanding of the Church is that it can lead to legalism, andChurch is that it can lead to legalism, and an overemphasis upon law.an overemphasis upon law. • Moreover, it can lead to difficulty amongMoreover, it can lead to difficulty among believers to sort out a priority of laws, orbelievers to sort out a priority of laws, or an understanding of the relativean understanding of the relative importance of laws.importance of laws.
  6. 6. The Church as CommunionThe Church as Communion • This model of Church emphasizes theThis model of Church emphasizes the community nature of the Church. In Paul’scommunity nature of the Church. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he refers to theletter to the Corinthians, he refers to the Church as the Body of Christ.Church as the Body of Christ. • This model emphasizes the notion that aThis model emphasizes the notion that a parish is a family.parish is a family. • The Acts of the Apostles emphasizes thisThe Acts of the Apostles emphasizes this model when it discusses the community ofmodel when it discusses the community of believers being of one mind and heart,believers being of one mind and heart, and sharing possessions in common.and sharing possessions in common.
  7. 7. The Church as CommunionThe Church as Communion • The strength of this model is the creationThe strength of this model is the creation of a strong sense of belonging. Theof a strong sense of belonging. The community is warm and welcoming.community is warm and welcoming. • The weakness of this model is that theThe weakness of this model is that the community can so lack structure there iscommunity can so lack structure there is no sense of purpose or direction. Thereno sense of purpose or direction. There can be too limited a sense of belief in acan be too limited a sense of belief in a certain set of principles.certain set of principles. • Over-emphasis on community can makeOver-emphasis on community can make the group stifling. Conflicts can bethe group stifling. Conflicts can be avoided in the name of belonging.avoided in the name of belonging.
  8. 8. The Church as SacramentThe Church as Sacrament • The Church is seen first and foremost as aThe Church is seen first and foremost as a visible sign of the presence of Christ in thevisible sign of the presence of Christ in the world.world. • The Church becomes the visible way theThe Church becomes the visible way the Christ works in the world. “Christ is atChrist works in the world. “Christ is at once manifesting and actualizing theonce manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for humans.”mystery of God’s love for humans.” • Emphasizes the visible (human) andEmphasizes the visible (human) and invisible (spiritual) sides of the Church.invisible (spiritual) sides of the Church.
  9. 9. The Church as SacramentThe Church as Sacrament • The strength of this model is the clearThe strength of this model is the clear connection with a “Catholic way of seeingconnection with a “Catholic way of seeing the world” sacramentally in signs andthe world” sacramentally in signs and symbols.symbols. • The weakness of this model is that itThe weakness of this model is that it requires a high level of catechesis andrequires a high level of catechesis and theological education. Not always readilytheological education. Not always readily apparent.apparent.
  10. 10. The Church as HeraldThe Church as Herald • The Church is primarily the messenger ofThe Church is primarily the messenger of the Gospel. The Church is the voice, thethe Gospel. The Church is the voice, the announcer of the Kingdom of God.announcer of the Kingdom of God. • The Church proclaims a new reality ofThe Church proclaims a new reality of peace, and a reign of God that is bothpeace, and a reign of God that is both already here and not yet fully realized.already here and not yet fully realized. • The members of the Church then areThe members of the Church then are called to be the heralds of this Church.called to be the heralds of this Church.
  11. 11. The Church as HeraldThe Church as Herald • The strength of this model is the heavyThe strength of this model is the heavy emphasis and understanding ofemphasis and understanding of proclaiming the gospel as an importantproclaiming the gospel as an important part of the gospel life.part of the gospel life. • A weakness of this model is that it canA weakness of this model is that it can lead to a cerebral understanding of faith.lead to a cerebral understanding of faith. Also, it can de-emphasize the visibleAlso, it can de-emphasize the visible nature of the sacramental life.nature of the sacramental life.
  12. 12. The Church as ServantThe Church as Servant • This model sees the Church as having aThis model sees the Church as having a primary commitment to the creation ofprimary commitment to the creation of social justice, which is at the heart of thesocial justice, which is at the heart of the gospel mission.gospel mission. • This is the action which underscores theThis is the action which underscores the importance of the words.importance of the words. • This is the aspect where the ChurchThis is the aspect where the Church understands its need to underscore theunderstands its need to underscore the words of the gospel with the need to putwords of the gospel with the need to put those words into action.those words into action.
  13. 13. The Church as ServantThe Church as Servant • The strength of this model is that theThe strength of this model is that the Church is filled with believers who liveChurch is filled with believers who live authentically their faith. Believers work forauthentically their faith. Believers work for a better world where all receive the thingsa better world where all receive the things they deserve.they deserve. • The weakness is that there can be suchThe weakness is that there can be such an emphasis on action, that a faithan emphasis on action, that a faith dimension is lost. The community candimension is lost. The community can simply be a collection of activists with nosimply be a collection of activists with no distinctive belief in God or Jesus.distinctive belief in God or Jesus.
  14. 14. The Church as Community ofThe Church as Community of DisciplesDisciples • The Church is seen as a community ofThe Church is seen as a community of people who follow Jesus. Not simplypeople who follow Jesus. Not simply admiring Jesus, but striving, in everythingadmiring Jesus, but striving, in everything they do, to imitate Jesus both in word andthey do, to imitate Jesus both in word and action.action. • Knowing that Jesus suffered for hisKnowing that Jesus suffered for his beliefs, they too know that suffering maybeliefs, they too know that suffering may be a part of their lives too.be a part of their lives too. • This understanding also includes personalThis understanding also includes personal and communal accountability.and communal accountability.
  15. 15. The Church as Community ofThe Church as Community of DisciplesDisciples • The strength of this model is a strongerThe strength of this model is a stronger sense of connection to Jesus, his mission,sense of connection to Jesus, his mission, and others who believe.and others who believe. • A weakness of this model is that it mightA weakness of this model is that it might still become too local, without a strongstill become too local, without a strong emphasis on a universal nature of Church.emphasis on a universal nature of Church.
  16. 16. How the models work togetherHow the models work together • The Church as Sacrament: founded byThe Church as Sacrament: founded by Christ, combining visible (human) withChrist, combining visible (human) with invisible (divine) dimensions. Baptism,invisible (divine) dimensions. Baptism, Eucharist and the other sacramentsEucharist and the other sacraments combine these elements. This leads tocombine these elements. This leads to • The Church as Community. StrengthenedThe Church as Community. Strengthened and called together by the sacraments, aand called together by the sacraments, a community is created. This leads to . . .community is created. This leads to . . . • The Church as Herald. The communityThe Church as Herald. The community feels compelled to share the good newsfeels compelled to share the good news with others. Which leads to . . .with others. Which leads to . . .
  17. 17. How the models work togetherHow the models work together • The Church as Institution. A need toThe Church as Institution. A need to codify the beliefs of the community, so thatcodify the beliefs of the community, so that the essential parts of the message arethe essential parts of the message are preserved. Which leads to . . .preserved. Which leads to . . . • The Church as Servant. A community ofThe Church as Servant. A community of believers compelled to put their beliefs intobelievers compelled to put their beliefs into action. Which leads to . . .action. Which leads to . . . • The Church as a Community of Disciples.The Church as a Community of Disciples. Founded by Jesus, this Church strives toFounded by Jesus, this Church strives to imitate more and more clearly the life of itsimitate more and more clearly the life of its founder.founder.
  18. 18. How the models work togetherHow the models work together • Which calls the Church more clearly to beWhich calls the Church more clearly to be the visible and invisible reality of itsthe visible and invisible reality of its founder.founder. • This is best understood not as a circle, butThis is best understood not as a circle, but as a spiral, leading us deeper and deeperas a spiral, leading us deeper and deeper into the mystery of Christ.into the mystery of Christ.

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