Ecclesiology in Motion
Ecclesiology in Motion: Ecumenical Vocation and the Developing Ecclesial Identity and Self-Understanding of the United Church of Christ (USA) By: Jason M. Donnelly Advisor: Mark S. BurrowsThis study explores the question of ecclesiology in the United Church of Christ by presenting a historically descriptive account of this church's developing ecclesial identity and self-understanding during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Chapter one, "Ecumenical Vocation and the Question of Ecclesiology in the United Church of Christ" considers the context and composition of the organic union that established the United Church of Christ in 1957, engages the founding documents and early developments of the UCC's ecclesial identity and self-understanding up to 1982, and situates this study within its larger historical, ecumenical, and theological contexts. Chapter two, "Corporate Expressions of Ecclesial Identity in the United Church of Christ" examines the emergence of a theologically descriptive tradition of ecclesial identity and self-understanding in the UCC. Proposing that this united and uniting church developed its own ecclesiological tradition in the process of responding to a series of ecumenical texts from the 1980s, this central chapter charts the gathering momentum of a maturing ecclesiological tradition evident in the processes and corporate responses of the UCC to these ecumenical texts as the young church remained faithful to its ecumenical vocation by adapting to an ecumenical context vastly different from the one that inspired the creation of the UCC in 1957. The four ecumenical texts that provoked these corporate expressions of the UCC's ecclesial identity between 1982 and 1995 include: Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, the 1982 text produced by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches; An Invitation to Action, the 1984 text produced from Series III of the Lutheran-Reformed Dialogue; The COCU Consensus, the 1984 text presented to the member churches of the Consultation on Church Union for formal action; and Churches in Covenant Communion, the 1988 text, also presented to the member churches of the Consultation on Church Union for formal action.Chapter three, "Deepening Ecclesial Self-Understanding" briefly explores the origins and ecclesiological significance of the UCC's three full-communion agreements, focusing primarily on the theological content behind the UCC's most recent full-communion agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Reformed Church of America.Chapter four, "Assembling the Expressions of Ecclesial Self-Understanding" presents the theological content expressed in the four corporate texts considered in chapter two in conversation with The Nature and Mission of the Church.Chapter five, "Conclusion" provides a brief overview of the study and suggestively explores the significance of what has been advanced in relation to the ecumenical movement in general and the UCC's ecclesiology in motion in particular.