This unit explores the roots of the Christian community in the messianic ministry of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ and the sending of the Spirit. It highlights the diverse embodiments of the church found in the New Testament and presents them as evidence of the ferment and de facto experimentation which characterised the formation and self-understandings of early Christianity. The ecclesiologies built around the classic marks of the church will be surveyed, but this survey will demonstrate that such ecclesiologies often obscure the experimentation which properly belongs to reflections on the Christian community. The Reformation's disruption of the Western church, the modern missionary and ecumenical movements, the emergence of the 'global church,' and ecclesiastical scandals and corruption all provide the background to the contemporary recognition of ecclesiological ferment and recent discussions about the polycentricity of Christianity. This ferment will be framed Christologically and pneumatologically in ways that provide theological foundations for experimental reflection on the church's mission, structures, and sacramental practices. The unit will include some focus on the relevance of these issues to the vocation of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Unit code: DA8011P

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Foundational

Unit discipline: Mission and Ministry

Delivery Mode: Blended

Proposing College: Pilgrim Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Articulate the key critical issues in theological debates about the nature, purposes and practices of Christian communities


Explain the historical and theological background to the emergence of Christian communities as the consequence of Jesus' messianic ministry


Describe the diversity of the ecclesiologies evident in the New Testament and explain the relevance of the language of 'experimentation' to this diversity


Assess the respective significance of the Reformation, the modern ecumenical movement, and the 'global church' for the contemporary discussions of polycentric ecclesiology


Demonstrate the relationships between ecclesiology, Christology and pneumatology as they inform the mission of the church


Integrate the themes of polycentricity and experimentation into an understanding of the church's witness in contemporary Australia, with particular reference to the vocation of the Uniting Church in Australia


Lectures and tutorials

Indicative Bibliography

  • Bediako, Kwame. Christianity in Africa: The Renewal of a non-Western Religion. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995.
  • Bradbury, John. Perpetually Reforming: A Theology of Church Reform and Renewal. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.
  • Carnes, Natalie. "Gender and Ecclesiology." In The T&T Clark Handbook to Ecclesiology, edited by Kimlyn Bender and Stephen D. Long, 375-390. London: T&T Clark, 2020.
  • Flett, John G. Apostlicity: The Ecumenical Question in World Christian Perspective. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016.
  • Houlden, Lesslie. The Public Face of the Gospel: New Testament Ideas of the Church. London: SCM 1997.
  • Irvin, Dale T. “From One Story to Many: An Ecumenical Reappraisal of Church History.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 28, no. 4 (1991): 537–54.
  • Miller, Vincent J. “Where Is the Church? Globalization and Catholicity.” Theological Studies 69, no. 2 (2008): 412–32.
  • Sanneh, Lamin O. Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009.
  • Westhelle, The Church Event: Call and Challenge of a Church Protestant. Minneapolis: Frotress, 2010.
  • World Council of Churches. The Church: Towards a Common Vision. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2013.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Learning Resource - A Study Guide which introduces the diverse ecclesiologies of the New Testament intended for use in a local community of faith.

A Study Guide which introduces the diverse ecclesiologies of the New Testament intended for use in a local community of faith.

1400 20.0
Essay - Minor Essay

An essay which critically studies the ecclesiology of either a particular ecclesiastical tradition or a significant theologian.

2100 30.0
Essay - Major Essay

An essay which investigates the themes of experimentation and polycentricity in contemporary ecclesiology.

3500 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Maggie Kappelhoff on 17 Sep, 2021

Unit record last updated: 2022-03-24 08:56:47 +1100