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  Ecclesiology (Greek ekklesia, ‘church’ + ology), is the doctrine of the nature of the Christian Church. After its virtual extinction among liberal Protestants c. 1830-1930, and replacement among others by eschatology, the ‘rediscovery of the nature of the Church’ has been one of the most significant developments in Christian theology this century. It was possible because of modern scholarship recovering the literature of the Early Church, and the consensus on liturgical reform, and came about as much because of pressure from secularism, fascism and communism as because of the growing momentum of the ecumenical movement. The influence of Karl Barth, who in 1929 changed his planned ‘Christian Dogmatics’ to ‘Church Dogmatics’, and Père Congar on the Catholic side, was decisive, but theologians with a seminal influence, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, have also produced major ecclesiological works. The role of the churches as agents for liberation in some Third World countries, combined with a general appreciation of the need for humankind to live in communities and contribute to them, gave a new impetus to these studies in the 1950s and 1960s. Now the crisis produced on the one hand by the ordination of women and on the other by fundamentalism and the house church movement will demand further theological developments. EMJ

See also Christianity; ritual; sacrament.Further reading M.J. Congar, Divided Christendom (1939); , J.H. Oldham and , W.A. Visser\'t Hooft, The Churches Survey Their Task (1937).



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