Faith seeking action: Missio-ecclesiology, social movements, and the church as a movement of the people of God
Christian mission may be envisioned as participation with God in the missio Dei, God's creating and redeeming movement toward the world accomplished in the sending of the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. Through the synergy of divine and human action in the church God's mission is incarnated as a socially concrete, world-filling movement.
Drawing, first, from a theological perspective on the church and its missionary nature and, second, from the sociology of contemporary social movements, this study describes the church as participant in missio Dei. The purpose of the study is to develop a conceptual framework which envisions the church as a movement of men and women bearing and embodying the good news of God's work in the world. This framework—here termed missio-ecclesiology —explains and interprets the church in the light of its missional action.
Missio-ecclesiology brings together two very different fields of study: a missiologically-informed theology of the church, and social movement theory clarified and explored through three selected social movement case studies. Examined in detail, these case studies portray a range of types and scales of social mobilization. The cases include the on-going Antiglobalization movement, a political movement challenging economic power on an international scale; the 1980s Sanctuary movement, a nation-wide movement motivated by religious and political concerns which sought justice for Central American war refugees in the face of opposition from the Unites States government; and the Xenos Christian Fellowship house church movement, a local mobilization with specifically religious concerns. These case studies anchor social movement theory in movement experience and provide living examples of social action from which others may draw lessons to fund their own activism.
These theological and sociological fields of study are linked through a dialogue which combines them in a single framework in response to the question How can contemporary social movements inform the theology and action of the church in order to help Christians create an effectively mobilized and contextually relevant movement of their faith growing as a redemptive, other-centered, and servant presence within Western societies during a time of significant social change? This dialogue between a missional understanding of the church and social movements sketches out the markers that describe a mobilized church unfolding as a movement in the world. It also defines the scope of missio-ecclesiology as a conceptual framework.
In describing the church as an unfolding movement of divinely-initiated change, missio-ecclesiology provides a point of beginning to think out the re-forming of the church and its mission. It provides guidance for Christians working out their missional faithfulness in different social and cultural contexts as a framework for action, a language to use to talk about the church as a movement, and a suggestion of the form a mobilized movement of the faith might take.
0700: Social structure