Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wood, Susan K.

Second Advisor

Barnes, Michel R.

Third Advisor

Nussberger, Danielle K.


Since the latter half of the twentieth-century, a great many churches and ecclesial communities have agreed that the basic contours of what is called an ecclesiology of communion represents their own self-understanding. Communion ecclesiology centers upon a vision of the church as sharing together in the life of God, with ecclesiastical apparatus such as office, liturgy, and sacraments seen as facilitating this communion. Understood in this light, communion ecclesiology represents a movement away from overly juridical accounts of the church and toward a more organic conception of the church. For nearly the same time frame, a parallel missiological consensus has emerged, which sees the church’s mission as a participation in the missio Dei—the mission of God. Certain representatives of missio Dei theology have raised the criticism that a communion ecclesiology winds up conceiving the church as a self-enclosed entity, severing its mission from its life, such that communio ecclesiologies no longer share in the missio Dei. They call for an abandonment of communion ecclesiology in favor of a missional ecclesiology, which sees mission as constitutive of the church’s life and eschews a structured community or settled liturgical form. This dissertation confronts the divide between communion and missional ecclesiologies by constructing an ecclesiology which is at once missional and liturgical. It proceeds by an examination of the theological underpinnings of missional and communion ecclesiologies, especially the doctrine of the Trinity and sacramental liturgies, to demonstrate that mission and liturgy are intrinsically related to each other. The church’s liturgical rites disclose and enact the church’s identity as a missionary community. The rites of initiation constitute the church as the body of Christ, sharing in the life of God through the paschal mystery. The action of the paschal mystery, especially as it is represented in the sacrifice of the Mass, discloses that the body of Christ is a body which is given away to God and to the world for the world’s salvation. Sharing in the sacraments makes the church to be such a body as well. Mission is not a secondary activity alongside liturgy, but rather part of the liturgy’s intelligibility. To share in the life of God is also to share in the mission of God, for the same reality, the paschal mystery, lies behind both communion and mission.