Ecclesiology: Pilgrim ChurchCourse Level: Intermediate

Course Summary

The Pilgrim Church is the second in a series of three courses in ecclesiology, the theology of church.  Building on the understanding of church developed in The Beginnings of the Church, this course continues to explore how the Church, as a living organism through the centuries, both maintains its continuity with Jesus and reshapes its own self-understanding. We will see how the Church continually reconstitutes itself through its decisions in meeting the challenges of each age. 

Prerequisites for this course include these VCLFF courses:  "Scripture:  New Testament,"¯ "Images of Jesus (or Christology),"¯ and "Ecclesiology: The Beginnings of the Church."¯ 
[Catechists and lay ecclesial ministers are required to take all three courses in order.]

Successful completion of this course earns 2.5 CEU's. Click here for more information about CEU's.

General Course Objectives

  • To demonstrate an understanding of change and development in the Church as characteristic of a "living organ" (cf. Lumen Gentium), and the challenges this represents.
  • To develop and demonstrate critical thinking in dealing with ecclesial questions, e.g. authority, community, institution, governance, etc.
  • To use historical and theological tools in exploring the relationship between ecclesiology and scripture scholarship.
  • To recognize significant social and political changes between AD 600-1400 that helped shape the organizational aspects of the Church.
  • To trace the development of the episcopal and papal offices in the Church leading to the renewed ecclesiology in Vatican II.
  • To understand the revolutionary character of Vatican II ecclesiology in using such models as People of God, the baptismal mission of the laity in the world, collegiality, etc.
  • To continue building skill in using the online discussion board effectively as a learning tool.

Course Materials

  • Required Book: Bernard P. Prusak The Church Unfinished Paulist Press 2004 ISBN: 0809142864; ISBN-13: 978-0809142866
  • Required Book: Bill Huebsch Vatican II in Plain English. Volume 2: The Constitutions Ave Maria Press, 2008 ISBN: 1594711062; ISBN-13: 978-1594711060

Course Structure and Highlights

  • Week 1: Unity: A Perennial Test
    • Explain how addressing new questions from its environment led the early Church to grow in self-awareness.
    • Explain the reasons for the move toward “institution” in the Church by the end of the first century.
    • Be able to distinguish between ecclesia and koinonia in speaking about the church.
    • Demonstrate objectivity in discussing the human struggle to match behavior with the ideal that has been with the Church since the beginning.
    • Demonstrate skill in using the discussion boards effectively as a learning tool.
  • Week 2: Hierarchy, Dualism, Celibacy
    • Demonstrate critical thinking in dealing with complex ecclesial issues and ambiguity in the Church’s life story.
    • Be able to trace the development of organizational structure in the Church and the emergence of Rome’s central importance.
    • Explain how a “hierarchical” mindset began to affect not only our understanding of institution but also of Christian spirituality.
    • Build skill in using the discussion boards effectively as a learning tool.
  • Week 3: Struggling With Power AD 600-1400
    • Demonstrate understanding of social and political change affecting the Church between AD 600-1400.
    • Understand how and why the medieval role of bishop lost its pastoral meaning.
    • Be able to trace the growth of the papacy as a central administrative power.
    • Understand how the development of religious life in the Church relates to institutional development and the desire to sustain Gospel ideals in the Church.
    • Continue to strengthen skills in using the discussion boards effectively for genuine learning.
  • Week 4: The Emerging Theology of Church AD 1400-1900
    • Be able to explain ecclesial development in terms of the model of Church as a living organ (Lumen Gentium) that interacts with its environment, and how that differs from a strict understanding of the Church as institution.
    • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding about the long road leading to the Reformation as well as its aftermath.
    • Be able to trace the developments leading up to the First Vatican Council’s teaching on papal authority.
    • Be able to explain the connection between the Church’s increasing emphasis on clerical authority and the diminished role of the laity in the Church.
    • Be able to articulate principles from ecclesiology for living responsibly as an adult member of the Church in the 21st century
  • Week 5: The Now and Future Church
    • Be able to explain the significance in the change from a “hierarchical” to a “People of God” ecclesiology in Vatican II; the Church as priestly vs. the Church as clerical.
    • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of why the renewed liturgy has a major role in the overall renewal of the Church.
    • Be able to explain the language of “Church as sacrament” and its implications for the Church of Gaudium et Spes.
    • Demonstrate understanding of Vatican II’s teaching about the laity’s role in the Church and why it is larger than lay ecclesial ministry.
    • Be able to use historical and theological tools to articulate a perspective about the challenges to today’s Church.