This dissertation imagines new and varied denominational structures for missional engagement in the United States. This ecclesial ecology is rooted in a clear sense of identity, and is open to a changing environment allowing new missional structures and practices to emerge. Now located at the margins of culture, the church must function and engage differently. This new location is a gift offering the possibility of renewed and fruitful engagement….
A missio-ecclesiology is developed around three metaphors for the church. The church as the people of God determines the church’s identity. The church as the body of Christ locates the church in culture. The church as the temple of the Spirit speaks of the transforming power that undergirds the actions of the church. These metaphors guide the process for developing missionally engaging denominational structures. This process, based on living systems theory, anticipates denominational structures that are fluid, relational, and organic, rather than hierarchical, and mechanistic. This organic model is not forced nor dictated. Rather a missional environment, grounded in a missio-ecclesiology, is encouraged and nurtured so that new ecclesial forms might emerge.
The Evangelical Covenant Church serves as a case study for a denomination that has begun to transition from being an immigrant church, towards being a multi-ethnic church. The Covenant, as it missionally redefines itself, is a living experiment learning how to be Mission Friends in a new cultural setting.
The changes necessary for missional engagement are discontinuous requiring denominations to employ radical catalysts that will disturb current systems so that new ecclesial structures might emerge. Three catalysts are proposed: de-professionalizing the clergy, creating flexible structures, and developing a missional polity.