Recent decades have seen a dramatic reexamination of the structure, authority, dogma, and other basic matters pertaining to the life of the Church. In "Models of The Church," one of America's leading theologians defines the basic functions of the Church,and assesses its different roles in the life of believers and in its mission on Earth.
Drawing on the writings of contemporary Protestant and Catholic ecclesiologists, Avery Dulles identifies the six major approaches or "models" through which the Church's character can be understood: as institution, Mystical Communion, Sacrament, Herald, Servant, and Community of Disciples. A balanced theology, he concludes, must incorporate the major affirmations of each.
Bringing clarity to a complex topic, "Models of The Church" deepens readers' understanding of Catholic teachings and broadens their knowledge of the Christian community. As Dulles observes, "The method of models or types can have great value in helping people to get beyond the limitations of their own particular outlook and to enter into fruitful conversation with others....Such conversation is obviously essential if ecumenism is to get beyond its current impasses."