I go to a phenomenal church!

It occurs to me in the shower, blending Barth and my ecclesiology exams (and Zizioulas and Bonhoeffer and Westhelle thereby), that the church's ontology is phenomenology, or it is idolatry. But the way the church's ontology is phenomenological is not in any way incompatible with the notae ecclesiae. The marks of the church are in point of fact phenomenological identifiers of genuine instances. We fail if we try to make them ontological attributes of an actual existent, particularly when that existent ceases to be eschatological or noumenal (when it should be both).

The WCC process is expanding the set of all marks into theological consensus, but it is not thereby building a notion of The Church. Such a process is useful for exactly what BEM was useful for: building baseline consensus and getting out of the way of Life and Work. This is Faith and Order's job -- to get out of Life and Work's way. But at the same time, it is building a consensus on who we are as church, what our genuine instances of this thing appear as. As with so many things, it is a descriptive process of the participants in dialogue, not a prescriptive process of dogmatic imposition.


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