Practical Ecclesiology for a Pilgrim Church: The Theological Motives behind Healy's Ethnographic Turn

Sjoerd Mulder*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    In recent years, several theologians have argued that ecclesiology can benefit from the method of ethnography, which would make it less systematic and less rigid. This argument can be found, for example, in Nicholas M. Healy's Church, World and the Christian Life. This article analyses how Healy views ethnography as a possible ecclesiological method, and to what extent he prefers this method over other methods. While Healy suggests that ethnography might be helpful for ecclesiology in general, it will be claimed that his argument in fact assumes and advances a specific pilgrim ecclesiology and a postmodern epistemology. Furthermore, his attempt to push ecclesiology in a more ethnographic direction is weakened by a misinterpretation of older, systematic, so-called 'blueprint' ecclesiologies. The article concludes by arguing that, in the secular Western context, ethnography can indeed be a useful ecclesiological tool, as long as it is more explicit about its own theological position than Healy is.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)164-184
    Number of pages21
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • ecclesiology
    • ethnography
    • pilgrim church
    • postmodern theology
    • contextual theology
    • practices
    • Healy

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