Doing Practical Ecclesiology in Asia: Cases, Hopes, and Possibilities from the Philippines
Mr. Raphael YABUT
PhD Candidate in Theology and Education
Boston College, Boston, MA, USA
Practical ecclesiology is a more inductive approach in studying church that pays special attention to practices as an essential locus for theological reflection. In its commitment to practice, this way of doing ecclesiology recognizes the theological authority of local knowledges, reflects on ecclesial realities that are happening “on the ground,” and engages members of churches into reflection and social transformation. This is a shift from a “blueprint ecclesiology” that merely presents what a church should ideally become and into an ecclesiology that emphasizes what is really happening in churches today.
Studies done about local churches in the Philippines can serve as cases that demonstrate how practical ecclesiology has and can be done in the context of Asian realities. This paper will look at the works of Francisco Claver, Kathleen Nadeau, Ferdinand Dagmang, and Pascal Bazzell – all of whom have written about basic ecclesial communities in the Philippines in varying styles and methods. In reflecting on the experiences and practices that people share in their communities, they sought to articulate the communities’ understanding of church that is expressed in the ways in which church is lived out. Furthermore, their works speak to an ecclesiology that is praxis oriented in the way that they suggest further practices for an ecclesial community that does justice or in how they engage the community in deeper reflection on their realities.
Learning from how it has been done presents hopes and possibilities for honing a practical ecclesiology that responds to the needs and challenges of ecclesial communities in today’s socio-political climate. Informed by a theology of synodality and participatory action research, I argue for a practical ecclesiology that is more participatory and engages the people’s knowledge in a more expansive way – engaging members of church communities to listen to the Spirit together, capacitating marginalized voices to recognize their agency, and inviting further practices that not only changes church structures but also the larger society. Practical ecclesiology in Asia today can be reimagined as a way for people to learn with one another as a church journeying together in the work of peace and justice.
Raphael Yabut is a PhD Candidate in Theology and Education at Boston College, Boston, MA, USA. Before coming to Boston, he was teaching theology at Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines. His research lies at the intersection of religious education and ecclesiology, and he’s interested in how people learn with one another in the context of local churches.