Ecclesial Futures

Aims and scope

Ecclesial Futures publishes original research and theological reflection on the development and transformation of local Christian communities and the systems that support them as they join in the mission of God in the world.

We understand local Christian communities broadly to include traditional ‘parish’ churches and independent local churches, religious communities and congregations, new church plants, so-called ‘fresh expressions’ of church, ‘emergent’ churches and ‘new monastic’ communities.

We are an international and ecumenical journal with an inter-disciplinary understanding of our approach to theological research and reflection; the core disciplines being theology, missiology and ecclesiology. Other social science and theological disciplines may be helpful in supporting the holistic nature of any research e.g. anthropology and ethnography, sociology, statistical research, biblical studies, leadership studies and adult learning.

The journal fills an important reflective space between the academy and on-the-ground practice within the field of mission studies, ecclesiology and the so-called “missional church”. This opportunity for engagement has emerged in the last twenty or so years from a turn to the local (and the local church) and, in the western world at least, from the demise of Christendom and a rapidly changing world – which also affects the church globally.

The audience for the journal is truly global wherever the local church and the systems that support them exists. We expect to generate interest from readers in church judicatory bodies, theological seminaries, university theology departments and in local churches from all God’s people and the leaders amongst them.

Articles are submitted to the co-editors in the first instance and further information on writing for us is found here;

Nigel Rooms

Steve Taylor

Writing for the Journal

Ecclesial Futures is an international, ecumenical peer-reviewed journal publishing high-quality, original research and theological reflection. Please see the journal’s Aims & Scope for information about its focus. Please note our journal only publishes manuscripts in English.

Ecclesial Futures accepts the following types of article: original research papers, narrative or literature reviews on a relevant subject, theological and missiological reflections, case study reports, conference papers and book reviews.

Here are examples of the kind of questions and subjects we would love to have addressed in the journal; they are only a sample but may help prospective authors to locate their work with us.

  • Longitudinal studies in congregational development over three or more years.
  • Diagnoses of why different churches flourish or die. 
  • Ethnographic studies of the cultural changes required in ‘flourishing’ churches.
  • How local churches can learn to experiment and fail well such that they learn.
  • How might a whole denomination transform itself towards embodying the mission of God?
  • Astute, hermeneutically aware bible scholarship on the future of the contemporary church.
  • Implications for theological education of the local church ‘as the hermeneutic of the gospel’.
  • Contextual studies of transformative churches from wide-ranging places – from the deeply secular to say, animist/shamanist contexts and everything in between
  • What kind of leadership is required for the local church to embody the mission of God?
  • What does a local church need to know before it can engage in mission?
  • Systemic studies of local churches and the systems that support them.

Peer Review

We wish to maintain the integrity of our peer-review process and to uphold high standards when evaluating work submitted to us. Once a paper has been assessed for suitability by one of the co-editors, it will then be double blind peer reviewed by independent, anonymous expert referees.

Preparing Your Paper


If your article presents original research it should normally be compiled in the following order: title; abstract; introduction, literature review, materials and methods, results, analysis, discussion and theological reflection; acknowledgments; declaration of interest statement; references; appendices (as appropriate); table(s) with caption(s) (on individual pages); figures; figure captions (as a list).

Other innovative approaches to article writing are possible and welcomed by the journal and it is best to discuss these with the co-editors in the first instance and/or share a draft version of the paper with them.

Please note Ecclesial Futures is first and foremost a missiological and theological journal and your paper should reflect this emphasis throughout its various sections.

Word Limits

Please include a word count for your paper when submitting.

A typical article for this journal should be of around 6000 words. We allow some reasonable leeway on this but not more than approximately 10%; this limit does not include Tables and Figures; it does include Abstract, Footnotes, Figure captions, References and Acknowledgements.

Your abstract should be between 150 and 250 words with the upper limit strictly adhered to.

Submitting your paper

Please submit two copies of the paper as follows;

  1. Contains the title, abstract, full text and your author biography (50 words maximum)
  2. The “Blind Copy” which contains the title, abstract and full text with any reference to you as the author removed or in the case of references to your own work your name is exchanged for the word “author”.

Referencing and Style Guidelines

Our very strong preference is for the Author-Date (Social Science) style over the Footnotes and Bibliography style.

The function of the author-date style of referencing is to reduce the need for footnotes, by embedding references to cited works in the text in abbreviated form (e.g., Brown, 1980: 123).

Footnotes are not excluded but should be restricted to important extra information or points of note for the reader to follow-up and which are best left out of the flow of the main text.

There would typically be no more than a handful (5-6) in a 6000 word article.

Note a space always follows the colon between the date and the page reference (which omits the need for ―p. )

Several works by the same author are cited by date only, the dates being separated by commas; when page numbers are given, the year dates are separated by semicolons: (Jones, 1963; 1972a; 1986) (Jones, 1963a: 10; 1972; 1986: 123)

Where there are authors with the same surname, initials should be included.

A full set of “References” including all the texts cited will be included at the end of the article. Make sure that no extraneous texts are found there that are not cited in the article. Only use references that are strictly necessary for the strengthening your argument – do not build up a long bibliography for its own sake.

A full set of “Instructions for Authors” including the detailed style and referencing guide is found here or contact a co-editor who can supply the document.

Editorial Structure


Nigel Rooms | Church Mission Society and The Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, UK.

Steve Taylor | Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Knox College, Dunedin, New Zealand

Book Reviews Editor:

Patrick Todjeras | Research Institute for Evangelism and Church Development, University of Greifswald, Germany 

Editorial Board:

Darren Cronshaw | Australian College of Ministries, Sydney College of Divinity, Australia

Scott Hagley | Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, USA

Elaine Heath | Neighborhood Seminary, N. Carolina, USA 

Michael Herbst| Research Institute for Evangelism and Church Development, University of Greifswald, Germany 

Dorte Kappelgaard | Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark and Kirkefondet 

Pat Keifert | Church Innovations Institute, USA

Sabrina Müller | Centre for Church Development, Faculty of Theology, University of Zürich, Switzerland

Nelus Niemandt | University of Pretoria, South Africa

Stefan Paas | Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam & Theologische Universiteit, Kampen, The Netherlands

Andrew Recepcion | Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy

Cristian Sonea | University of Babeş-Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Kris Stache | Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, USA

Lynne Taylor | University of Otago, New Zealand

Christopher B. James| University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, USA

Therese D’Orsa | BBI – The Australian Institute of Theological Education, Pennant Hills, Australia 

About Ecclesial Futures

Ecclesial Futures, as a completely new journal in 2020 brings together, at least in the initial phases, two groups of scholar-practitioners.

The first is a self-organizing and invitation only annual conference of around 20-30 people who meet together under the banner of The International Research Consortium: Researching Missional Congregations (IRC). They include people from USA, Europe, Australia and Africa and cross several denominations, mainly Protestant. They meet to share existing research projects and form a learning community around how local churches can be transformed by working with the theological concept of the Missio Dei.

The second is a “Study Group” called “Christian Communities and Mission” within the International Association of Mission Studies (IAMS) which is the internationally recognized association for mission studies. It has a large, diverse membership and is truly global and ecumenical combining Mainline Protestant, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Orthodox participants.

Below is a full explanation of the theological and practical background to Ecclesial Futures from those who have been involved in creating it;

We understand local Christian communities as; a) the hermeneutic of the gospel and; b) meeting God’s future as it comes towards us in the shape of the reign of God within the particular time and place that each finds itself. This requires these communities to be in a constant level of change as they orient themselves towards God’s preferred and promised future for them in a rapidly changing world. We believe study and research in how local churches change to be increasingly faithful in their everyday apostolicity is urgently needed.

We understand local Christian communities broadly to include traditional ‘parish’ churches and independent local churches, religious communities and congregations, new church plants, so-called ‘fresh expressions’ of church, ‘emergent’ churches  and ‘new monastic’ communities.

The sources of this work theologically are threefold at least;

  1. The missio Dei – we believe the missio Dei to be axiomatic for ecclesiology. A large proportion, possibly worldwide, of local Christian communities and the systems that support them were formed in modernity and therefore with the culture and norms of modernity, Christendom and colonialism (although see later discussion on the limits of this assumption). If adopting the stance of the missio Dei is indeed a paradigm shift as Bosch (1991) claims then it is no surprise that there is deep resistance to the implications of this ‘about face’ within such communities and the systems that support them.[1] Researching how and why Christian communities may make this paradigm shift such that they might embody the missio Dei will be vital work.
  2. Andrew Walls’ (2002) has clearly shown that the history of the waxing and waning of Christianity over the centuries demonstrates that local Christian communities can both flourish and they can die, never to be seen again. For example there is no Christian Community in North Africa contiguous with that of the one present at the time of Augustine of Hippo. Thus while we appreciate the contribution of congregational studies, ecclesiology and ethnography and will need to draw on all these fields in our own work we do not believe they are sufficient in themselves for the situation local Christian communities find themselves in, in many places worldwide. Rather we require an orientation to the future of how God is both calling and sending the Church in our time and place.
  3. The ‘missional church’ movement, arising from the work of Lesslie Newbigin and later the “Gospel and our Culture Network” (GOCN) has been working on these questions for ten to fifteen years, particularly amongst Protestant mainline denominations in USA and elsewhere. While this movement has no monopoly on these questions this group will need to stay in critical contact with developments in ‘missional church’ and broaden the concerns across the spectrum of denominations represented in IAMS. There is a large amount of literature published over almost two decades, too large to cite here. A recent example might be Van Gelder and Zscheile (2011).

Further implications of local Christian communities taking mission seriously and areas of contestation in this field (which may prove fruitful areas of research and publishing) are;

  1. The return of the locus in which theology is generated to the local church.
  2. The relationship between ordained and lay leadership in local Christian communities.
  3. How and where leaders are identified, discerned, and theologically educated for mission.
  4. The relationship between a local church and its ‘world’ or context. Issues of contextualization or as some prefer “cultural negotiation” require urgent attention.
  5. The return of the locus in which theology is generated to the local church.

‘Missional’ is an important issue for the global church. A lot of existing research is emerging out of the challenges of mission in the western world, but many practitioners and theologians in the non-western world are also passionately interested in the mission of the local church and reimagining ecclesial futures. (cf. Bolger 2012)  In order to discuss ‘ecclesial futures’ in the non-western world, we need to develop a missiological approach which seeks to contextualize the missional church debate in non-western churches. This is because western and non-western Christianities did not always share the same historical background. This implies that while Newbigin’s critique of the western churches and the subsequent discussion about the missional church among his followers (GOCN) emerged out of the new historical background of post-Christendom in the west, some non-western Christian churches did not share such an experience of Christendom and post-Christendom. Thus, when we talk about ecclesial futures in non-western churches there is a whole new task of listening, research, analysis and theorising.

Quoted sources and select bibliography for background to the journal:

Bosch, David J. (1991), Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in the Theology of Mission, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis.

Bolger, Ryan, ed. (2012) The Gospel after Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Bria, Ion, (1996) The Liturgy after the Liturgy: Mission and Witness from an Orthodox Perspective, Geneva: WCC Publications

Clark J, Lee M, Knights P, Price J, Richards A, Rolph P and Rooms N, (2010) Foundations for Mission in the UK and Ireland: A Study of Language, Theology and Praxis London: CTBI.

Stamoolis, James J. (1986) Eastern Orthodox Mission Theology Today, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis

Tennet, Timothy, (2010), Invitation to World MissionsA Trinitarian missiology for the twenty-first century, Grand Rapids MI: Kregel

Van Gelder, Craig and Zscheile, Dwight J. (2011) The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation. Grand Rapids: Baker. 

Vassiliadis, Petros (ed.) (2014) Orthodox Perspectives on Mission, Oxford: Regnum  

Walls, Andrew (2002), The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the transmission and appropriation of faith, Maryknoll: Orbis.


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