Posted by: Praise Goh | February 5, 2007

Book Review: Ecclesiogenesis: The Base Communities Reinvent the Church. Leonardo Boff. 1986, Orbis Books.

Leonardo Boff is a Franciscan priest who was educated in his native Brazil and in Germany. In his book Ecclesiogenesis: The Base Communities Reinvent the Church, Boff reflects upon the Basic Community as a church, arguing its existence as a new form and structure of church. He looks at Jesus’ will for church and the possibilities for reinventing the church.

The Basic Church Community (BCC) is a new ecclesiological experience where authentic community is emphasized. This grassroots movement focuses on laity and the word. The rise of these communities is due to a crisis in the church institution (p. 2). In looking at church as community, F Tonnies contrasts between a society and community. “A community is a social formation in which human beings are orientated by a sense of reciprocity and ‘belonging’; a society, by contrast, is a social formation in which anonymity and indirect relationships prevail” (p. 5).
Those within the BCC community believe it to be church, while those outside of it, rooted in institution disagree. Arguments for the church include seeing it as the universal sacrament of salvation, with its mission expressed on all levels, having the same goals as the universal church. The emphasis on social justice is also prevalent in the BCC’s.

These BCC reinvent the structures of church by looking at basic equality among the people, by faith and baptism, all joined into one in Christ. The Spirit is present, creating genuine and authentic community, where social differences no longer matter. Each person has a gift from God, and these charisms are understood as each person’s function in the community. Instead of circular or linear, BCC’s reshapes the church and functions in a triangular fashion, where a new style of Bishop and Priest commune with the faithful.

Jesus’ ultimate intent was not the Church but the Kingdom of God. “Christ preached the Kingdom of God, and the Church appeared instead.” (p. 50). The Kingdom of God is a new world order, where God is in all – 1 Cor. 15:28 (p. 51). Jesus’ resurrection is confirmation that the Kingdom of God is possible. The church is at the service of the kingdom, is its sacrament, is the sign and instrument of its appearance and realization in the world. (p. 55). This provides transformation in community.

This can be viewed through the role of the lay coordinator. With the focus on laity, the coordinator is able to celebrate by leading the Eucharist. The BCC’s also leave room for a woman’s priesthood, the possibilities of women in leadership and the implications of this in a modern world.

For my case study, a BCC is needed to reach the marginalized, the poor and the street children. The concentration on social justice and the lack of institutionalization are appealing for those in my population. Emphasis on equality is a powerful concept for vulnerable children who have low self-esteem as a result of living on the streets. Embedding children with something to offer the Kingdom would allow street children to find self-worth and see themselves as God sees them. Further research is necessary to come to a conclusion on whether this aspect of the church is beneficial for my community.



  1. Good review of Boff’s book and good engagement with your case study. Also, when you can, try to draw out how the books from the course and the discussions from class inform and shape one another – this will help develop integrated thought.

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