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Its Origin and Nature, Its Mission and Ministries

Author: Lawrence B. Porter

In 28 concise chapters and 2 appendices, this book acquaints the reader with such basic concepts as biblical images of the Church, contemporary models of the Church, the classical “marks” of the Church, etc. Here too are explanations of the mission of the Church, its origin and aim, and the peculiar dynamics of the home and foreign missions. The origin and development of the Church’s historic ministries of bishop, priest, deacon, religious orders and lay ministry are set forth. There are also chapters on the history and theology of Church/State relations, the Church’s relationship to the kingdom of God and other religions, the concept of the Church as a communion, and such disputed questions as the origin of the Church, and the history of women and ministry among others. Each chapter concludes with suggestions for further reading. The author, a Catholic priest and theologian, is sensitive to the ecumenical dimension of these themes, and thus considers the witness of the entire Christian tradition, Protestant and Orthodox as well as Catholic.

About the Author: Lawrence B. Porter, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, is currently Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Systematic Theology in the Seminary/School of Theology of Seton Hall University. He has degrees in English Literature (B.A., Providence College; M.A., Brown University) as well as in theology (Pontifical degrees‑bachelor, license and lectorate‑from the Dominican House of Studies, Washington, DC, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Oberlin School of Divinity at Vanderbilt University). His essays have appeared in theological quarterlies such as Theological Studies, The Thomist, Gregorianum, Communio, The Jurist, and the journals such as The Bible Today, American Benedictine Review, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and the magazines Crisis, The Priest, and New Oxford Review. Father Porter has been long involved in ecumenical dialogue, having served for many years on the Ecumenical Commission as well as the Theological Commission of the Archdiocese of Newark.

Book: 464 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8189-1255-9
Prod. Code: 1255-3


“Father Porter has written a balanced and insightful theology of the Church. Its biblical basis makes it an especially appropriate text for co llege or seminary classroom.”

Joseph Augustine DiNoia, OP
Undersecretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith and author of The Diversity of Religions: A Christian Perspective



“It is not easy to teach ecclesiology today. Where to begin? How to be faithful to the Catholic tradition and at the same time ecumenically open-minded and attentive to questions of credibility? How to negotiate the many controverted questions in a fair yet decisive manner? Ecclesiology is a theological ‘minefield’!
“In A Guide to the Church, Fr. Lawrence Porter has succeeded in finding a way into the topic that is at the same time fresh and familiar. He confidently proposes a biblically-grounded exposition of the nature and purpose of the Church, its mission and its ministries — without ignoring the many competing claims found among Catholic theologians and within the ecumenical movement. By staying close to the biblical and patristic sources, he paints a portrait of the Church which many Christians will find illuminating and faithful. Porter stays in dialogue with other opinions, but skillfully sets out his own views in a non-polemical and engaging style. He hopes to persuade, so he does not propose and defend the tenets of Catholic dogmatic theology in a systematic way, but confines himself to laying out its biblical foundations in dialogue with contemporary Christian scholarship. He is very attentive to questions of credibility, and takes the time to explain and defend each point in a personal, even conversational tone. While Porter clearly writes with the theological novice in mind, his book will benefit anyone who wants an up-to-date, insightful, and stimulating treatise on ecclesiology.”

Sister Sara Butler, MSBT, STL, PhD
Professor of Dogmatic Theology, St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY



“Father Porter is a well-respected professor and lecturer. In his new book, he surveys the Church with the keen eye of a theologian. He presents his understanding of the Church in such a way as to help others come to a deeper appreciation of this great mystery.”

Most Rev. Arthur Serratelli, STD, SSL, Bishop of Paterson and Former Chair
of the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops