Sitalo Aleksei

To the Roots of Protestant Ecclesiology: Invisible Church, Ecumenism, Branch Theory

Sitalo Aleksei (2017) "To the Roots of Protestant Ecclesiology: Invisible Church, Ecumenism, Branch Theory ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2017, vol. 70, pp. 28-44 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturI201770.28-44


The paper is intended to contribute to the history of protestant ecclesiology and deals with such notions as invisible church, ecumenism, “branch theory”. These ideas were explicitly highlighted, formulated and rejected by the Russian Orthodox Church on the Jubilee Bishops’ Council in 2000. With the aim to facilitate the potential theological dialogue with Protestants, the paper examines historical and theological context of these three notions, their backgrounds, origins of terms used by their authors, as well as their implications. The paper traces the development of the notion of invisible Church. It discusses the first use of the term ecumenical in the Protestant meaning by Nicolaus von Zinzendorf. Further, it shows the reasons why Pennsylvanian General Synods of the 18th century were forerunners of the 20th century ecumenical conferences and why they were first called “ecumenical”. As regards the “branch theory”, the paper discusses possible negative consequences of its employment.


invisible church, ecumenism, branch theory, ecclesiology, Protestantism, Jubilee Bishops’ Council, Luther, Kalvin, Zwingli, Zinzendorf, Palmer


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Information about the author

Sitalo Aleksei

Academic Degree: graduate student;
Place of work: Sts Cyril and Methodius’ Church Post-Graduate and Doctoral School 4/2-1 Piatnitskaia ul., Moscow 115035, Russian Federation;
Email: email: sitalo@rambler.ru.