Scaffolds of the Church: Towards Poststructural Ecclesiology

By Cyril Hovorun

An examination of how the ecclesial structures of Eastern Church evolved and how they contributed, or failed to contribute, to Church unity.

ISBN: 9780227176870


Unity is the categorical imperative of the Church. It is not just the Church’s bene esse, but its esse. In addition to being a theological concept, unity has become a raison d’ĂȘtre of various structures that the Church has established and developed. All of these structures are supposed to serve the end of unity.

However, from time to time some of them deviate from their initial purpose and contribute to disunity. This happens because the structures of the Church are not a part of its nature and can therefore turn against it. They are like scaffolding, which facilitates the construction and maintenance of a building without actually being part of it. Likewise, ecclesial structures help the Church function in accordance with its nature but should not be identified with the Church proper.

Scaffolds of the Church considers the evolution of some of these structures and evaluates their correspondence to their initial rationale. It focusses on particular structures that have developed in the eastern part of the Christian oecumene, such as patriarchates, canonical territory, and autocephaly, all of which are explored in the more general frame of hierarchy and primacy. They were selected because they are most neuralgic in the life of the Orthodox Churches today and bear in them the greatest potential to divide.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 274
Illustrations b&w maps and figures

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Cyril Hovorun is a senior lecturer at Sankt Ignatios Academy / Stockholm School of Theology in Sweden.


List of Pictures, Maps, and Figures
List of Abbreviations


1. Fine Pencil Lines: Distinctions
     The Church as an historical phenomenon and as an object of faith
     The Church for Everyone and the Church for Some
     The Dualism of the Sacred and Profane
     The Church Universal and Particular
2. Partition Walls: Territory and Administration
3. Ditches: Sovereignty
4. Strongholds: Autocephaly
     The Case of Bulgaria
     The Case of Serbia
     The Case of Greece
     The Case of Bulgaria II
     The Case of Ukraine
     The Case of the Orthodox Church in America
5. Pyramids: Primacy
6. Strata: Ministry
7. Frontiers: The Boundaries of the Church

Conclusions: From Structuralism to Poststructuralism and Beyond

Appendix 1: The Structure of the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century
Appendix 2: Rulers
Appendix 3: Bishops of Constantinople
Appendix 4: Bishops of Rome



Endorsements and Reviews

Hovorun is emerging as one of the foremost ecclesiologists of modern times. His analysis has profound insights for ecumenism, as well as for the struggle for some practical coherence within the Orthodox Churches themselves.
Andrew Louth, Durham University

Hovorun offers a refreshing analysis of the various structures of the church as they developed over time. … [He] convincingly argues that the nature of the church should not lead to reified structures, and points the way to faithful reform in the face of new problems and challenges facing the church.
Aristotle Papanikolau, Fordham University

A highly original work in constructive ecclesiology.
Mark D. Chapman, in Expository Times, Vol 130, No 7