As requested, here is a brief history of the phrase "deep ecclesiology"
April 28, 2002, Hungary. I gave a presentation in Budapest at a large missions event called Hope 21, a gathering of "Christian leaders from 35 European countries . . in Budapest to consider the role and responsibility of evangelicals concerning Europe's future at the beginning of a new century."
My presentation was called "Church in the Postmodern World: The Budapest Album". I was speaking as an Associate of DAWN Ministries, alongside Reinhold Scharnowski, and we were dealing with the question of how we can see church planting movements ignited across Europe in the emerging culture. It is here that I first used the phrase "deep ecclesiology".
May 14, 2002 I published an article on TheOoze called Postmodern Church: Are We There Yet?. It was a summary of what I wrote and presented in Budapest. The article began, "A deep ecclesiology, from what I have seen, is still around the corner. . ."
May 18, 2002, USA. I was teaching on a panel with Dr. Leonard Sweet at a conference in Missouri called Search Party 2002 (which was a follow-on event from Epicenter2001), We were answering questions from the floor. One question was regarding the emerging church and the idea of the church being more than just programs and events and what happens on a Sunday morning – Did we therefore hold a "low" view of the church. I answered that the opposite is true. With a focus on Kingdom thinking and seeing the invisible church as well as the visible, we have an understanding of the church that is higher and deeper – a "deep ecclesiology".
Brian McLaren, who heard me speak at SearchParty2002, began to use the phrase, attributing it to me, and taking it further. He encouraged me write a book on the subject that he could refer to, and even offered to write the foreward to it, but I never wrote the book. Brian used the term "deep ecclesiology" on his own site, in his address to the Billy Graham Evangelism Roundtable called "This Strategy We Pursue" (PDF) and introduced the book "The Last Word and the Word After That" saying, "This will probably be the most controversial book I've written so far, as I deal more directly with the subject of hell and judgment, along with something my friend Andrew Jones calls "deep ecclesiology"
Although I didn't write the book that Brian was hoping I would write, I taught on the concept of "deep ecclesiology" in presentations in many countries:
At Budapest again in 2004 with the ASC, I carried the idea of deep ecclesiology a little further in my presentation "Forward Slash". The paper that accompanied the presentation, "Church Planting Among Emerging Culture in Europe" had a paragraph called "Deep Ecclesiology". (Download DOC)
In 2004, I used the phrase many times in various conferences around Europe. Some of these were:
Forward Slash, Switzerland, European Four Square Conference, April 2004
Forward Slash: A Narrative Missiology for the Emerging Culture" Blah, (the emerging arm of the Church Missionary Society) London, May 26, 2004
24/7 Prayer Roundtable, Spain, September, 2004
As far as I know, the only time I used the phrase in USA was in my presentation "The Emerging Church Around the World", 2nd Annual Missions Briefing, Richmond, Va, March 22-24, 2005
In May 2005, participants at the Emergent Convention in Nashville read out The Emergent Order, which contained the phrase "We practice “deep ecclesiology”– rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential."
The phrase "deep ecclesiology" is now used by many writers, bloggers and teachers. Its meaning has already extended into other areas, but the original usage is in the context of a missional ecclesiology that describes the new churches emerging among the contemporary European culture.
I trust this is an accurate historical account of the phrase "deep ecclesiology". I feel it is important to note that the phrase was originally used in Europe and was later adopted in USA. The Europeans have a long history in missiological and ecclesiological insights and one of the goals of HOPE 21, expressed by Geza Kovacs, (Secretary-General of the Hungarian Evangelical Alliance) was to not have the Americans dictate missiology to the Europeans but for the Europeans to "stand on their own feet". While we owe much in gratitude to American missiologists and strategists, it is great to see Europe develop an indigenous missiology.
I am honored to offer this phrase from the continent that has become my new home and humbled that so many Christian leaders in other countries are employing it. I look forward to see the phrase grow and mature and help us all to grasp what God is intending for His church today.
Orkney Island, Scotland, UK
May 27, 2005