A great contributor to the studies of the Church, Cardinal Avery Dulles has been a phenomenal figure in Catholic studies. Among the several books he has published, the one dealing with the various models of the Church is regarded as especially significant. It is important to note that “when one speaks of Cardinal Avery Dulles’ famous Models of the Church, one is referring to his classic book of the same title describing different ways of envisioning and experiencing the Body of Christ, the Church.
Dulles outlines five models, or views, of the Church: Mystical Communion, Sacrament to the World, Herald of the Gospel, Servant, and Institution. While any healthy concept of the Church includes aspects of each of these models, one model generally predominates in any given individual, depending on a variety of factors such as education, life experience, parental attitudes, etc. The value in evaluating our own predominant view of the Church is in understanding why we hold that view, and what is of value in other views.”
According to Dulles, every one of these models is significant, and if any of the models may be regarded as more significant, it is, as Dulles would advocate, the sacramental model as it is easy to put together all the best elements of the other four models in it. “Each of them [the five models] in my opinion brings out certain important and necessary points. The institutional model makes it clear that the Church must be a structured community and that it must remain the kind of community Christ instituted.
The sacramental model brings home the idea that the Church must, in its visible aspects – especially in its community prayer and worship – be a sign of the continuing vitality of the grace of Christ and of hope for the redemption that he promises… For blending the values in the various models, the sacramental type of ecclesiology, in my opinion, has special merit.”
It can be evidently seen that this model conserves the value of the institutional elements as the official structures of the Church give it clear and visible outlines. It also preserves the community value, the dimension of proclamation, the dimension of worldly service. All these confirm that this model has a clear edge over others.