Zizioulas continues this last chapter of Being as Communion by briefly considering three areas that raise questions about our understanding of the local Church today.

The first of these is the relationship between locality and ecclesiality. The Church is local “when the saving event of Christ takes root in a particular local situation” and absorbs and uses “all the characteristics of a given local situation” without imposing an alien culture. (254) However, this is not enough to make it a Church, for the saving work of Christ is not only affirming of human culture but also critical of it. This raises the question of priorities for discerning that which is essential to the Christian faith. A eucharistic ecclesiology offers an eschatological perspective here:

In the eucharist the Church becomes a reflection of the eschatological community of Christ, the Messiah, an image of the Trinitarian life of God. In terms of human existence this means one thing: the transcendence of all division, both natural and social, which keep the existence of the world in a state of disintegration, fragmentation, decomposition and hence of death. All culture in one way or other share in this fallen and disintegrated world, and therefore all of them include elements which need to be transcended. (254-255)

While various cultural elements may be present in one locality, and while they may legitimately form groups for deepening their understanding of the Gospel, they should not regard themselves as Churches but should rather learn to seek the Church only in gatherings where all differences are transcended, which is the only proper context for the celebration of the Eucharist. Geography thus receives a privileged role and becomes an indispensable element in identifying the local Church and the ministry of the bishop emerges from his identity as head of the eucharistic community in this local place.

The second element is that of the relationship between locality and universality. The Eucharist transcends not only divisions of culture, but also divisions of locality. Thus a local Church must necessarily be in full communion with the rest of the local Churches throughout the world. This implies that the concerns of all the Churches should be the objects of prayer and care by a particular Church, that the Churches share a common understanding of the Gospel and of their identity as Church, and that structures be provided to facilitate this communion. However, such structures must be expressed in and through the local Churches. Zizioulas writes:

If the locality of the Church is not to be absorbed and in fact negated by the element of universality, the utmost care must be taken so that the structures of ministries which are aimed at facilitating communion among the local Churches do not become a superstructure over the local Church. It is extremely significant that in the entire course of church history there has never been an attempt at establishing a super-local eucharist or a super-local bishop. All eucharists and all bishops are local in character – at least in their primary sense. In a eucharistic view of the Church this means that the local Church, as defined earlier here, is the only form of ecclesial existence which can be properly called Church. All structures aiming at facilitating the universality of the Church create a network of communion of Churches, not a new form of Church. (258)

The third element is that of the complication of the context of division within which the local Church finds itself. The historically late phenomenon of the Church as a confessional entity means that one finds not only cultural pluralism but also confessional pluralism at the local level. While the practice of intercommunion implies a eucharistic transcendence of not just cultural differences, but also of confessional differences, and while Orthodox objections to this are well known, Zizioulas makes two points. Firstly, that a confessional body cannot be regarded as Church for a Church must incarnate people and not ideas or beliefs.

A confessional Church is the most disincarnate entity there is; this is precisely why its content is usually borrowed from one or other of the existing cultures and is not a locality which critically embraces all cultures. (260)

This leads, secondly, to the difficult question of whether we can speak of a local Church in the state of confessional divisions. Zizioulas argues that we must be prepared to question the ecclesial status of confessional churches as such and begin to work on the basis of the nature of the local Church, which although a long-term project may be more fruitful for the ecumenical movement.

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