Ecumenical Christianity

The Unity of the Church, a Symposium (Augustana Press, 167 pp., $3), is reviewed by Frank Lawson, Minister of St. David’s Presbyterian Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

This is one more book for the ever-expanding library on ecumenical theology. It is a symposium of 14 papers presented at various times to gatherings of the Lutheran World Federation. Of the twelve contributors, nine are European and three are North American. The main purpose of the volume—according to the preface—is to give a sketch of contemporary Lutheran thinking on the nature of the Church in the hope that it will lead to a greater unity within the Lutheran Communion itself, as well as among all branches of the Church. Since the Lutheran Communion is one of the largest and most influential members of the World Council of Churches, the volume commands respectful study.

What does ecumenicity mean, and what are its goals? As popularly conceived in the West and widely advertised, it is a movement gathering together the broken fragments of the Protestant Church and making them one in faith and witness. If this is Western, then the book under review must be regarded as European, and the difference is significant. These writers, many of them in the front rank of modern theological scholarship, will not admit that there are many “Churches” that somehow must be fused into one “super-church.” If the unity we seek were simply a matter of organizing into a world-wide institution all those that bear the name Christian, then we should give to the ecclesiastical architects the task of dismantling the present denominational structures and raising up a stream-lined institution to take their place. It might work beautifully, be most efficient, impress ...

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