"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Oxford Handbook of Ecumenical Studies

The annual "unity octave," more recently and popularly known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, ends today, which is as fine a time as any to draw your attention to a forthcoming international collection from the most prestigious academic publisher in the world: The Oxford Handbook of Ecumenical Studies, eds., Geoffrey Wainwright and Paul McPartlan (OUP, June 2021), 696pp.

I was asked nearly a decade ago now to contribute a chapter, which it was my pleasure and honour to do: I wrote on The Church, showing ecumenical advances in ecclesiology. My chapter was submitted in 2012. 

The final production, however, has been so long delayed that one of the editors, Geoffrey Wainwright, died last year before this book was in print. Parts of it have been available electronically for some time, but now we shall soon have the whole thing in print, which is how God intended for books to be read. I mention all this not in any critical way whatsoever, but merely to commiserate with Prof. McPartlan, for I, too, have often been in the position he has been in, waiting on contributors to send in much-delayed chapters only to have some of them utterly disappear, submitting nothing (long may they roast in Purgatory!); others to promise and promise you a chapter, dragging things out indefinitely; and so on. 

In fact, my forthcoming Married Priests in the Catholic Church also saw its first stirrings of life back in 2012, and was, I hoped, going to be in print at least 3 years ago. But we editors are at the mercy of contributors and other forces we can only rarely, and often never, dragoon to our deadlines. So things always take much longer than one plans and hopes, leading me to the longstanding if counterintuitive realization that writing a book as solo author is always much easier and faster than editing a collection even if your overall word-count is far different. 

In any event, here is what the publisher tells us about this forthcoming collection: 

The Oxford Handbook of Ecumenical Studies is an unparalleled compendium of ecumenical history, information and reflection. With essay contributions by nearly fifty experts in their various fields, and edited by two leading international scholars, the Handbook is a major resource for all who are involved or interested in ecumenical work for reconciliation between Christians and for the unity of the Church. Its six main sections consider, respectively, the different phases of the history of the ecumenical movement from the mid-nineteenth century to the present; the ways in which leading Christian churches and traditions, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, and Pentecostal, have engaged with and contributed to the movement; the achievements of ecumenical dialogue in key areas of Christian doctrine, such as Christology and ecclesiology, baptism, Eucharist and ministry, morals and mission, and the issues that remain outstanding; various ecumenical agencies and instruments, such as covenants and dialogues, the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Global Christian Forum; the progress and difficulties of ecumenism in different countries, areas and continents of the world, the UK and the USA, Africa, Asia, South America, Europe, and the Middle East, ; and finally two all-important questions are considered by scholars from various traditions: what would Christian unity look like and what is the best method for seeking it? This is a remarkably comprehensive account and assessment of one of the most outstanding features of Christian history, namely the modern ecumenical movement.

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