"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).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic....Community?

Who among us has not heard people describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious"? Or as not believing in "organized religion"? Or as saying "Jesus yes, church no!" Every semester I struggle to help my students see that Christianity from the very beginning has been communal and ecclesial. The idea that you could be a Christian and never go to Church, nor need regular fellowship with other believers, is a modern fantasy of American individualism disconnected from apostolic Christianity.

A recent hefty collection explores some of these understandings of "community" in ecclesiology today. Many chapters look interesting, as the table of contents (PDF here) shows, but the collection happily features no fewer than six chapters devoted to Orthodox and other Eastern Christian reflections and realities. Peter de Mey et al, eds., Believing in Community: Ecumenical Reflections on the Church (Peeters, 2013), 622pp.

About this book we are told:
Two important events this year make it clear that ecclesiology still deserves a prominent place on the theological agenda. Pope Francis announced the creation of a council of cardinals to assist him in governing the world-wide Catholic Church. During the next assembly of the World Council of Churches the long awaited Faith & Order statement on The Church: Towards a Common Vision will be officially received. In this volume more than 40 authors (among whom well-known theologians such as André Birmelé, William Cavanaugh, Michael Fahey, Bradford Hinze, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Paul Murray, Bernard Prusak, Ioan Sauca, Myriam Wijlens, Susan Wood and many others) engage in an ecumenical reflection on the Church, focusing on four major themes. The book starts with several essays by authors representing different fields in the humanities dealing – often from a postmodern perspective – with ‘Community, Individualization, Belonging’. The second part of the book, ‘Strengthening Roman Catholic Ecclesiology’, offers reflections on important topics such as the sinfulness of the Church, the sacramentality of the Church, lay ministries, theologians and the magisterium, to end with contributions on eschatological ecclesiology and the link between ecclesiology and the Catholic Church in dialogue with people of other faiths. In the next part Protestant and Orthodox scholars offer contributions to the renewal of their own ecclesiologies. In the final and longest part of the volume the reader is provided with ‘Reflections on the Future of the Ecumenical Dialogue’.

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