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Church and Unity: Wolfgang Vondey on Ecclesiology and Ecumenism


From the Conversations with Readers department appearing in the Spring 2011 issue.


A Reader writes about a review that appeared in the Winter 2011 issue:

In his review of Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger, Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction (Brazos, 2009), Wolfgang Vondey writes, “At least in their understanding of the church, Pentecostals in North America cannot consider themselves to be evangelicals.” I do not disagree with what he is saying in this instance about how the Pentecostal/charismatic working definition of ecclesiology does not fit the book’s description of what “Evangelical” ecclesiology is. However, I have always considered myself a Protestant (identifying with the Great Reformation and Radical Reformation) that is an Evangelical (with a capital “E” to identify with what I understand of Evangelicals historically) that is a charismatic (or choose a similar label: non-classical Pentecostal, postcharismatic, etc.). Maybe I would approach this differently if I had not grown up in a Baptist tradition and “came into the fullness of the Spirit” as an adult. But am I wrong in wanting to retain my connections to these “older” yet living expressions of Christianity even though I have significant theological and practical differences with them? Are we not defeating the idea of the unity we share in Jesus and the real purpose behind developing an robust ecclesiology when we seek to exclude ourselves from other traditions?



Response from Wolfgang Vondey:

I am thankful for the response to my small review and for the engagement of wider ecclesiological issues as they are discussed in the book. The comment on my review is particular valuable because it connects questions of ecclesiology with concerns about ecumenism, that is, our understanding of the church with our desire for Christian unity. Even more important is the fact that such issues are now raised in the context of Pentecostalism. Today an increasing number of scholars and pastors are engaging in both ecumenical and ecclesiological conversations.1 At the same time, an ecumenical Pentecostal ecclesiology has not yet been proposed. My conclusion at the end of the review suggests that when such a proposal will be submitted, it will unlikely be the evangelical ecclesiology we see in the book under review. My conclusion therefore relates exclusively to the issue of ecclesiology and in the limited context of Pentecostalism. While I do not deny that Pentecostals in North America have been widely influenced by Evangelicalism, I suggest that a classical Pentecostal ecclesiology, if it were fully formulated, would not be synonymous with a contemporary evangelical ecclesiology.2 I have similar doubts about the potential range of global Pentecostal views on the nature and purpose of the church.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2011

About the Author: Wolfgang Vondey, Ph.D. (Marquette University) and M.Div. (Church of God Theological Seminary), is Professor of Christian Theology and Pentecostal Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is an ordained minister with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN). His research focuses on ecclesiology, pneumatology, theological method, and the intersection of theology and science.

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