Subscribe via RSS Feed

Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity

While many mainline Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists have moved into multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-dimensional ministries, the shift away from male, white, North American dominance is perhaps only slowly catching on in more conservative evangelical Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Methodist congregations.

The volume contains several surprisingly and glaringly missing elements. First, I wonder how convincing the volume is, as a call to genuine global Christian unity when all the contributors in Why We Belong are all male, are racially and ethnically white evangelicals, and nearly all the contributors serve in various North American contexts. Among the essayist in the volume, only Timothy Tennent and David Dockery’s essays commented something noteworthy about non-western Christian movements, albeit that these global ecclesial realities are mentioned only in passing rather than engaged substantively (e.g., pp. 62, 133, 149, 227-228). To be sure, the final product of an edited volume may have been different from how the original project was envisioned, and often, prospective contributors had to back-out of projects for various personal and institutional reasons. While readers need not overtly criticize the resemblance of a caricature of North American evangelicalism as a tradition that de-privileges women or a racially-diverse populace, or sidelines the global context, the composition of essayists in the final form does say something about the vision and ethos of the project. And while many mainline Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists have moved into multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-dimensional ministries, the shift away from male, white, North American dominance is perhaps only slowly catching on in more conservative evangelical Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Methodist congregations. The inclusivity is also not uniformly shared among the various Baptist denominations in North America.

Second, a number of the essayists presents a caricature of the modern ecumenical movement even though the introductory and concluding essays attempt to show the larger traditioning of Christianity and in so doing, seek to locate various denominational and evangelical identities as continuing with older and newer ecclesial traditions. For instance, how can Orthodox-Catholic relations be said to give an appearance of unity when many official bilateral and multilateral Catholics and the Eastern Churches’ dialogues report candidly many intractable differences that still prevent the churches from granting mutual recognition of each other’s ecclesiality, confessions, sacramentality, ministries, and the witness of the gospel? Caricaturizing about the ecumenical movement today in light of its nascent and maturing theorization of what unity means in the 1950s to 1960s will risk misrepresenting how ecumenicity is conceived and nurtured in today’s global Christian uniting (not reunion) efforts. Though by no means perfecting and perfected, at the least, the World Council of Churches as well as its various efforts such as the Faith and Order Commission, can be applauded for efforts to bring historic churches and newer church developments to understand each other at the ecumenical table. At the time of the publication of Why We Belong, constituencies of the Lausanne movement, the Pentecostal traditions, and the World Council of Churches have produced many dialogue reports, joint statements, and commitments, such as Together Towards Life and Christian Witness in a Religiously Plural World. Might these evangelical-ecumenical interchurch developments find their way into a revised and updated version of Why We Belong?

The final essay by Dockery reminds that the Christian movement is much larger than North America.

Third, I am encouraged that the final essay by Dockery reminds that the Christian movement is much larger than North America. It remains to be seen how various evangelical organizations, no less limited to those found in North America, could see the ascendency of representation larger than itself – no less limited to including colored representation and global representation at various levels, and possibly even to include non-evangelical Christian communities. I am less interested in superficial representation than I am interested in seeing a truly global, multi-colored, and trans-gendered collaborative efforts and decision-making at all levels of evangelical and interchurch institutions. In offering the reminder, which I have no doubt my North American, male and white evangelical leaders would agree with me on the value and benefit of widening their constituencies’ representation, I am also aware that participation at voluntary levels depends on those who are willing to come forward to volunteer their time and service. Thus, this critique may also be read as an invitation for my fellow colored and marginalized evangelicals to expand the mission and witness of their faith in evangelicalism. Much remains to be seen how the global evangelical movement could mature when the non-American counterparts share the burden of mission and service. And lastly, though some evangelicals may prefer to keep to a unitive exploration only within evangelicalism, perhaps, the question is, does an evangelical-ecumenicity truly reflect the ecumenicity of the many tapestries of the Christian faith? And as North American Evangelicalism in the Trump Administration has shown itself to be widely and politically diverse, perhaps, a revised edition of Why We Belong (if such a project is ever convened) might wish to expand on the socio-political witness of the churches despite risks that the project may become Why Belonging Calls for Re-envisioning (no pun intended). Let us submit to the leadership of the Trinitarian Spirit who binds and illuminates those in Christ to the worship of Abba and service to the God’s creation and world, and soon, the churches and the world will witness a renewal of the ecclesial, and a growing recognition of us all in Christ.

Reviewed by Timothy T. N. Lim

 

Publisher’s page: https://www.crossway.org/books/why-we-belong-tpb/

 

Pin It
Page 2 of 212

Tags: , , , ,

Category: In Depth, Spring 2018

About the Author: Timothy Teck Ngern Lim, M.Div. (BGST, Singapore), Ph.D. (Regent University), is a Visiting Lecturer for London School of Theology and Research Tutor for King's Evangelical Divinity School (London). He is on the advisory board of One in Christ (Turvey) and area book review editor for Evangelical Review of Society & Politics. He is an evangelical theologian ordained as a Teaching Elder with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has published in ecclesiology, ecumenical theology, and interdisciplinarity. A recent monograph published entitled Ecclesial Recognition with Hegelian Philosophy, Social Psychology, and Continental Political Theory: An Interdisciplinary Proposal (Brill, 2017).

  • Connect with PneumaReview.com

    Subscribe via Twitter 1358 Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    Listening for God’s Voice and Heart in Scripture: A conversation with Craig S. Keener

    James F. Linzey is the chief editor of the Modern English Version Bible translation. His graduate education is a degree in religious studies from Fuller Theological Seminary....

    Blessings Given and Blessings Returned

    William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major w...

    Interceding for Healing