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Wolfgang Vondey: Pentecostalism and Christian Unity

Wolfgang Vondey, ed., Pentecostalism and Christian Unity: Ecumenical Documents and Critical Assessments (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick, 2010), 277 pages, ISBN 9781608990771.

This book is a collection of critical essays that addresses issues of ecumenism from a variety of Pentecostal perspectives. It is primarily the outcome of papers contributed to meetings for the ecumenism interest groups of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. Since the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is one of the fastest growing sectors of Christianity within the world today, this volume presents a number of important works in contemporary Christian thought. The volume’s implications for global Christianity are further emphasized by Vondey’s observation that “In its current form, [this interest] group represents the only organized ecumenical think-tank among Pentecostals in North America” (ix). Therefore, the work of these authors deserved significant attention by Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals alike.

The editor, Wolfgang Vondey, begins the volume by contributing a brief history of the ecumenical movement that includes an overview of methods employed by ecumenical projects and the author’s own critical reflections. He does not assume that the reader possesses prior knowledge of the ecumenical movement, so readers who are new to the field can feel comfortable using this as an introductory text.

This volume is divided into three major sections. The first contains a variety of essays from several internationally renowned Pentecostals scholars which include Harold D. Hunter, Carmelo E. Álvarez, Paul van der Laan, Raymond R. Pfister, and Cecil M. Robeck Jr. These contributions address the history of ecumenism within the Pentecostal movement along with unique Pentecostal perspectives on the progress of ecumenism to date. Here views are drawn from different parts of the world, including North America, South America, and Europe.

Part two includes five final reports of ecumenical dialogues, featuring Pentecostal representation. These documents include conversations between leaders of Classical Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, the Alliance of Reformed Churches as well as Charismatics and Anglicans. Each final report includes an introduction that readers will find beneficial for contextualizing the contents of the document. The editor of this volume provides no commentary on these reports, thus allowing each final report to speak on their own terms. Readers can evaluate the merits of this approach, but, regardless, those doing research on ecumenism will find this to be a valuable and practical reference of primary materials.

The last part of this book includes three essays dedicated to Pentecostal reflections on The Nature and Mission of the Church published by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. No official response to this document has been issued by the Society for Pentecostal Studies, thus the responses of prominent Pentecostal scholars Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Frank Macchia, and Wolfgang Vondey are featured here. These essays are critical responses that point out the strengths and shortcomings of this document. Each theologians provides a unique perspective on the future of ecumenism within the Pentecostal movement.

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Spring 2011

About the Author: David Bradnick, Ph.D. Theological Studies (Regent University School of Divinity), is an instructor in the philosophy department at Stevenson University and York College of Pennsylvania. His dissertation is titled "Loosing and Binding the Spirits: An Emergentist Theology of the Demonic" (2015).

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