Posted April 5, 2003
Washington Theological Consortium
EcuNotes #15 (October 2002)
INTRODUCING THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES. By Marlin VanElderen & Martin Conway. Revised and enlarged edition. Geneva: World Council of Churches Publications, 2001.
The original edition of this book (1990) by the late Marlin VanElderen provided an excellent introduction to the World Council of Churches (WCC) on the eve of its seventh Assembly at Canberra, Australia in 1991. This new edition, which really is "revised and enlarged" discusses ecumenical events since Canberra -- including the eighth Assembly at Harare, Zimbabwe in 1998. This book not only provides basic data about the WCC, but also explains its complex internal workings and its sometimes controversial international projects; it serves as a personal introduction to ecumenical leaders and their theological visions, as well as an effective apologia on behalf of the WCC that succinctly indicates its many accomplishments while acknowledging its multiple tensions and shortcomings. In sum, this book can be highly recommended both for courses on ecumenism and for discussion groups interested in ecumenism.
Mark A. Noll, THE OLD RELGION IN A NEW WORLD: THE HISTORY OF NORTH AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002.
In contrast to those histories of North American Christianity that survey various denominations, Noll shows how churches have responded quite differently to the phenomena of being transplanted from the Old World to the New. Although some attention is given to Canada and México, this book's primary focus is on the ever-changing religious kaleidoscope of the United States from British colonization to "the recent past" (1960-2000). In addition to this historical survey, four thematic chapters discuss topics of ecumenical interest: separation of church and state; theology and the fate of European traditions, especially Lutheran and Roman Catholic; and Christian Spirituality; and the Bible. Also ecumenically useful are a list of denominations with their respective memberships, a chronology, and a select bibliography arranged according to topic
THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH IN THE WORLD is one of the topics currently under discussion by a working group of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches. The September 2002 issue of ECUMENICAL TRENDS published three of this group's working papers:  Susan Davies (United Church of Christ) discusses some effects of the contextualization of Church Authority, for example, one culture may seek to claim that its way of presenting the Gospel is the only authentic evangelical expression.  Jeffrey Gros (Roman Catholic) discusses three church-dividing issues: (a) the historical-critical method; (b) the relationship between Scripture, Tradition and Church Authority; and (c) the interpretation of Scripture and Tradition.  Frank Macchia (Pentecostal) emphasizes that the external word of Church authority needs to strike the inner chord of human experience: "An experiential and charismatic approach to authority has the potential of involving the laity in the power of the Gospel and the Spirit in the world today and in a way that meets the everyday needs of people."
The Information Service of the Pontifical Council For Promoting Christian Unity N. 109 (2002/I-II) provided a report on the Council's plenary of November 2001; in addition to status reports on Roman Catholic dialogues with various churches, there are three study documents of particular interest:  Mutual Recognition of Baptism;  Theological Consideration on the Question of Eucharistic Sharing; and  Petrine Ministry -- a document that is currently being discussed by the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches.