by John Gibaut & Knud Jorgensen, eds.
Regnum Books International, 2014.
—Reviewed by Cameron D. Armstrong, church planter, International Mission Board in Bucharest, Romania; PhD Intercultural Studies student, Biola University.
Any attempt to document the history and development of ecumenical Christian missions promises to be fraught with challenges. Consensus concerning which groups to highlight as helpful or unhelpful in fostering partnership is difficult to garner. In Called to Unity for the Sake of Mission, John Gibaut and Knud Jorgensen bring together authors from numerous academic, cultural, and ecclesiastic backgrounds to display how commitment to Christian unity plays an intrinsic part in offering the world a credible Christian witness.
Beginning with lessons learned since the Edinburgh 1910 missionary conference, the first section of the volume details the historical and missiological development of ecumenical groups through the follow-up Edinburgh 2010. The authors in this first segment of the book note how only a few evangelical representatives from the Majority World attended the 1910 conference, although their presence and furtherance of unified mission kindled discussions that led to the development of bodies such as the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance, and the Lausanne Movement. The desire for Christian unity, for which Christ himself prayed, also led to refocusing on the topic of ecclesiology.
The book’s second section offers a smorgasbord of practitioners involved in global and church-based initiatives, new movements that preview a bright future, and other worldwide perspectives on the path toward Christian ecumenism. Noteworthy here is the genuine spirit of encouragement that each author takes in interacting with those from other theological traditions that have spurred much-needed conversation for their particular denomination or society. For example, Roman Catholic theologian Stephan Bevans relates how ecumenical conferences have assisted Roman Catholic leaders in thinking further about the missio Dei. Further, the century in between the two Edinburgh conferences added many more voices from the Majority World.
One weakness in this thoughtful work is the observation that the Edinburgh 1910 conference, and therefore its subsequent gatherings, focused on how evangelism, not theology, unites Christians. Can the two be truly separated? What one believes about the gospel and salvation will always affect what type of message is shared. Although the authors interact a bit with this theme, especially in the chapters dealing with missiology, a more visible discussion to this end would be beneficial.
Called to Unity for the Sake of Mission offers an illuminating look into how the missio Dei unites Christians. Each writer carefully shows how the Church is truly missional by nature. As the ecumenical movement in modern missions now passes its 100-year mark, the humble desire to learn from and assist one another for the glory of God permeates each page of this work.
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EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 2 pp. 214-215. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.