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Neumann, Burkhard, u. Jürgen Stolze[Hrsg.]
Aus dem Glauben leben. Freikirchliche und römisch-katholische Perspektiven.
Paderborn: Bonifatius; Göttingen: Edition Ruprecht 2014. 269 S. Kart. EUR 26,90. ISBN 978-3-89710-532-4.
Hans M. Burger
This book collects contributions to an ecumenical conference on the Christian life as particularly manifest in the liturgy. The seventh in a series of biennial ecumenical conferences organised by the Johann Adam Möhler Institute for Ecumenics in Paderborn, Germany, and the German Society of Free Churches, it combines the perspectives of Roman Catholic and Free Church theologians. While previous books in this series concentrated on dogmatic questions, this volume focuses on practical questions concerning the liturgical life of the church.
The book can be divided into five sections, often comprised of pairs of chapters from the Roman Catholic and free church perspectives or, as in the second section, four shorter chapters from the Catholic and three traditions of the free church. The book begins with two lengthy chapters by Johannes Oeldemann and Markus Iff that introduce Roman Catholic and free church spirituality through an overview of their respective traditions on the spiritual life. How-ever, no interchange takes place between these traditions; Oeldemann and Iff inform but the volume does not document any critical or constructive engagement between them or the two traditions. The final summary concludes that both traditions are in many respects unfamiliar to each other, which one can sense in the especially descriptive character of many of the contributions.
The second section revolves around the relationship between freedom and Christian tradition. Bernard Olpen delves into the relationship between Pentecostal spirituality and church tradition, suggesting that it is particularly difficult for the Enlightenment churches of Western Europe to give Pentecostal spirituality a place. Here a Lutheran fear of enthusiasm reveals the book’s German origin. My impression is that the Reformed and especially Anglican branches of the Reformation incorporate the Pentecostal-charismatic impulse more easily and positively. Addressing Roman Catholic tradition, Burkhard Neumann shows that freedom has to be understood in relation to church commitment. The remaining chapters in this section treat the question of how Evangelical-Methodist churches deal with orders of service and the issue of the liturgical year in the community of the Herrnhuter brothers. This section thus presents four interesting and informative articles on freedom, liturgy, and tradi-tion that deal with a variety of free church and Roman Catholic is-sues from differing perspectives. However, there is not interaction between them within the pages of this volume.
The third section consists of a pair of chapters on the challenges of modern society to the Christian life. Both describe the influence of the same problems of a modern society in which the church has to compete with other religious and non-religious influences. How-ever, the interesting differences between Roman Catholic and free church communities become visible in the differing emphases in these two contributions: Judith Könemann longs for a large Roman Catholic Church that remains or again becomes relevant and culturally significant to modern society. Ralf Dziewas, coming from a tradition of small, close, warm community life, signals modern tendencies that put pressure on those free church communities that were used to living together during weekday evenings and weekends. With her general focus on society, Könemann does not expect much from charismatic-evangelical minority movements, while Dziewas rejoices in cross traditional spiritual influences, such as free church congregants joining in Roman Catholic activities or reading literature from different spiritual traditions.
The next two contributions – ten theses for discussion and a summative statement – attempt to facilitate dialogue between perspec-tives. In his theses, Wolfgang Thönissen connects the ecumenical to the liturgical movement, emphasizing that ecumenical liturgy and confessional clarity paradoxically reinforce one another. Trans-confessional charismatic movements often relativize confessions, institutions, and ecumenical liturgy. Unexpectedly, it is often churches with a clear confessional unity who become involved in ecumenical institutions and strive for an ecumenical liturgy. Thönissen expects to find an ecumenical unity predicated on communion in a con-fessed union with Christ, not in confessional relativity, but in confessional conversion. Stressing the importance of communion and tradition, the editors in their summary ask if the suggested ›immediacy‹ of Pentecostal spirituality is in fact mediated. Two meditations constitute the final pair of contributions.
This book is a good example of a starting point for an ecumenical dialogue: sharing good information about one’s own tradition with fellow Christians from other traditions, appreciating the mutual unfamiliarity of concepts, practices, and traditions. It is important to share, to show, and to see the richness of other Christian traditions. At the same time, this book is just that and not a live conference. The book does not document what might be more interesting than the helpful information provided in its chapters: the conversation be-tween the represented Christian traditions. In part this is due to the book collecting the papers presented rather than the dialogue they inspired at the conference. However, this book is not truly the beginning of an ecumenical dialogue, but the seventh in a series of conference proceedings by the same group of Roman Catholic and free church theologians. After all these years, one could expect a deeper level of dialogue in the contributions. Such a dialogue might be stimulated by a self-critical analysis of one’s own tradition, perhaps in response to the question of how the other tradition could enrich my own. A real and open dialogue could be stimulated even without criticism of the other tradition. The book does succeed in supplying much information, but does not explicitly stimulate the ecumenical dialogue in constructive manner.
Still, the combination of Roman Catholic and free church perspectives is an interesting example of contacts between Roman Catholics and those from an evangelical-pentecostal background that stimulates the exchange of information across borders and challenges caricatures. As a source of information, this book is a fine contribution to the dialogue between Christian traditions.