Book Reviews / International Journal of Public Theology 5 (2011) 489–507 499 Francesca Aran Murphy and Christopher Asprey, eds, Ecumenism Today: The Universal Church in the 21st Century (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing House, 2008), pp. viii + 220, £50.00, ISBN 978-0-7546-5961-7 (hbk). In the midst of an ‘ecumenical winter’ (p. 3) the book Ecumenism Today: The Universal Church in the 21st Century brings together a collection of contributions that openly speak to the reality that ecumenical dialogues and agreements have rarely brought about ‘real communion’ (p. 3). The deeply complex and divisive issues which surround present day ecumenical endeavours become a point of departure, as the authors address new strategies for the twenty-ﬁrst century. The signiﬁcant point of reference for the book is the Papal encyclical Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One), which is critically evaluated in the context of wider contemporary ecumenical assessment. While acknowledging the signiﬁcance of the Roman Catholic contribution to ecumenical discourse and ambition, particularly since Vatican II, the authors of this book oﬀer candid perspectives with varying decrees of optimism. The issue of authority and power associated with the Petrine oﬃce is recognized as a key component of ecumenical progress in the coming century. Whether such author- ity is perceived as a skandalon or ‘insuperable stumbling block’ (p. 118) to ecumenical unity or respected as a position essential to the enrichment of the ecumenical move- ment, it is clear that the role of the Petrine remains critical to the ecumenical agenda. The book does not, however, attempt to lay the success or failure of ecumenical progress on the shoulders of the Papal oﬃce, but rather looks closely at how the Chris- tian communities and denominations can eﬀectively engage in working towards the goal of unity. Indeed, the great strength of the book lies in the diversity of voices and perspectives represented. Given the inevitable limitations of such a project this is com- mendable. In particular, the ﬁnal two articles, which focus on the topic ‘persecution and theological ecumenism’, reﬂect essential contextual issues to be included on the contemporary ecumenical agenda. As John Pontifex argues: ‘if Pope John Paul’s “exhor- tation”, so closely aligned to the Second Vatican Council, is to achieve a crucial break- through, it will only be through developing a deeper understanding of the nature of Christian persecution’ (p. 203). Each article stands alone in its own right, yet their collective impact may be far greater for the ecumenical movement. One can only hope that the contents will not only serve scholarly debate, but may indeed be a source for genuine movement towards unity in diversity. To this end, this book is highly recommended to a wide readership of persons interested in the pursuit of such unity. Adrian Bird University of Edinburgh, UK © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2011 DOI: 10.1163/156973211X595970
International Journal of Public Theology – Brill
Published: May 19, 2011
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