Apostolic, ecumenical and radical: these are the ecclesial characteristics highlighted by Gesa E. Thiessen while explaining her vision of the church. The author focuses on the meaning of each of these marks as well as on their intrinsic connections, an approach that leads her to delve deep into the history of the church, and to draw a wide span between the apostolic past and a radical perspective on the present and future ecumenical church.
Apostolic and Prophetic examines the concept of apostolicity as it has been developed in some select Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Anglican ecumenical documents. Unresolved ecumenical questions concerning ecumenical method and church ministry are frankly discussed, including critical observations on ecumenical praxis. The modern notion of churches as denominations is examined in detail, especially in the Lutheran context. The author also offers a critical assessment of an important ecumenical event, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The notion of a radical church – aware of its roots and prophetically committed to faith in the kingdom of God, seeking freedom and justice – is explored through an extensive analysis and discussion of the work of Dorothee Sölle and Terry Eagleton, two seminal thinkers of our time.
Part I: Apostolicity: Past, Present, Future
1. Ad fontes: Apostolicity in the Early Church
2. Apostolicity in Select Ecumenical Documents of the Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic Churches
3. Looking Ahead: Possibilities and Challenges in Ecclesiology and Ecumenical Dialogue
Part II: Unity, Diversity, and Ecumenical Praxis
4. Denominations: Churches in (Post)modernity – The Lutheran Church (A Case Study)
5. Ecumenism in Praxis: Critical Observations on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Part III: Towards a Radical Church
6. A Theology of Liberation: Dorothee Sölle
7. A New Left Church? Terry Eagleton
Conclusion: Towards an Apostolic, Ecumenical, Radical and Prophetic Church
Endorsements and Reviews
Gesa Thiessen discusses a broad range of current ecumenical issues in a manner that is both theoretically lucid and practically helpful. Her experience as bridge-builder between Lutherans and Roman Catholics as well as between German and English-speaking theological traditions allows her to grapple with many contemporary problems in a creative and forward-looking fashion. Not only academic theologians, but also ecumenically minded laypeople will benefit from Thiessen’s sincere and participatory way of engaging challenging topics.
Risto Saarinen, University of Helsinki
This book will challenge, inform, and delight all who are passionate about the church today. From one of the most committed and creative Lutheran ecumenists around, it delves deep into the history of the church to draw forth empowering and inspiring ecclesial perspectives for today and tomorrow alike. Seeking to retrieve an understanding of what lies at the true heart of apostolicity and the literally radical nature of the Gospel itself, exploring and explicating the nature and actuality of ecumenical dialogue, and offering a vision for the church that resonates loudly with the good news that was proclaimed in first-century Palestine, this work will be required reading for those involved in dialogue today and will enhance any course that deals with ecumenism and contemporary ecclesiology. Gesa Thiessen has performed an important service to the theological community in bringing this work into being. It ‘sends forth’ a message of truly good news concerning the kingdom of God to a world so in need of such – apostolic and prophetic indeed.
Gerard Mannion, University of San Diego
Thiessen’s Apostolic and Prophetic is a thoughtful tour through some interesting regions of contemporary ecclesiological reflection. Those exercised by the ecclesiological themes of apostolicity, ecumenicity, and radicality will undoubtedly find its vistas engaging.
W. Travis McMaken, Lindenwood University, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 20, No 3
Thiessen is trying to forge a new way forward for the identity and practice of the church given who Jesus is. … The contribution of Thiessen’s work is that she is not glibly denigrating earlier or alternative ecclesiologies, rather she is trying to move past old roadblocks and suggest a liveable and living future for the church. This book is recommended for courses in seminaries as its thoughtful blend of theology, cultural critique and ecclesial mindfulness will promote lively discussion.
Scott Harrower, Melbourne School of Theology, in Theological Book Review , Vol 25, No 2
Thiessen’s perspective is that of a Lutheran theologian with a deep commitment to the aspirations of a twentieth-century ecumenism. … Apostolic and Prophetic makes powerful suggestions and should be part of the contemporary conversation around Christian witness, discipleship, and pursuing more visible Church unity among traditions.
Ian Clausen, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, in The Expository Times, Vol 125, No 9