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A New Sociocultural Agenda in the Quest for the Unity of the Church

Sociocultural Identities in the Faith and Order Document Nature and Mission of the Church
  • Eduardus Van der Borght
Part of the Pathways for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue book series (PEID)

Abstract

This chapter argues that during the twentieth century, the central theological agenda for working toward greater visible unity by overcoming existing confessional disagreements has been too narrowly defined. Instead it contends that a broader agenda that takes into consideration the sociocultural diversity within and among the Christian World Communions is necessary. National, ethnic, racial, or tribal differentiation codefines the identity of many churches, either officially or unofficially. These sociocultural identities should no longer be dismissed as nontheological factors but require sustained theological reflection and become part of the ecumenical ecclesiological discourse. It presents the inclusion of sociocultural diversity in theological labor as a new pathway for ecumenical dialogue in the twenty-first century.

Keywords

Ethnic Identity Racial Identity Christian Tradition Local Church Christian Community 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    The conference produced a longer and a shorter report on the theme of “Church and Community.” They can be found in J. H. Oldham, The Churches Survey Their Task: The Report of the Conference at Oxford, July 1937, on Church, Community and State (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1937), 67–76, 188–240.Google Scholar
  2. For an analysis, see E. Van der Borght, “Oxford Revisited: A Re-Reading of the Report on Church and Volk at the Life and Work Conference in Oxford 1937,” Exchange 33 (2004): 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 2.
    See on this L. Hodgson, ed., The Second World Conference on Faith and Order Held at Edinburgh, August 3–18, 1937 (London: Macmillan, 1938), 258–59.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    The study is published as Faith and Order Paper 201 (Geneva: WCC, 2006). An analysis of the document will be a chapter in my forthcoming monograph on sociocultural identities and the unity of the church within the ecumenical movement. The part of my analysis in relation to race can be found in E. Van der Borght, Sunday Morning—the Most Segregated Hour: On Racial Reconciliation as Unfinished Business for Theology in South Africa and Beyond (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2009), 19–22.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    For a short description of the evolution from BEM to NMC, see J. W. Hind, “Afterword,” in Receiving “The Nature and the Mission of the Church”—Ecclesial Reality and Ecumenical Horizons for the Twenty-First Century, ed. P. M. Collins and M. A. Fahey (London: T&T Clark, 2008), 102–9. NPC was published as Faith and Order Paper 181 (Geneva: WCC, 1998) and NMC as Faith and Order Paper 198 (Geneva: WCC, 2005). Both can be downloaded from the WCC website, http://www.oikumene.org.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    On the coherence of the use of koinonia in respect of the Godhead, church, and created order, see P. Collins, “Communion: God, Creation and Church,” in Receiving “The Nature and the Mission of the Church,”—Ecclesial Reality and Ecumenical Horizons for the Twenty-First Century, ed. P. M. Collins and M. A. Fahey (London: T&T Clark, 2008), 21–41.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    See Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference (London: Continuum, 2002), 60. Sacks understands taking difference seriously as a powerful antidote to both neotribalism and universalism.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    For an analysis of the ecumenical movement as an expression of an era of modernism, see the influential analysis of K. Raiser, Ecumenism in Transition: A Paradigm Shift in the Ecumenical Movement? (Geneva: WCC, 1991).Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    See §§116–17, and my analysis of this baptismal language in Van der Borght, Sunday Morning—The Most Segregated Hour: On Racial Reconciliation as Unfinished Business for Theology in South Africa and Beyond (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2009), 21–22.Google Scholar

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© Eduardus Van der Borght 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eduardus Van der Borght

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