Journal of Ecumenical Studies - Volume 51, Number 3 (Summer 2016)

Responses to The Church: Towards a Common Vision from a September, 2015, Gathering of the North American Academy of Ecumenists
This response to the World Council of Churches' 2013 convergence document, The Church: Towards a Common Vision from the 2015 North American Academy of Ecumenists conference finds fundamental consensus with much of the document. It seeks further discussion of the relation of the local church to synodality, primacy, and the bonds of communion; calls for deeper experiential language of faith, further discussion on the challenges of ordained ministry, and recognition of the authority of ecumenical agreements; and encourages exploration of differing structures and processes for moral discernment.

Renewing the Church as a Community of Hope: The German Catholic Church Confronts the Shoah
Janice A. Thompson

This essay analyzes the context and content of the (West) German Catholic Church’s first response to the Shoah in its synod document “Our Hope,” drafted by theologian Johann Baptist Metz, an important example of post-Shoah theology and post-Vatican II renewal. The synod uniquely included the laity and a survey of millions of Catholics, seeking to address the sense of meaninglessness of the time with radically renewed hope and by confessing guilt and reforming central christological teachings. The work on “Our Hope” significantly shaped Metz’s theology and the split between Metz and his contemporary, Joseph Ratzinger. The synod’s focus, on the “other-centered” character of Jesus and the Church, should be reengaged in contemporary interfaith dialogue.

Interrogating the Approaches of Christian-Muslim Encounters in West Africa
Cosmas Ebo Sarbah

Both Christianity and Islam have become African religions with significant followings, living together in various communities of West Africa. The obvious Christian and Muslim encounter that ensues also calls for critical study. This essay examines the multifaceted approaches (traditional, modern, and postmodern) that feature prominently in discussions of Christian-Muslim relations in the sub-region, offering a critique of them with regard to the planting, spread, and encounters of the two great religious traditions in West Africa. None of the approaches discussed here is confined to or limited to a particular period in history or to particular people. Thus, in West Africa, the approaches have been used at different times by different people and often concurrently. The essay recommends a holistic, communal approach to rather complex encounters between Christians and Muslims on the West African scene for peaceful coexistence.

Going beyond Nostra Aetate: The Way Forward for Interreligious Dialogue
SimonMary Asese Aihiokhai

The Second Vatican Council ended fifty-one years ago. In this short period great strides have been made in the area of interfaith dialogue. However, one thing is certain; the new ventures faced today in the Church’s attempt to foster lasting ties with other religions ought to be engaged through a renewed vision of what it means to be dialogical. This vision, in its content and purpose, ought to go beyond those in the conciliar document, Nostra aetate. The Church cannot ignore the challenges that the global community faces from violent religious fundamentalism both within and outside of its fold.

 “Our Loyalties Must Become Ecumenical”: Martin Luther King, Jr., as a Pluralist Theologian
Roy Whitaker

This essay presents how “theologian” and “pluralist” are contested categories in religious-studies scholarship to such a degree that the pluralist theologies of people of color have been thwarted from many ecumenical discourses. While Martin Luther King, Jr.’s credentials as a theologian have been questioned, he should, nevertheless, be interpreted not only as a theologian but also as a pluralist theologian par excellence. To this end, King’s primary sources are used to reconstruct dimensions of his pluralist theology. His pluralist views and values are placed in critical conversation with contemporary pluralism scholarship. It is shown that King’s universal horizon transcended Jewish, Christian, and Muslim relationships. He did not believe in the metaphysical unity of religions. He identified both similar and dissimilar teachings across religions. He preached that Christian and non-Christian traditions provided resources for sharing and learning—especially for ethical values. Overall, King’s ecumenism contributes to debates about ethnocentric biases and admiration for different faiths.