Peter Hocken, Tony Richie, and Christopher A. Stephenson (eds.),Pentecostal
Theology and Ecumenical Theology: Interpretations and Intersections. Vol. 34,Global
Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies(Leiden,NL: Brill, 2019). 366 pp. $75.00 paper-
We could historically frame the Society for Pentecostal Theology as an ecumeni- cally spawned and purposed venture suggesting the following trajectory for its ongoing existence. Namely, that the most viable 21st century future for both pentecostal and ecumenical theology will be one of increasing convergence; meaning, we should only define a theology as “pentecostal” insofar as we could simultaneously recognise it as implicitly “ecumenical theology,” and, that the metaphor of “Pentecost” becomes integral to any conciliar funded construc- tionsof ecumenicaltheology.ThatisthemainimplicationIderivefromreading this historically important volume that assesses and explores the integral rela- tion between these two movements, historically and theologically.
Along with its conclusion, this collection comprises 17 original essays written by a globally diverse field of scholars, each well-established either in the histo- riography of past and ongoing pentecostal ecumenical involvement or in sys- tematic theological construction from pentecostal/charismatic perspectives. Unless needful, for sake of space I will not mention author names, but readers can quickly note them and the chapter titles at the online Brill advertisement. Generally, all the authors succinctly wrote their chapters; each framing their respective topic towards both the book’s broad theme and the specific agenda of the books two main sections. Each chapter includes a bibliography, and the volume ends with a brief yet helpful index.
The seven essays comprising Part 1 specifically review and assess past and ongoing pentecostal ecumenical themes, engagements with facets of Christian ecumenism, and participation within the Ecumenical Movement, while also proffering suggestions towards the future of these respective forays. At least from what I know about their past writings, each of the historical essays proffer new analysis or at least new framings of the relevant history. As the book title suggests, these essays are moreover purposely slanted as pentecostal “interpre- tations of ecumenism, past and present.” The essays thus critically review how Pentecostals—generally meaning “Classical Pentecostals”—on one hand have both negatively and positively engaged the Ecumenical Movement and on the other, how they have implicitly and explicitly demonstrated varied ecumeni- cal impulses, themes, or aspirations. The first two essays critically review these themes insofar as they developed within the American and European historical contexts. Working from theological premises, the following two essays provide fresh analyses on how the global Charismatic Movement has impacted contem-
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porary ecumenism, particularly attending to the movement’s impact on global Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and varied “neo-Pentecostal” (Third Wave, Apostolic Networks, etc.).
I feel that chapters 5, 6, and 7 (by Wolfgang Vondey, David Sang-Ehil Han, and Cheryl Bridges Johns) comprise the volume’s most important analyses and arguments, each essay generally envisioning direction towards ongoing 21st century development of the Pentecostal and Ecumenical Movement inter- face. From these chapters four topics consistently come to the fore. First is the ecumenical significance of pentecostal koinonia-themed “ecclesiality” albeit stifled by the ongoing lack of a globally informed ecclesiology. Second is the growing success of the Global Christian Forum (GCF) towards fostering grass- roots pentecostal ecumenical engagement, particularly appealing to South- ern Hemisphere Pentecostalism(s). Well exemplified within past GCF con- ferences, third is the evidenced methodical effectiveness of “receptive ecu- menism.” Fourth, with reference to the ongoing engagement between global Pentecostalism and the Ecumenical Movements, is that our present histori- cal moment—methodically building on the three preceding issues—enjoins re-envisioning the global ecumenical task as one that prioritizes mutually ini- tiated “gift-sharing” between the Global North and Global South hemispheres of world Christianity. Interestingly, these three chapters thereby confirm Wal- ter Hollenweger’s much earlier forecast that the greatest ecumenical chal- lenge of this century will not ultimately be about intra-Christian tradition relations, but rather towards reconciling the world’s oral-literate and print- literate peoples—which, in many ways, the two hemispheres still heuristi- cally represent—into ecumenical networks of gift-sharing between the world’s diverse cultures.
Part 2 begins with seven chapters functioning as ecumenically informed exemplars of pentecostal constructive theology (covering hermeneutics, the meditative role of experience, Christology, Spirit baptism, ecclesiology, liturgy, and soteriology). Astute readers would note that each chapter basically sum- marizes main themes characterizing each respective writer’s main life’s work within their respective expertise; yet each effectively illustrates how their work exemplifies intentional attempts at ecumenical engagement. One notable attempt at articulating seminal forays is Christopher Stephenson’s chapter. For he insightfully raises formidable challenges intrinsic to the traditional pente- costal fivefold gospel Christological rubric—not withstanding his own sympa- thy towards this—as a viably ecumenical bridging Christology, when particu- larlybroughtintoconversationwithSpiritChristologyandTrinitariantheology. He thus concludes stressing this impasse as a needful task within pentecostal theology; one integral to its ongoing ecumenical potential.
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I find Tony Richie’s chapter momentous, given its bold argument that Pente- costals recognize interreligious dialogue as a requisite element to the broader category of Christian ecumenism. Finally, in my opinion, even more significant is Clifton and Marcia Clarke’s chapter exploring the African notion of “Ubuntu” (signifying how relation to others is imperative to human flourishing) as a pen- tecostal ecumenical method. For differentiating this chapter from every other, is that as I earlier discussed, it precisely illustrates the greater thrust that 21st century pentecostal ecumenism should foremost pursue. Namely, the “recep- tive” exchange of cultural gifts between the global South and North.
To conclude, this collection of both historical reflection and constructive theology provides us germane analysis and vital direction towards ongoing engagement between Pentecostalism worldwide, the global Ecumenical Move- ment, and subsidiary ecumenical fruit derivative from each. If there is one item I find incongruently missing from this otherwise vital collection—which it nonetheless is suggestively reaching towards—is a pentecostal ecumenical theology, or theology of ecumenism, coupled with some well-articulated theo- logical methods towards this aim. I am meanwhile not aware of any monograph length work yet constructed towards this endeavour. Perhaps this might relate to Vondey’s consistent argument, that there remains no substantially articu- lated pentecostal ecclesiology, though these are closely integrated foci.
On the other hand, Richie’s concluding chapter (“A Look to the Future”) prof- fers a very cursory hint towards this aim, stressing how the Acts 2 “Pentecost” and “glossolalia” motifs are generatively “replete with ecumenical significance.” He briefly teases out some ramifications towards this aim. On this note, one statement he makes, aptly warrants mention here as a closing reflection: “The healing of human division and the initiation of inclusive Christian unity at a pro- foundly spiritual level lies at the heart of Pentecostal identity!” (360).
Independent Scholar, Republic of Singapore firstname.lastname@example.org
Pneuma 42 (2020) 263–323