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My Ecumenical Journey: 1947-1975.

This is the story of the life of M. M. Thomas--or at least a large part of it. It is the chronicle of where he went and what he did from the moment in 1947 when he was called out of the youth service of his own Mar Thoma Church in India to become the first non-Euro-American secretary of the World Student Christian Federation, to the day in Nairobi 1975, when at the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, he completed his term as chairman of its Central Committee. In the course of it, the whole history of the ecumenical movement during those formative years comes to life once again through the eyes of one of its major actors. We live through the drama of postwar confrontations between Europeans and Asians, radicals and conservatives, theologians and laity, out of which both the WSCF and the World Council of Churches took their shape and found their mission. We follow the development of ecumenical social study and action, both on the world scene and in Asia, for Thomas was, at one and the same time, chairman of the World Council of Churches Committee on Church and Society, director of the Indian Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, and convener of the East Asia Christian Conference's Commission on the church's witness in the midst of social change. Finally, we are led through the events of the World Council of Churches in early maturity from Uppsala 1968 to Nairobi 1975, its relations with Roman Catholicism, its struggles over a proper relationship to churches and Communist politics in Eastern Europe, its growing involvement with ecological problems, its program to combat racism, and its change of general secretaries.

Despite the length of the book, all these events go by at breakneck speed. This book is a record, not a memoir. It is a careful record (despite many misspelled names and places) that often throws new light on what actually transpired in the activities where Thomas was involved. To find the critical, constructive mind of the author in dialogue with the people and about the issues, which in this chronicle he only mentions, we must turn to his other writings.

M. M. Thomas needs a biographer. In this record of a large part of his life, he has given us basic material on which to work. It needs to be combined with the power of his ideas and the spirit of the man at work on the ecumenical stage. Only when that is well and carefully done will future generations be able to appreciate the meaning of M. M. Thomas for the church in the twentieth century.

Charles C. West is professor emeritus of Christian ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary. He has also served as associate director of the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, of the World Council of Churches, and as a consultant to the Working Committee on Church and Society of the World Council.
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Author:West, Charles C.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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