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The Church, Community of Salvation: An Ecumenical Ecclesiology.

Tavard's newest writing on the Church takes as its point of departure a twofold direction: "being Church means sharing a distinctive self-awareness and, on the basis of this self-awareness, engaging in a multisided dialogue." T. devotes the bulk of the book to the meaning of the self-awareness of being Church as expressed in Scripture and history; the last section deals with issues of dialogue with secular movements, other Christian bodies, and world religions. Distinctive to T.'s presentation is that dialogue characterizes the methodology of the entire book. While in traditional Catholic terms he investigates the dogmatic nature and structure of the Church, he does so in dialogue with the insights preserved by the Greek and Latin Fathers, the Orthodox tradition, and the great divines of the Anglican Communion, and by Luther, Calvin, and their followers in the Churches of the Reformation.

Also characteristic of T.'s presentation is a focused awareness of the Holy Spirit in the formulation of an understanding of the contemporary Church. While clearly upholding the premise that Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between Creator and creatures, he explores the role of the Spirit in bringing the Christian community into dialogue with the secular dimensions of human society and with other great religions. The relationship of the Church to the ecological movement and its concern over the future of creation provides the context for the third distinctive characteristic of T.'s presentation, his focus on eschatology. Eschatological themes do not go in the direction of the millennialism of the 90s; rather they anchor T.'s ecclesiology to the call for the Church to resituate itself in relation to humanity and the universe. Here T. makes some key assertions regarding the present situation of the Church. The Church's problem is not how to remedy the shortcomings of the past; "it is how to remain or to become the community of salvation for the people of today and of tomorrow." Christian hope is interpreted in light of this call; "Christian hope is inseparably tied to the expectation of a new lease on life for humankind."

The tension between "the Church in hope and the Church in fact" is felt deeply today, but how one interprets this tension is crucial. We are "in a boundary situation between a world that has ended and one which is beginning." Are we at the end of the world, or at a new point of convergence of energies in the pursuance of the new? Regardless of which interpretation one give, "it is now more obvious that humanity is reaching a point of no return beyond which it needs to function differently from what it took for granted in the past." In this uncertainty between two worlds, openness in hope to the inner ways of the Spirit is needed. For this reason, a major call of the Church is to oppose all semblances of doom thinking as a contradiction of its life in the Spirit. It is to push forward to contribute its part in the development of fresh principles of human organization and behavior which are required for survival in the world today.

T.'s major contribution is his integration of sources to address traditional questions of ecclesiology and his portrayal of theological agenda for the next millennium. The absence of liberation and feminist voices is a weakness of the book, but hopefully these will be a future agenda for a focused dialogue in T.'s long and fruitful work as a theologian.
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Author:Merkle, Judith A.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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