Academic journal article Theological Studies

Who Is the Church? an Ecclesiology for the Twenty-First Century

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Who Is the Church? an Ecclesiology for the Twenty-First Century

Article excerpt

Who Is the Church? An Ecclesiology for the Twenty-First Century. By Cheryl M. Peterson. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013. Pp. viii + 153. $22.

Written in light of the decline of "mainstream" Protestant churches in America, Peterson's book is a theological engagement with the identity of the church. Her aim is to reclaim for Protestant ecclesiology the church's "missional" impetus. She provides a helpful guide to the evolution of ecclesiology in American Protestantism, a guide that also analyzes the various strategies that Protestant churches have taken to engage with the wider culture. P.'s contention is that those strategies tend either to be exercises in marketing or to reduce the church to a "voluntary society."

The core of the book is P.'s appraisal of three theological approaches to the church: "Word-Event," "Communion," and "Missional." P. finds value in each of the three theologies, all of which present the church as other than a gathering of the like-minded, but it is the missional focus that drives the book. To that end, P. highlights the role of the Holy Spirit as central to the church's identity. P. does not simply support the need to reverse the neglect that the Spirit has suffered in ecclesiology--Roman Catholic, no less than Protestant; she argues that only a church attentive to the Spirit will be able to enact God's mission in "post-Christendom. …

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