Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Evangelii Gaudium and the Prospects for Ecumenical Mission

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Evangelii Gaudium and the Prospects for Ecumenical Mission

Article excerpt

Abstract

Evangelii Gaudium (EG) is addressed to the "bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful" of the Catholic Church. It comes out of an internal discussion of "the new evangelization" and devotes considerable space to particular concerns of the Catholic Church, such as its pastoral activity, preaching ministry, and devotion to Mary. Out of 288 sections, it devotes only three near the end to "ecumenical dialogue. " So it would not seem at first sight to offer much prospect for ecumenical mission. However, this impression is deceptive. This article compares EG with the main concerns of the World Council of Churches' statement on mission and evangelism in changing landscapes, Together towards Life (TTL), which was published earlier the same year, and finds a remarkable extent of common ground. It also finds that both documents share an inclusive and holistic understanding of mission/evangelization.

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Evangelii Gaudium (EG) is addressed to the "bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful" of the Catholic Church. (1) It comes out of an internal discussion of "the new evangelization" (2) and devotes considerable space to particular concerns of the Catholic Church, such as its pastoral activity, preaching ministry and devotion to Mary. Out of 288 sections it devotes only three near the end to "ecumenical dialogue" (244-246). So it would not seem at first sight to offer much prospect for ecumenical mission. However, this impression is deceptive, first, because of the extent of common ground between EG and the World Council of Churches' (WCC) statement on mission and evangelism in changing landscapes, Together towards Life (TTL), (3) which was published earlier the same year, and second, because of its inclusive and holistic understanding of evangelization.

I shall argue that EG shares the four-fold mission agenda of TTL, as expressed in its four main sections on practising the life-giving mission of the Spirit, including the marginalized, creating a missionary church, and proclaiming the gospel authentically. In each case I shall point to ways in which the confluence of EG with TTL gives ground for ecumenical mission.

Practising the Life-giving Mission of the Spirit

TTL has a distinctive pneumatological framework. Each of its main sections is titled with a characteristic of the Holy Spirit: Spirit of mission, Spirit of liberation, Spirit of community, and Spirit of Pentecost. Moreover, the "life" which is the focus of the title of the document is made synonymous with the presence and action of the Spirit. Although not quite so prominently, EG is similarly infused with the theme of pneumatology: the Spirit animates ministry (15), impels evangelization (119, 130), guides the evangelizer (14, 139, 119), and nourishes the missionary disciple (50, 280). (4) In EG, the Holy Spirit is principal agent of evangelization (122), sowing Christian values in society (68), enriching culture (116), penetrating every human situation and all social bonds (178), and bringing about liberation (178, see 197). The Spirit in freedom (279) goes ahead of evangelization, liberating and enlightening non-Christians (254, 265), directing people toward the church (47), blazing new trails (105), and enabling the response to the gospel (112). As the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit is the source of the grace that gives hope (84) and confidence (145, 280) and frees us from our self-centredness to evangelize (97). The Spirit raises up communities of evangelism (29), is manifested in "works of love" (37), and mobilizes the "loving attentiveness" that enables the seeking of the other's good (199). The Spirit is both the source of diversity and also brings about unity (131, 230) by reconciling different parts of the church (40, cf. 246) and building harmony between cultures (117). The mission pneumatology of EG comes to a climax in its last chapter, in which the spirit of the new evangelization is likened to the Spirit of Pentecost and Mary is described as its supreme exemplar. …

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