Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism

Article excerpt

Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism. By Carl E. Braaten. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998. ix + 164 pp. $18.00 (paper).

This book consists of previously published essays that Braaten has revised, forging them into a passionate summons to struggle for the soul of the Church. He longs and argues for a Church that is catholic in its preservation of the essential features of the undivided Church (the sacraments, teaching authority vested in episcopacy and primacy, doctrines that cannot be mistaken for their secular counterfeits) and evangelical (focused upon and grounded in the Gospel and, therefore, evaluating everything inside and outside the Church by that norm). In the measure that this struggle is successful, an ecclesiology adequate to the ecumenical enterprise will be found and the Gospel's saving message will no longer be confused with its secular counterfeits.

Since the book is addressed primarily to Braaten's fellow Lutherans, he argues that to rediscover and reclaim Mother Church is to be faithful to the original intentions of Luther who wanted to reform the Church, not to start a new one. Protestants mistake their heritage and misconstrue their identity if they do not see their own churches as fundamentally interim phenomena.

Although previously published, these essays wear well. Not all repetition has been avoided, of course, and the ecumenical landscape changes so quickly today that it is hard to publish a book on an ecumenical topic without its being at least somewhat dated as soon as it hits the bookstore shelves. Yet Braaten's issues and concerns are perennial and fundamental to ecclesiology and ecumenism; thus, the omission of matters like the Joint Declaration on Justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church are far from fatal. …

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