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Ecumenical Reception: Its Challenge and Opportunity

Ecumenical Reception: Its Challenge and Opportunity
William G. Rusch
Eerdmans, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8028-4723-2

In 1988 William Rusch wrote a book tracing the development of the idea of reception up to that time. During the intervening years, both reflection on reception and the experience of attempting to engage in it have progressed considerably.

Rusch begins with a bird's-eye view of the term reception across several disciplines — law, philosophy, literary criticism — before homing in on its theological import. He traces its use as a term and as a practice from the New Testament up to the twentieth century, painting a picture of a dynamic process that fosters unity and diversity among churches and spiritual communities. Finally, he examines the new chapter in the history of reception due to the establishment of the ecumenical movement, and considers what will be necessary for it to continue to move the church forward.


"Informed by his years of experience in the quest for Christian unity, William Rusch illumines the way toward turning theological dialogue into the living faith of now separated Christian communities." (Richard John Neuhaus — editor in chief of First Things)

"William Rusch has long been a major interpreter of the modern ecumenical movement. In this volume he reminds us in a fresh way that the heart of the ecumenical movement is not to be found so much in the various texts that it has produced, as it is in the process by which the separated churches have entered into one another’s life in a positive and enduring way. He makes a convincing case that this activity is central to the work of the Holy Spirit in the churches through the ages, and that it is never more needed than today for the separated churches of the world to discern anew the mind of the living Christ." (Dale T. Irwin — President, New York Theological Seminary)

"This is an important exploration of the concept of reception. Particularly valuable is the chapter in which Rusch describes concrete examples of ecumenical reception in the lives of many churches. These examples help the reader to get hold of this new ecumenical process in church history. The discussion moves into two areas not widely known, namely, 'differentiated consensus' and the more recently identified 'differentiated participation.' Whether ecumenical reception in the future depends on these two concepts remains to be seen, as Rusch himself acknowledges.... This is a book not to be missed by committed ecumenists." (Mary Tanner — President, World Council of Churches)

"In this book William Rusch gives us the most complete study we have of the historical, theological, juridical, and — not least — spiritual dimensions of the ecumenical process of reception. His work will go far to illumine the churches in their ongoing quest for visible unity in obedience to the prayer that 'they may all be one.' " (Norman A. Hjelm — former director of the Faith and Order Commission)