Book Review - John Nugent's Radical Ecumenicity

Radical ecumenicity is the idea of being unified through an approach that might seem radical to us.  In the Restoration movement, we have tried to be unified, but our approach does not seem to be working.  This book, through the study of a scholar from another background, hopes to provide as a radical approach to our ancient desire of unity.

Members of the Stone-Campbell movement (non-instrumental Churches of Christ, Independent Churches of Christ/Christian Churches, and Disciples of Christ) would benefit greatly from this exploration of the writings of John Howard Yoder. It is an interesting collection of essays: Four from Mennonites, four from Campbellites, one Reformed, and one Baptist on the teachings of John Howard Yoder, a Mennonite most noted for his book The Politics of Jesus.

Believers seeking unity from outside of the Stone-Campbell movement would find the essays in this book to be insightful, inspiring, and invigorating. It is helpful if you have a basic understanding of the teachings of John Howard Yoder, but the writers generally do a good job of explaining Yoder's writings that they are addressing. The book also includes two essays by Yoder himself: "The Ecumenical Movement and the Faithful Church" and "Is There Historical Development of Theological Thought?".

The first essay alone is worth the price of admission. Lee Camp, the Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics at Lipscomb University, writes a piece exploring unity. He states, "The Mennonites are of significance to those in the Stone-Campbell Movement for our shared historical agenda: attempting to take seriously the witness of the New Testament as the ground and basis for Christian faith and practice" (21). The people from the Stone-Campbell movement are in an ironic position as being people who supposedly are part of and stand for unity, yet they have three distinct and many smaller fragmentations. Camp proposes that it might be time to take a different approach to unity, learning from Campbell, Stone, and Yoder on how to better do this. Camp proposes that "Christian unity does not result...from theological flabbiness, by not taking differences seriously, but by practicing discipleship" (27). In the end, "We may find ourselves able to hold restoration and unity after all" (32).

The other essays continue this theme of rediscovering our pursuit of unity. As expected, some are better than others.

The Stone-Campbell movement and the writers of these essays share with Yoder his high view of the authority of Scripture. With all of the different takes on Yoder these days, the Stone-Campbell scholars attempt, as Nugent put it in his forward, to offer us the opportunity "to learn along with us from Yoder's radically-ecumenical perspective" (16). The opportunity has been provided, we just have to join in the discussion and learn.