In this book John Fuellenbach, SVD, a theologian at the Gregorian in Rome, aims to set forth a vision of the church understood wholly from the standpoint of the kingdom of God. Stating that he takes a specifically Roman Catholic theological approach, the author defines the kingdom as that to which Jesus pointed and also embodied, that which God was bringing to fulfillment in sending Jesus and the Spirit. The community, i.e. the church, that formed when Jesus' disciples let God's love and power transform them was thus a community for the kingdom.
This study is structured in two major divisions. First the church in Scripture and in Vatican II is surveyed. This section includes a careful scriptural and theological treatment of whether Jesus intended to found a church. Then various models of the church are explored (e.g. church as community of disciples, institutiton, communion, sacrament, herald, servant). With respect to the future, Fuellenbach concludes that the church will have two major issues to deal with if it wants to remain faithful to the kingdom entrusted to it, namely, if it wants to continue to announce good news to the poor. These are inculturation and solidarity with the poor in the process of globalization. To this end he favors employing two complementary models for the future: the church as basic ecclesial communities and the church as a contrast society. The former image functions especially well in meeting the need for inculturation and localization of the church, particularly in Asia, Latin America and Africa, where the numbers in the church will be greatest. The latter model effectively promotes solidarity with the poor since it sees the church as primarily a community in which justice and compassion are the basic rules of conduct, values the church must in turn demand from the societies in which it is embedded. Fuellenbach urges the adoption of this latter model with a stern warning that if the church puts concern for the poor and marginalized in second or third place, it will not have much to say in the future and will have betrayed its very purpose, the proclamation of the kingdom.
The broad scope of Fuellenbach's book, his incorporation of a great deal of engaging global data and the clarity with which his text is written make this ideal reading for graduate or advanced undergraduate students of ecclesiology. The author's candor about the institutional church, yet unambiguous personal commitment as well, enhance the text's spirit of a sincere grappling to formulate a contemporary ecclesiology and a trajectory toward the future.