The last century seems to be both the best of times and the worst of times for ecumenical unity. On the one hand, there were the Faith and Order movement and the World Council of Churches; in the Catholic Church there was the Second Vatican Council; more recently, there were important papal encyclicals and several ground-breaking statements of bilateral and multilateral dialogues outlining areas of doctrinal convergences and concrete proposals for church union. Among these to be noted are Pope John Paul II's Ut Unum Sint (1995), the Faith and Order's Lima document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (1982), the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission's The Gift of Authority (1999), the joint declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by Lutherans and Catholics (1999). On the other hand, the post-1970s era has been characterized as a time of "ecumenical winter" summarized, with evident frustration, by Michael Root, one of the contributors to the volume under review: "Dialogue followed dialogue, commission followed commission, but nothing happened" (167).
The Unity We Have and The Unity We Seek is a well chosen title for the book which is a collection of papers given at a conference by the same name held at Westcott House, Cambridge, in September 1999. It expresses the twin focus, retrospective and prospective, of the present study on ecumenical unity and serves as a convenient way of organizing the essays in two parts. The first part contains essays by Urs Von Arx on the relationship among the identity, plurality and unity of the churches from the Old Catholic perspective; Nicholas Sagovsky on the shape of a future joint declaration of Anglicans and Roman Catholics; David Carter on the possible gains and losses of Methodists in pursuing the ecumenical task; Peter McEnhill on the contributions of the Reformed Churches to the ecumenical cause; Jeremy Morris on the impact of church unity on the local churches by focusing on the experiences of the churches in Britain; Keith Clements on the future of ecumenism in the "New Europe"; and Valentin Dedjii on ecumenism in Africa.
The second part offers essays by Michael Root and Mary Tanner on the various models for church union; Jean-Marie Tillard on the new ecclesial, cultural and socio-political challenges for ecumenical work; Christopher Hill on the possible future directions and foci for ecumenism; and Nicholas Sagovsky on the implications of 2 Peter for ecumenical work. The book closes by reproducing the "Guidelines for the Growing Cooperation among the Churches in Europe" issued by the Conference of European Churches and the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (2001).
Needless to say, it is not feasible to review each and every essay. Suffice it to say that all of the essays are well informed, attractively written, and inspired by a genuine and deep love and concern for the church. The authors are not naive about the prospect of a union of churches in the near future; their profound knowledge of and active participation in the ecumenical movement have inoculated them with realism and caution. Nevertheless, they hold out the hope for and have indicated a secure path toward the unity of the churches. Should the reviewer be permitted to single out, perhaps arbitrarily, the essays that he considers most illuminating, the ones by Nicholas Sagovsky, Michael Root, Mary Tanner, Christopher Hill, and Jean-Marie Tillard (to whom the book is dedicated) deserve careful reading.
While the book is very helpful in taking stock of past ecumenical achievements and chartering the future course for church unity, it would have been enriched by essays on the contributions and challenges of the Orthodox and Pentecostal Churches to the ecumenical cause as well as the (alas, much neglected) ecumenical situation in Asia and Latin America.