Steven BOGUSLAWSKI and Ralph MARTIN, Editors, The New Evangelization: Overcoming the Obstacles. New York, Paulist Press, 2008, pp.157. $16.95 pb. ISBN-13978-0-8091-4532-4.
Reviewed by Anneris GORIS, La Esperanza Center, New York 10032

The New Evangelization: Overcoming the Obstacles is the outcome of a convocation convened in 2005 in the Archdiocese of Detroit to address challenges raised by Pope Paul II’s call for evangelization in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio. This document called for the church to proclaim Christ particularly to nations which had experienced secularization, nominal Catholics throughout the world, and to those who had never heard about the gospel.

The book is divided into ten chapters. “Vatican II and Evangelization” urges the evangelization and preaching of the gospel to every creature. The church had become a church of tradition, law, sacraments, and priesthood. The “new evangelization” emphasizes the Church’s apostolic mission to proclaim the good news, but the gospel needs to be proclaimed from within a cultural context. “Current Theological Obstacles to Evangelization” deals with how egalitarianism makes evangelization difficult in the United States. “Who can be saved? What Does Vatican II Teaches? A Response to Cardinal Dulles” is about hell, a topic touched on by Cardinal Dulles. Belief in hell is said to be central to “enter through the narrow gate.” In “Reviving the Missionary Mandate,” its author addresses issues of the universal possibility of salvation. “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me” deals with the role of the Holy Spirit in processes evangelization, and explains that the church receives the power of the Holy Spirit to evangelize. “Evangelizing Our Culture” shows how the culture of evangelization itself needs to be transformed since people come to faith in Jesus Christ through the church. For the American situation of resistance to Catholicism, the author presents a five point program of evangelization: starts with the habit of prayer; proclaim the gospel; improve the truth-attaining capacity of human reason; strengthen the relations that are given rather than chosen; and purify our sense of mission.

“From Maintenance to Mission” specifies how to successfully move the church from the status quo to mission. Evangelization will bring revitalization. The church should invite people to make the church a family, reaching out to the 21 million inactive Catholics who feel excluded. Moving from maintenance to mission also addresses the difficult issues of sexual abuse and the confusion that emerged from the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Renewal will include, first, becoming a community of disciples, that is, of life long learners who have a personal relationship with Christ. Second, the church should be more welcoming/inclusive and inviting/reaching out. Third, it should develop a collaborative style of ministry by spreading participation, which involves the formation of “priority action groups.” ENVISION, developed by PNCEA, is a model for accomplishing all of these goals.

"A Pastor’s Response to 'From Maintenance to Mission'" indicates that many priests and deacons do not know how to implement the renewal and evangelization mandated by Pope Paul II, as most ministries are engaged in the maintenance of the status quo and not in the mission of the Church. Many dioceses have become maintenance-oriented and have stopped considering the needs of the people of God which today are the same as when the first disciples were called. There is an urgency for a prophetic invitation for people to “come and see,” which is a key tor evangelization.

The chapter on Latinos indicates that the new evangelization needs to be “inculturated,” and face the challenge in the United States of Latino conversions to Protestantism. This chapter also examines demographic characteristics, immigration, under-representation of Latino priests, the role of laity in worship leadership, and the influence of Charismatic and Pentecostal movements inside/outside the Church. The authors discuss factors that lead to conversion and how to respond, through social justice, youth ministry, leadership, and worship style. The last chapter on “Trends in Global Christianity” emphasizes that Christianity is no longer white and Euro-American, providing a detailed description of the globalization of Christianity. Euro-American Christianity has been moving to the periphery, raising the question of its role in the process of globalization. There are, indeed, in the new evangelization many obstacles to overcome, which are clearly portrayed in this book.

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