Harper and Metzger have this book to address the question whether or not the Evangelical Tradition has an ecclesiology. Apparently, the traditional response has been a resounding no, they answer with a resounding yes. Even though the title states that the text is an Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction, the reader needs to be aware that it was written primarily for an evangelical audience. The ecumenical dimension includes insights from Mainline Protestant primarily as well as Catholic and Orthodox theologies sparsely. However, from this statement, the conclusion should not be drawn that the book has no value except for a Protestant evangelical. It could have some appeal to the growing number of Roman Catholic “evangelicals.”
The authors structure the book using a similar approach of Avery Dulles’, Models of Church (Church as Institution, Communion, Sacrament, Herald, Servant and Community of Discipleship). Harper and Metzger devote two chapters to each of their models; one to explicate the model, the second to explore an issue intimately linked to that specific model. The models and issues are as follows: the Church as Trinitarian Community / the Trinitarian Church confronts American Individualism; the Church as Eschatalogical Community / Eschatology, Church, and Ecology; the Church as a Worshipping Community / the Worshipping Church engages Culture; the Church as a Sacramental Community / Sacraments and the Search for the Holy Grail; the Church as a Serving Community / Church Discipline—the Lost Element of Service; the Church as an Ordered Community / the Role of Women in an Ordered Community; The Church as a Cultural Community: Christ, Culture, and the Sermon on the Mount Community / Getting past the Ghettoizing of the Gospel in Today’s Culture; and, the Church as a Missional Community: the Being-Driven Church / From Building Programs to Building God’s Missional Kingdom. At the end of each chapter, the authors have included two to four study questions. The authors have included a section of Recommended Readings, which is arranged according to the chapters (model/issue).
While the text may have limited value for a Roman Catholic ecclesiology course at the undergraduate level, it should be given serious consideration for a graduate level course. It should be on the shelf of every ecclesiologist, especially for those who believe that to do ecclesiology today demands that one have both a global and ecumenical perspective.