Grassroots Ecumenism

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Grassroots Ecumenism

The Way of Local Christian Reunion
    About the book

    The quest for Christian unity has traditionally been initiated at the international level between official leaders of Christian denominations, with the effects of their dialogue expected to trickle down to local Christian communities. In Grassroots Ecumenism,
    Karen Petersen Finch upends this process, proposing an approach to Christian unity that begins in your neighborhood. She draws directly from her experience equipping everyday Christians to know their own Christian tradition more thoroughly and to engage thoughtfully with separated Christians down the street and around the corner.

    Karen Petersen Finch makes a compelling case that laypeople can serve the cause of Christian unity in their local settings as skilled theologians. She shares her personal experience in providing the necessary training, including a candid account of real obstacles that she faced along the way in equipping lay people to be “stewards of doctrine.” This is a wise, theologically solid—and wonderfully readable—book.

    Richard J. Mouw, PhD.
    President Emeritus Fuller Theological Seminary

    The rewards of ecumenical dialogue come alive in Dr. Karen Petersen Finch’s very engaging book. Through her poignant stories of real encounters and outlines of practical skills that can facilitate breakthroughs, this book will inspire readers toward engaging in ecumenical dialogue. She shows the importance of open, honest, and sympathetic acknowledgement of difference. But she also shows that most effective dialogues are surrounded by processes of self- and mutual education, and she provides rich theological and historical background that people can draw upon for deepening dialogue. While the book focuses upon dialogue between Reformed and Catholic traditions, she provides a model of how dialogue across many other kinds of differences can proceed fruitfully.

    Patrick Byrne
    Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Past Director of the Lonergan Institute Boston College

    Karen Petersen Finch is at once a Presbyterian minister and an ecumenical theologian. In this book she tells the fascinating story of a joint Catholic-Protestant Vacation Bible School which spawned a lively experiment in Christian unity with implications far beyond its local origin. Practical, charitable, serious but not stuffy, here is a gift to the Lord’s people everywhere.

    Timothy George
    Distinguished Professor of Divinity Beeson Divinity School of Samford University Co-chair, Evangelicals and Catholics Together

    Ecumenism is sometimes seen as the preserve either of professional theologians and church leaders, or of local churches finding occasions to work and pray together. Karen Petersen Finch shows in this inspiring and informed book that in fact grassroots discussion of doctrinal issues by ordinary folk in churches is not only possible but essential for real ecumenism and effective mission. The book presents a model of “dialoging back” which has potential not just ecumenically but for all those learning to listen and walk together within a particular church, such as current Catholic explorations of synodality. Grassroots Ecumenism is original, practical, and underpinned by deep scholarship. It deserves to be widely read and practiced.

    Dr. Gregory A. Ryan
    Professor of Ecclesiology and Receptive Ecumenism Durham University, UK

    Karen Petersen Finch is a committed ecumenical theologian who is not given to hand wringing over lost momentum in global and national ecumenical institutions. Instead, she turns our attention to congregations, presenting a wise, practical vision and guide to local, grass roots ecumenical engagement. What makes Grassroots Ecumenism compelling are the many ways Karen Petersen Finch weaves together theological depth, process wisdom, practical advice, and honesty about both possibilities and pitfalls. Undergirding all of this is the conviction that ecumenism is a cord of three strands—personal relationships, practical structures, and theological dialogue. Too often, especially in local settings, interchurch efforts rely on a weak cord with only two strands—relationships and structures. Grassroots Ecumenism shows us how serious theological conversation can be the heart and soul of genuine Christian engagement in a world of divided churches.

    Dr. Joseph Small Past Director
    Office of Theology and Worship Presbyterian Church (USA)

    About the author

    The Rev. Dr. Karen Petersen Finch is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and an ecumenical theologian specializing in the Reformed and Roman Catholic traditions. Karen has studied the theological method of Bernard Lonergan, SJ at Gonzaga University and Boston College and has published widely on its application to ecumenical dialogue. Currently, Karen serves as Professor of Pastoral Leadership at the Presbyterian College in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and teaches courses on Ecumenism and the Reformed Tradition for McGill University. She also represents the Presbyterian Church (USA) in the Roman Catholic-Reformed Ecumenical Dialogue in the United States.