Can a Renewal Movement Be Renewed?: Questions for the Future of Ecumenism by Michael Kinnamon
(Eerdmans, 2014, 176 pages)
Michael Kinnamon’s appraisal of contemporary ecumenism is largely a celebration of the gains that the modern ecumenical movement has made, as well as a set of suggestions for churches who would like to see those gains furthered. He is very realistic about where the movement is and the loss of momentum since the ecumenical heyday of the twentieth century. However, on the whole, he communicates hope about the increased level of dialogue, fellowship, and understanding between Christian traditions and in interfaith dialogue.
Kinnamon is a seasoned ecumenical leader, and his analysis is rooted in extensive engagement in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. This is really the strong suit of the book. There are no large scale proposals for denominational unification or grand theories about the relationship between religious traditions. Rather, Kinnamon offers practical insight about how churches can more effectively work together on both a local and a global level and how religious leaders can facilitate and maintain constructive interaction across traditions.
In fact, one of the more interesting chapters in the book models the kind of interfaith dialogue that Kinnamon encourages. In Chapter 5, “How Can We Deal with the Tough Issues in Jewish Christian Relations?” Kinnamon discusses his friendship with Rabbi Steve Gutow, the chief executive officer of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and offers guidelines for maintaining a supportive relationship between interfaith dialogue partners. The guidelines draw on concrete examples from their friendship, and Gutow provides a response at the end of the chapter. I found this to be the most interesting part of the book, in part because the authors display a strong friendship despite clear points of serious disagreement.