Church as Fullness in All Things: Recasting Lutheran Ecclesiology in an Ecumenical Context

Edited by Jonathan Mumme, Richard J. Serina Jr., and Mark W. Birkholz

Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2019. 250 pages. Hardcover. $95.00.

Reviewed by Martin R. Noland on 08/03/2020

There are really two distinct parts to this collection of essays. The first part considers the church from the standpoint of doctrinal, exegetical, historical, and practical perspectives. The second part, headed “Section IV,” offers essays by Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Reformed scholars about how their ecclesiastical traditions understand the “church” in ways similar to, or divergent from, Lutherans.

In the first part, Jeremiah Johnson addresses the problem of modern American notions of individual autonomy that push against commitments to community and church. Paul Elliott addresses how the complaint psalms assume a community context for worship. Alexander Kupsch reviews the ecclesiology of Christian Danz, Christoph Schwöbel, and Wolfhart Pannenberg. Mark Birkholz critiques, on the basis of the Book of Acts, the idea that non-pastors may preach. James Prothro gives a balanced treatment of Ephesians 4:12. Richard Serina supplies the medieval context for the doctrine of the church found in Luther and the Confessions. Roy Coats examines the historic roots of the Augustana’s distinction between the powers of order and jurisdiction. Jonathan Mumme reviews the doctrine of the church as found in Ernst Kinder. John Bombaro offers an illuminating exposition on the marks of the church, attached to questions of order and episcopacy. Jari Kekäle considers the practical “first-article” issues involved in parish and synod life today, from his perspective as a confessional Lutheran pastor in Finland.

This book offers a renewed Lutheran understanding of the church, which if widely received, would go a long way toward curing what ails our Lutheran synods today.