The challenge to mission and dialogue in a pluralist context
Mereweather-Thompson, Cornelius Michel
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This is a study, by qualitative and quantitative research, of the challenges facing mission and dialogue in a plural society. With clearly defined Problem and Background Statements, Aims and Objectives, Central Theoretical Argument and Methodology, it is proposed and introduced in Chapter One with academic precision and objectivity. The global ecumenate (i.e the World Council of Churches) and regional ecumenical bodies (e.g. Africa Consultative Council of Churches) are introduced briefly and circumspectly – at this stage – to help in the process of defining the nature of lines along which the study and research will be conducted. In Chapter Two, the main conceptual terms – pluralism, mission and dialogue – are defined along with the other two terms of the title, challenge and context. The thematic and hermeneutical approaches used to facility the selection and use of biblical and historical material are explained and so are three theological paradigms – pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism – which help to clarify the nature of the problem being investigated and discussed. In Chapter Three, the challenges to mission are discussed with respect to the WCC's work around the world and the divisions within the Church between Liberals and Evangelicals over the role and nature of mission. Problems to be encountered from outside are clearly also fully described. In Chapter Four, the challenges to dialogue are discussed with respect to the WCC's work around the world and the divisions within the Church between Liberals and Evangelicals over the role and nature of dialogue. Problems to be encountered from outside are clearly also fully described. Chapter Five is methodologically the empirical chapter. It makes use of case and field studies to illustrate the challenges and to bring out the problems and possibilities for mission and dialogue. Christians, Muslims and people with no faith are surveyed or interviewed and the results systematically analysed. They indicate some striking findings. Mission and dialogue are not everywhere understood by individuals exactly in the same as they are by their church or group and it is possible that with education people could be more broad-minded about them. These and other findings from the qualitative study are conflated in Chapter Six to reach the final conclusion; namely, that the challenges to mission and dialogue in a plural society are not threatening to the Church's call to be proclaimer of the gospel, but rather they are compellingly propelling of it.
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