Christians do not share a common table. Doctrine, customs, culture, and history divide the Churches along many lines. So how can a separated Church celebrate the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christian communion? In A Church Without Borders Jeffrey Vanderwilt examines the connections between the Church, the Eucharist, and salvation in light of the ecclesiology of communion.
When Christians gather for the Lord's supper, they form their Christian life because of the Eucharist. Members of Churches receive their knowledge of the paschal mystery first-hand in the Eucharist and an understanding of the Church at the very same table, a borderless table.
VanderWilt states that our knowledge of communion is related to our concepts of the Church, of the Eucharist, and of salvation in Christ. For the Church, to exist in communion is to exist ecumenically. The Eucharist is where we learn what it means to know and love God in the knowledge and love of one another. The local Church is where we learn to be possessed by God in the communion of love, and where Christians of all denominations learn to be possessed by one another in that same love.
In A Church Without Borders VanderWilt examines the concept of koinonia (communion) from multiple perspectives, and evaluates the contribution of Jean-Marie Tillard to the ecclesiology of communion, with emphasis on the concepts of participation, presence, sacrifice, and salvation. The problem of essentialist tendencies in current Roman Catholic approaches to ecumenical problems (including the encyclical Ut unum sint) is addressed. In the final chapters VanderWilt suggests that the history of the Church's eucharistic activity describes an ecumenism through time (paradosis).
A Church Without Borders is for those concerned about the unity of the Churches, who are touched by the divisions that yet exist among the Churches. The ecumenical dialogue has struggled with issues such as ministry and authority, the role and exercise of the papacy, or the meaning of ordination, but these concerns have now been joined by others: the authority of the Church to ordain women, the status of gay and lesbian Christians, and Christian culture among non- European peoples. Such apparent growth in disagreement suggests a future of more division among the Churches, not less. In A Church Without Borders VanderWilt stresses that the "borderless" Church of the infinite love of Christ exists; divided Churches need only receive the communion of God as their innermost nature at the borderless table of God's kingdom.
Chapters are "Communion in Christ," "Communion Ecclesiology," "Church and Eucharist in Ecumenical Perspective," "Ecumenism at Risk," "Church of GodA Communion of Local Churches," "The Eucharistic Succession of the Church," and "Borderless Church."
Jeffrey VanderWilt, PhD, is assistant professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.