Small Christian Communities

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1 Preface Over a period of several decades Basic Ecclesial Communities / Small Christian Communities have succeeded in changing the countenance of the Church, giving it a human, personal, spiritual and good-neighbourly face. It is to the development of these communities that the second volume of the One World Theology edition is devoted. This edition, the product of an initiative by missio in Aachen, is a universal Church forum in which theologians from different local churches set forth their views on theological questions and topical issues. The present volume has five chapters comprising reflections on Basic Ecclesial Communities / Small Christian Communities. In the first chapter the authors consult the biblical sources and examine the extent to which life in Small Christian Communities takes up the biblical vision. Addressing this issue from an African perspective, André Kabasele Mukenge goes back to the Pentecost, the Emmaus pericope and the records in the Acts of the Apostles about the life of the early Christian community in Jerusalem and maps out prospects for life as it is lived in Small Christian Communities. Felix Wilfred, a theologian from India, looks for possible clues in the Bible and points out that it was not the synagogue but the house church that served as a model for the early Christians. Proceeding from the universal Church as a pastoral learning community, Ludwig Schick draws on the experience of Small Christian Communities that he gained in his capacity as Chairman of the Commission for International Church Affairs of the German Bishops Conference, especially during a fact-finding tour to South Korea. Pablo Richard Guzmán, meanwhile, looks at the history of the Ecclesial Base Communities in the documents of the General Conferences of the Latin American Bishops, establishes references to the New Testament and reviews the current debates about the present state and possible future of the Ecclesial Base Communities. ix

2 x Small Christian Communities The articles in the second chapter examine the spirituality of Small Christian Communities. Drawing on the records documenting the life and spirit of the early Christian communities, Nicodème Kalonji Ngoyi considers the consequences they have for the spirituality of the Small Christian Communities, which is characterised by openness, the power of faith and a missionary and prophetic attitude. Victor Hernández begins by venturing a definition, describing spirituality as a source of motivation. Concerning the spirituality of Ecclesial Base Communities, he says that they become a privileged location wherever they afford opportunities for the individual members to develop and demonstrate their qualities. John Mansford Prior, who has been a close observer of Small Christian Communities in Indonesia for very many years, regards Small Christian Communities as a different form of church structure from those that are founded on participation and dialogue. He sees in them the best place to birth and mature a biblical spirituality, the small trusting community where the members themselves learn to live and act joyfully in solidarity with the victims of local and global injustice, where they both spontaneously and consciously fuse the best of their cultural values with those of the Gospel. In his contribution Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst outlines a spirituality which is marked by interaction between the Word and the Sacrament, between gathering and sending out, between the Christian creed and agape. In the third chapter the authors investigate the ecclesiological understanding of the Small Christian Communities. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator examines the ecclesiological character of the Small Christian Communities from an African standpoint. He recalls the statements made in both the post-synodal apostolic exhortations Ecclesia in Africa and Africae munus and elaborates on the extent to which Small Christian Communities form the nucleus of a Christian community and mission. Barbara Sweet-Hansen presents the ecclesiological models of Latin American theologians, amongst others, and advocates an ecclesiology interpreted as being a plural dynamic, which is cultural to the extent that it blends in with the culture of other nations, and political to the extent that it stands in the service of the intellectual progress of the ecclesiastical community itself and reshapes everything. Michael Amaladoss classifies the Small Christian Communities as an ecclesiological reality, of which it can be said that the holy, Catholic and apostolic Church is truly present and active in

3 Preface xi it. Addressing the ecclesiological foundation of the Small Christian Communities, the contribution on A New Way of Being Church points out that these communities form the local church; they practise an ecclesiology of communion and are committed to the mission of the Church. The spiritual encounter with the biblical texts is classified in pneumatalogical terms and placed in the context of communication and the debate within the universal Church. In the fourth chapter the authors trace the historical development of the Small Christian Communities in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe (exemplified for Europe by their growth in Germany). First, Joseph G. Healey describes the progress made by Small Christian Communities in Africa and shows that their emergence there was independent of the processes leading to the formation of Ecclesial Base Communities in Latin America. The European perspective is reflected in the contribution entitled A Spark Ignites a Flame. This discusses the two processes leading initially to the development of Basic Ecclesial Communities (primarily in the 1980s) and then of Small Christian Communities (since the year 2000) in Germany. It examines the extent to which these processes can be seen as a successful example of comparative pastoral ministry in the universal Church as a learning community. José Ferrari Marins subsequently deals with the emergence of Ecclesial Base Communities in Latin America, especially after Medellín (1968), and draws attention to strategic lessons that can be learned from the experience of the past so that (new) life can be breathed into the Ecclesial Base Communities. Estela P. Padilla makes reference in her contribution to a study coordinated by the East Asian Pastoral Institute on Small Christian Communities in Asia and highlights the consequences for the understanding of Church and mission, for the creation of a new image (and understanding) of the Church and for the transformation of the passing on of faith. The final chapter is devoted to the visions of ministry of the Small Christian Communities. Pius Rutechura considers Small Christian Communities to be a fertile ground for the inculturation of the Gospel and the healing of wounds. He recalls the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, in which Small Christian Communities are described as a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on

4 xii Small Christian Communities a civilization of love. Writing from a Latin American perspective, Socorro Martínez Maqueo says that the Ecclesial Base Communities are a process and a way of being Church in permanent development. She highlights the challenges facing the Ecclesial Base Communities, which undertake missionary work and live their commitment to the transformation of society. Thomas Vijay draws attention to the inculturation of the Developing Indian Integral Pastoral Approach (DIIPA), stressing in particular the significance of an authentic, Asian spirituality for the pastoral implementation of this approach. Finally, Christian Hennecke and Dieter Tewes examine the vision of ministry of the Small Christian Communities, which provides the ecclesial framework for the practice of a new way of being Church. They describe the way in which a pastoral approach inspired by basic communities can help to achieve results in Germany, as it has done elsewhere. Numerous terms (sometimes synonymous, sometimes with a specific connotation) are used by the authors to describe the vibrant, spiritually imbued basic ecclesial groups. They range from Small Christian Communities (SCCs), Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) and Basic Christian Communities (BCCs) to Ecclesial Base Communities (CEBs), a term frequently used in the Latin American context. The descriptions used by the authors have not been changed. While this means accepting a linguistic heterogeneity, it helps to safeguard the semantic nuances associated with the individual terms. The different contributions in this volume reflect the lively dialogue within the universal Church, for which we owe a debt of gratitude to the authors but also to many others. Our special thanks go to the staff at missio, who have helped us in devising this volume: Dr. Hadwig Müller, Dr. Marco Moerschbacher, Dr. Otmar Oehring and Prof. DDr. h.c. Raul Fornet-Betancourt. We should also like to thank Michael Meyer for the careful compilation of the manuscripts. We sincerely hope that this volume will help to stimulate interest in the pastoral model of Small Christian Communities / Basic Ecclesial Communities. Klaus Krämer Klaus Vellguth

5 SMALL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES Fresh Stimulus for a Forward-looking Church 2 Edited by Klaus Krämer and Klaus Vellguth Claretian Publications Quezon City, Philippines

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