Drawing on the writings of German pastor-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jennifer M. McBride constructs a groundbreaking theology of public witness for Protestant church communities in the United States. In contrast to the triumphal manner in which many Protestants have engaged the public sphere, The Church for the World shows how the church can offer a nontriumphal witness to the lordship of Christ through repentant activity in public life.
After investigating current Christian conceptions of witness in the United States, McBride offers a new theology for repentance as public witness, based on Bonhoeffer's thought concerning Christ, the world, and the church. McBride takes up Bonhoeffer's proposal that repentance may be reinterpreted "non-religiously," expanding and challenging common understandings of the concept. Finally, she examines two church communities that exemplify ecclesial commitments and practices rooted in confession of sin and repentance. Through these communities she demonstrates that confession and repentance may be embodied in various ways yet also discerns distinguishing characteristics of a redemptive public witness.
The Church for the World offers important insights about Christian particularity and public engagement in a pluralistic society as it provides a theological foundation for public witness that is simultaneously bold and humble: when its mode of being in the world is confession of sin unto repentance, the church demonstrates Christ's redemptive work and becomes a vehicle of concrete redemption.
Jennifer M. McBride is Board of Regents Chair in Ethics and Assistant Professor of Religion at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. She received her doctorate in philosophical theology from the Religious Studies Department at the University of Virginia and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Religious Practices and Practical Theology at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. McBride serves on the Board of Directors of the International Bonhoeffer Society, English Language Section and is co-editor of Bonhoeffer and King: Their Legacies and Import for Christian Social Thought.
"This refreshing study of Christian activism appeals to Bonhoeffer's deeply Luteheran Christology and transcends the usual stereotypes of evangelicals as right-wingers and mainliners as left-wingers...this books merits attention, not only as a Bonhoeffer study but also as the witness of the social consciousness of McBride herself, a young evangelical."--Lutheran Quarterly
"I am interested in convincing as many people as possible to purchase and read this book."--Word & World
"This remarkable study is important in two aspects: it is theology with Bonhoeffer beyond Bonhoeffer, and it is translating Bonhoeffer's ecclesiology into the free church and democratic system of the USA. This is public theology at its best." --Professor Jürgen Moltmann, author of The Theology of Hope
"The Church for the World
is an important book that deserves a wide audience inside and outside the academy. Critics of the religious right and the religious left abound; yet alternative visions of public witness often remain abstract or nostalgic. Blending ethnography and profound theological analysis, McBride offers a first-rate study of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that shows what confession and repentance might look like for today's church and world." --Eric Gregory, Professor of Religion, Princeton University
"The Church for the World
is a fine theological account of how North American Protestants can render non-triumphalist public witness in a pluralist setting. The close reading and use of Bonhoeffer's theology, together with ethnographic studies of church communities, give McBride's work gratifying nuance and depth." --Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary