David J. B. Trim and Daniel Heinz, eds., Parochialism, Pluralism, and Contextualization: Challenges to Adventist Mission in Europe (19th–21st Centuries), Adventistica 9 (Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang, 2010), 208 pages, hardcover, $61.95, reviewed by Gerald A. Klingbeil, associate editor of Adventist Review.
he title is a mouthful, the printing requires good eyesight—but the content of this recently published book is definitely worth a read. The volume, coedited by Newbold College history lecturer David Trim and Friedensau University professor Daniel Heinz, contains some of the papers that were read in a 1999 conference entitled “From Persecution to Pluralism,” held at Newbold College, and marking (then) 125 years since the first official Adventist missionary, J. N. Andrews, set foot on European soil and began the great adventure of Adventist cross-cultural mission. It appears in a series (Adventistica) that contains a number of important, research-based volumes dealing with Adventist history in Europe and other parts of the world, and is published by the European Historical Archives of Seventh-day Adventists.
The book is divided into 15 chapters, written by 13 authors, and looks at Adventist mission to Europe from a historical as well as a missiological perspective. Trim’s helpful introduction (pp. 9-29), a good read and chockfull of insightful and challenging observations, serves as a faithful guide to the following essays and formulates the basic discussion points of the conference participants.
Among them are the following—and I suggest you put on your safety belts, as my word count is ticking: that the essentially North American nature of early Adventism has often led to challenging moments when it came to transplanting it to Europe (pp. 9, 10); that the greatest persecution of European Adventists has been by Eastern Orthodox Churches—and not the Catholic Church (p. 11); that pluralism and secularism are affecting the church’s mission and members alike (pp. 12-15); that learning from the past may help in navigating the future successfully (pp. 17-20); and that organizational structures should be both culturally sensitive and expedient for the mission of the church (pp. 24-26).
Edited volumes always present a reviewer with a conundrum: how can one do justice to everybody’s perspective in a limited amount of space? Let me bypass this problem by simply listing some of the topics covered in the chapters: H. Leonard reviews the Adventist rubicon, namely Andrews’ mission to Europe; D. Heinz assesses the contributions of three major players in the development of European Adventism (Czechowski, Andrews, and Conradi); E. Baumgartner reviews leadership styles in the emerging Adventist Church from 1864-1914 and applies what he has learned to current leadership theory; C. Peake describes the relationship of early twentieth-century Adventism in Britain to general society; non-Adventist scholar R. Gerloff looks at a possible distinction between Adventism and Adventist hope from an outsider’s perspective; K. Francis reviews Adventist reactions to Vatican II; R. Bruinsma reviews the interaction between Adventists and other Christians in an ecumenical context; R. Minnerath (a Roman Catholic professor of Strasbourg University) reviews the issue of proselytism in a pluralistic world; B. Beach picks up the same topic and looks at it from an Adventist perspective; D. Belvedere deals with ?the challenges of pluralism for European Christianity; F. Hasel adds a careful theological take on religious pluralism; and P. Roennfeldt asks if Adventism is able to learn the “language of Europe.”
The book is not a quick read, but is (generally) engaging and carefully documented. Adventist theologians, missiologists, administrators, and those passionate about Adventist mission should definitely take the time to read it—even though they may not agree with every author. In a part of the world that is increasingly more secular and pluralistic, learning from the highs and lows of European Adventist history as a way of formulating ways to the hearts and minds of secular Europeans that are solidly based on scriptural principles makes a helpful contribution to a difficult issue.
This article was published May 13, 2010.