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Theology of Ministry in the Twentieth Century: Ongoing Problems or New Orientations? *

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The first World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910 unwittingly provided strong impetus to unprecedented endeavours to establish an ecumenically agreed theology of ministry. Between the first Faith and Order Conference in 1927 and the Fourth in 1963 an ecclesiological revolution occurred. Its distinguishing achievement was to locate the gift of ministry not in ordination or its equivalent but in baptism. This principle was established on the basis of the New Testament term for ministry, diakonia, understood as a total giving of self in service to others. Consensus to this effect developed around the work of Karl Barth, Eduard Schweizer and Ernst Käsemann, but in ecumenical circles strong tensions developed about the implications for ordained ministry. The linguistic study of 1990 Diakonia: Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources challenged the semantics underlying the consensus and provided a new semantic profile for an understanding of ecclesial ministry. The re-interpretation has been endorsed by subsequent lexicography and by Anni Hentschel's semantic investigation (2007). Theology of ministry in the twenty-first century has the opportunity to enrich the ministry with which the church is provisioned.


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