Monday, October 27, 2014

New publication--"Free Church Theology, the Pilgrim Church, and the Ecumenical Future"

The new issue of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies (vol. 49, no. 3, Summer 2014) includes my journal article "Free Church Theology, the Pilgrim Church, and the Ecumenical Future" (pp. 420-42). The précis published at the beginning of the article follows below:

Within the framework of receptive ecumenism, this essay addresses the question: is there anything distinctive about theology in the Free Church tradition that constitutes some portion of the ecclesial gifts that the rest of the church might contemplate receiving from the Free Churches? The author’s own Baptist tradition serves as a particular example that represents the larger Free Church tradition in this connection. A survey of the international bilateral dialogues with Baptist World Alliance participation reveals a Free Church theology that is both radically biblical and radically catholic and yet relentlessly pilgrim in its resistance to overly realized eschatologies of the church and its doctrinal formulations. After establishing connections between Free Church and ecumenically shared expressions of a pilgrim church theology, the essay concludes by proposing seven ecclesiological theses rooted in the narrative Christology of Baptist theologian James Wm. McClendon, Jr., regarding what it might mean ecumenically for the church to embody the story of Jesus as a pilgrim people.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

French Baptist sole female fraternal delegate to Synod on Family

Today the Extraordinary Synod on the Family convened by Pope Francis concludes the first week of its two-week gathering at the Vatican. The synod is intended to be representative of the universal church: among the 253 men and women from five continents participating in the synod are not only Catholic clerical representatives, including 114 presidents of Catholic bishops' conferences, 13 heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and 25 heads of divisions of the Roman Curia among Catholic clerical representatives, but also laypersons--including 13 married couples and 16 experts in various fields germane to the matters under discussion--as well as 8 "fraternal delegates." representing non-Catholic traditions. Among these, Valérie Duval-Poujol, a professor of biblical exegesis at the Catholic Institute of Paris, France, is representing the Baptist World Alliance and is the only woman among the eight fraternal delegates to the synod. On Friday, October 10, she gave an address to the synod. A transcript of her address appears on the web site of the Fédération des Églises Évangéliques Baptistes de France (en Français). Earlier this week she was interviewed on Vatican Radio (audio also en Français).

Prof. Duval-Poujol, whose academic specialty is Septuagintal studies, serves as President of the Ecumenical Commission of the Protestant Federation of France and is a member of the Baptist delegation to conversations between the BWA and the World Methodist Council. An interview with Duval-Poujol about her role as a fraternal delegate to the synod appears on the web site of the Protestant Federation of France (print; also en Français). (In the course of the interview she also mentions the work of an ongoing national bilateral dialogue between Baptists and Catholics in France that has produced several significant reports on their work over the past two decades, including most recently a document summarizing their conversations on Mary.)

The other seven fraternal delegates to the synod are as follows. Ecumenical Patriarchate: His Eminence Athenagoras, metropolitan of Belgium; Patriarchate of Moscow: His Eminence Hilarion, president of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, Russian Federation; Coptic Orthodox Church: His Eminence Bishoy, metropolitan of Damietta, Kafr Elsheikh and Elbarari, Egypt; Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch: His Eminence Mar Yostinos, archbishop of Zhale and Bekau, Lebanon; Anglican Communion: His Grace Paul Butler, bishop of Durham, England, Great Britain; Lutheran World Federation: Mr Ndanganeni Petrus Phaswaha, president of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in South Africa; World Communion of Reformed Churches: Rev. Benebo Fubara-Manuel, president of the Nigerian Communion of Reformed Churches, Nigeria.

(Many thanks to Jane Stranz, a French Reformed pastor who coordinates ecumenical relations on the staff of the Fédération protestante de France, for making me aware of Prof. Duval-Poujol's participation in the synod via Twitter and Facebook contacts.)

Update: A YouTube clip is available from a press conference in which Valérie Duval-Poujol summarizes (in French) her address to the synod, beginning at 14:58 in the clip. After she speaks, a translator summarizes her remarks to the press corps in English.

Update #2: Jane Stranz has posted as a Facebook note an English translation of the text of Prof. Duval-Poujol's address to the synod on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance.

Friday, September 26, 2014

GWU Divinity Professor Reviews New U2 Album (Office of University Communications)

The Gardner-Webb University Office of University Communications has published a story drawing on my review of U2's new album Songs of Innocence for Associated Baptist Press / Herald and my radio interview for the campus radio station WGWG. The press release "GWU Divinity Professor Reviews New U2 Album" begins:

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. —U2 forged a music career by blending the spiritual and secular worlds, and the band revisits its theological roots in its latest album, Gardner-Webb University Professor Dr. Steve Harmon offered in recent reviews for the Associated Baptist Press and WGWG.org.

Harmon teaches in the GWU School of Divinity and specializes in Christianity, religion and theology.  After discovering U2 as a high school student about 30 years ago, he has maintained an interest in the band, often reviewing the group’s albums...(read the full story at Gardner-Webb University NewsCenter)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

U2 Songs of Innocence radio interview


Last week I sat down in the studios of WGWG, the campus radio station of Gardner-Webb University, to discuss U2's new album Songs of Innocence (on which I had previously offered my theological first impressions in an Associated Baptist Press / Religious Herald guest commentary). The embedded SoundCloud player above should play the interview (which also includes three full-length songs from the album thanks to Gardner-Webb's streaming license) within this blog post; here is the direct SoundCloud link:

https://soundcloud.com/wgwgdotorg/u2s-new-album-dr-steven-harmon.

(I should point out by way of correction that contrary to a comment in the interview introductory remarks, the members of the band were not all "Catholic schoolboys" once upon a time.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Updated information on January 2015 ecumenism course at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity

Peter and Andrew Embracing, icon
presented in 1964 by Pope Paul VI to
Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras
Important format and date updates for the January 2015 short-term M.Div. course on ecumenism I'm teaching at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity:

DSTH 401 Special Topics in Theology: The Quest for Christian Unity will now be offered as a one-week intensive course Monday, January 5 through Friday, January 9, 8:00 A.M.-4:30 P.M. each day.

The new format and schedule may make it possible for additional students to take advantage of this opportunity, which is available not only to current Gardner-Webb divinity students but also to students enrolled elsewhere who would like to transfer the course credit to their home institutions, to non-degree students, and to registered auditors. For more information, see the previous Ecclesial Theology post Ecumenism divinity course opportunity--January 2015 short term.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mount Aloysius College Fall Ecumenical Lectures

Mount Aloysius College
For the information of readers of Ecclesial Theology in Pennsylvania and the surrounding region, I am delivering the Fall Ecumenical Lectures at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania on October 9. At 12:30 I will present the lecture "The Baptist Eschatological Vision and the Ecumenical Future" (registration required); at 3:30 I will present a public lecture, "What Do Catholics Have in Common with Baptists?" (open to the public free of charge).

For more information, see the MAC press release "Mount Aloysius Fall Ecumenical Lectures to Feature Baptist, Catholic Commonality"; to inquire about registration for the luncheon lecture, contact the office of Mount Aloysius College’s Vice President for Mission Integration, Sr. Helen Marie Burns, RSM (814-886-6510 or hburns@mtaloy.edu).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Baptist theology and Baylor University Press

I received the Fall 2014-Spring 2015 Baylor University Press catalog in the mail at the office yesterday. Its new releases include two substantial constructive projects by Baptist theologians: Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists by Curtis W. Freeman and Baptists and the Communion of Saints: A Theology of Covenanted Disciples by Paul S. Fiddes, Brian Haynes, and Richard Kidd. In addition, BUP is releasing The Collected Works of James Wm. McClendon, Jr., vols. 1 and 2, ed. Ryan Andrew Newson and Andrew C. Wright.

These follow on the heels of BUP's 2012 republication of McClendon's Systematic Theology (vols. 1, 2, and 3). With these publications, Baylor University Press is making significant contributions to the furthering of Baptist constructive theology.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

U2's Songs of Innocence: first impressions (ABP News/Herald)

The Associated Baptist Press / Religious Herald has published my first impressions theological review of the new U2 album Songs of Innocence, "On first take, the latest U2 album still offers grace." Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

I’d told myself I wouldn’t do it this time.

Writing a theological review of the latest U2 album has been de rigueur for me since offering my two cents on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. With increasingly credible rumors pointing to the release of the next album this fall (while I’m deep in the midst of a writing project about the “pilgrim church” character of the Baptist ecclesiological vision in relation to the ecumenical future), I’d decided to enjoy listening to whatever the band released but excuse myself from the self-imposed expectation to publish something about it.

Then I made the mistake of intermittently watching the live stream of Apple’s Sept. 9 product launch for its iPhone 6 and Apple Watch to see how the rumored U2 involvement in that event would unfold....(read the full article at ABP News/Herald)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In Memoriam: Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014)

Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg died Friday, September 6 at the age of 85. Pannenberg's former student Philip Clayton, a theologian at Claremont School of Theology, has blogged a nice personal tribute on Tony Jones' blog.

Most theological students recognize Pannenberg's name as a theologian mentioned in their systematic theology courses, probably in connection with concepts of revelation and Christology (the two loci in which I consistently reference Pannenberg in my courses at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity). Fewer may be familiar with his work as an ecumenist. In my article “Ecumenical Theology and/as Systematic Theology,” Ecumenical Trends 38, no.9 (October 2009): 6/134-9/137, 15/143, I wrote this about Pannenberg's ecumenical work:

The close relationship between ecumenical and systematic theology is epitomized by the career of Wolfhart Pannenberg, who long served in the dual role of Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Institute of Ecumenical Theology at the University of Munich, participated actively in various forums for ecumenical dialogue, wrote extensively on ecumenical themes, and treated each of the systematic loci with ecumenical comprehensiveness in his three-volume Systematic Theology with the purpose of contributing to the ecumenical goal of the visible unity of the church clearly in mind (p. 7/135).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ecumenism divinity course opportunity--January 2015 short term

Peter and Andrew Embracing, icon
presented in 1964 by Pope Paul VI to
Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras
In the January 2015 between-semesters term at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, I will be teaching a Master of Divinity course titled "Special Topics in Theology: The Quest for Christian Unity" (DSTH 401). The course will meet in a one-week intensive format January 5-9 (Monday-Friday), 8:00 A.M.-4:30 P.M. each day, on the Boiling Springs campus.

For M.Div. students at Gardner-Webb, the course will fulfill the Historical/Theological Studies Electives requirement for the Pastoral Studies concentration and the General Electives requirement for all concentrations. The course is also open to transient students who are enrolled in a degree program at another institution and wish to arrange transfer credit, as well as to non-degree students and registered auditors.

By the course's conclusion, students should be able to meet these objectives:
  1. Be familiar with the broad outlines of the history of ecclesial divisions and efforts to overcome them.
  2. Consider the current divisions of the church in light of the biblical imperative for Christian unity.
  3. Articulate a theological rationale for ecumenical engagement.
  4. Offer informed responses to some of the key proposals and agreements of the modern ecumenical movement.
  5. Appreciate the quest for Christian unity as central to the task of congregational ministry.
  6. Propose concrete practices of grassroots ecumenical engagement.
In addition to various ecumenical documents available online, the following are the required texts:
Students will also select one of the following books about the ecumenical movement and its future as the subject of a written response and class presentation:
In addition to participation in class lecture and seminar-style discussion sessions, course requirements will include an exam, an analysis of a national- or international-level dialogue between the student's own denominational tradition and another Christian communion, a response to one of the books about the ecumenical movement and its future, and a proposal for practices of concrete ecumenical engagement that can be implemented in local church settings. The exam will be completed at the end of the week; the remaining writing assignments will be due later in the spring.

Gardner-Webb divinity students will register through the usual process. Students at other institutions wishing to arrange transfer credit should confer with their academic dean early in the process and contact Kheresa Harmon, Director of Admissions for the School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb, for information about application procedures for transient students (kharmon@gardner-webb.edu; 704-406-3205). Others interested in taking the course as non-degree students or registered auditors should contact Kheresa Harmon as well. Applications from prospective students for the course not currently enrolled at Gardner-Webb will need to be received by December 1, 2014.