Thus we hope that the findings of this Oslo conference and subsequent processes will also be made heard in the Busan assembly next year. To summarize my starting point in other words: Theology is an imperative for ecumenism. And ecumenism is an imperative for doing theology today. Theological reflection today requires attitudes, a culture and structures of mutual accountability of theology within the wider ecumenical context. We all need to be challenged by others. And we also need to be able to challenge others in an accountable way.
Ecumenical sensitivity and competence in theology and theological education widen the horizons of denominational theology. Proper Christian theology relates to, reflects and nurtures the mission of the church to serve the one humanity and the one creation, building a culture of a just peace day by day. Denominational identity and reference do not have to be contrary to ecumenical theology and theological education, but there is no future for any denominational identity or theology without solid ecumenical accountability and global responsibility. The historical role of theology for the formation of European universities and for the formative period of the missionary and ecumenical movement.
Theological Education in an Era of Globalization: Some Critical Issues
Let me continue my reflection with a second step, a short threefold historical reminder on the role of Christian theology in Europe, in the churches of the South and the ecumenical movement which might be helpful for an international forum of this kind:. Theology was liberative for those who were enslaved and dehumanized by the ancient mafia of a harbor town who misused women for money Acts 16,16ff. Theology was provocative for those who were disturbed by the Christian mission as it questioned false Gods and dependencies Acts 16,19ff. Theology was inviting for a religious discourse for those who were seekers from popular religious and philosophical background, but without any deeper knowledge of the essence of Christian faith Paul in Athens, Acts 17,16ff.
In other words: Theology and theological education in earliest times were related both to the wider church as well as to the world. Christian theology was accountable, contextual and multi-faceted from its very beginning, sensitive to different audiences and religious settings. Thus from the very beginning there is not just one model and primary venue for theological education, but several settings.
In the situation of St. Paul there seemed to have been at least two, the synagogue and the market place. Theological teaching and reasoning took place within the religious community - at that time the Jewish synagogue or the first small Christian local communities - as well as in dialogue with the general public, the audience of the market place.
Thus we can say that in the synagogue-type and the market-place-type both church related seminaries as well as theological faculties in public university settings are pre-configured as prominent and important places for theological discourse and reflection. Both types of theological training and discourse are alive and vital in different settings of World Christianity, each of which contribute to the one crucial task to allow for public witness of the Gospel in dialogue with contemporary society.
It was around theological faculties that universities were built up in this context. It is worth recalling that Christian theology historically was inseparably bound together with the creation of the moral and cultural fabric of European societies in past centuries.
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From the rise of the institution of the university in the late Middle Ages onward, Christian theology - because of its base in divine revelation - was regarded as the highest and dominant faculty, superior to the faculties of arts and sciences, the faculties of law and medicine.
With the Protestant Reformation - having liberated theology from the rigid, scholastic framework and emphasizing its existential and biblical character and leaning strongly on the universities like Wittenberg, Marburg, Zurich or Geneva - a development began which led to the historical alliance between Christian faith and critical reasoning in higher education — an alliance which was to mark the face of Protestant Christianity to some extend this has also become a mark of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe in subsequent centuries.
Visiting several Orthodox theological institutions over the last years, I have become aware of the substantial work in many countries to renew and to establish these institutions after the communist period. Many of these institutions combine open-minded academic work with the formation of those who have the call to serve the churches. The orthodox theological faculties in countries like Greece haven another history and have had this dual objective for a long period of time. According to the biblical foundations and the understanding of theological education as it is held by a majority of WCC member churches both the spiritual, ethical and priestly formation personal transformation dimensions of theological education as well as the academic research aspect of critical reasoning academic competence are two sides of the same coin and inseparably related to each other.
This may lead to the question how current trends in higher education university environments allow for an integration of the personal transformation and the academic competence aspects within the integrated learning process of given institutions of theological education. This is a question which is at the heart of this very institution and its establishment more than year ago and which also should remain on its agenda in the present and the future. The interrelation between faith and education found visible expressions in uncounted examples of schools, church related seminaries and universities.
Being Church in Europe Today: Migration through a theological lens
It is the commitment to education in Christian mission which led to the fact that a substantial number, if not a majority, of educational institutions in countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America was founded by Christian mission. It was therefore quite natural that in an early phase of the International Missionary Council founded a key commitment was made to build up indigenous forms of theological education in the churches of the South. It also found its visible expression in its commitment to the Bossey Ecumenical Theological Institute founded in which contributes to capacity building through Master of Ecumenical Theology programs for all WCC member churches and beyond.
It was in the missionary movement that theological reflections on Christian unity and witness for justice and peace were becoming most urgent and pressing. This was also a dimension of how to respond to colonialism and the need to establish another paradigm in a post-colonial period. It should be remembered that it often were theologians who lead the struggle for liberation from colonial bondage. Through the work of the WCC programme on theological education new trends for contextual theologies, for inculturation of the Gospel and for more authenticity in theological reflection in the churches of the South were gaining ground.
Key themes of the international ecumenical theological discourse in the second half of the last century, such as the debate on Gospel and Culture, Church and racism, Christian and national identity, Christianity and other world religions, Christian faith and world peace were all pre-configured and reflected upon in the world missionary movement and its conferences related to International Missionary Council IMC.
Thus the influence and role of theological reflections from theological faculties, institutes and seminaries on earlier stages of the ecumenical movement was quite remarkable and high. The ecumenical movement of the post World-War-II period also can be seen as a passionate attempt of committed academic theologians to correct and widen the theological horizon of Christian churches, particularly those churches which theologically had not been sufficiently able to resist the temptations of narrow minded nationalistic or racist and colonialist ideologies in the decades before. The ecumenical movement was — in some countries at least - a movement of theological metanoia!
It were the best and most qualified academic theologians and church leaders in the founding period of the WCC in the first decades after the end of Second World War who contributed actively to the early formation of the ecumenical movement and the WCC. It is an open question therefore to what extent this heritage of a coalition between Christian faith and higher education, between academic theologians and the ecumenical movement, which has marked the first century of the ecumenical movement, will continue to mark also the future. The situation both of fragmented World Christianity as well as a deeply divided world at the beginning of the 21st century essentially calls for a renewed ecumenical commitment and movement.
This movement needs the informed participation, committed solidarity and solid contribution of academic Christian theologians in all the various disciplines in order to serve the unity of the church and to bear witness to the unity of humankind and the integrity of creation. That is one reason why we called together this consultation. Most of us are familiar with the general trends of the so-called gravity shift in World Christianity from the North to the South which has accelerated in the past three decades.
Many also know that this shift in concentration from the North to the South also implies a re-balancing of denominational composition and spiritual vitalities: Alongside with "historic Protestant churches" new charismatic or independent churches which are more evangelical, Pentecostal, or indigenous in outlook play a major role everywhere.
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Pentecostal churches which are only about one century old now account for nearly one-quarter of the global Christian community. Fewer colleagues in academic theology in the West have the chance to realize and learn from important new theological developments in the churches of the South which have become more self-conscious and contextual in their own theological reflections. How many books are there in western theological libraries on recent Asian or African contextual theologies? New prophetic and cultural theologies are a vivid expression of the inner pluralization and dynamic and diverse contextualization of World Christianity.
Global Christianity as a field of study does research on churches and other Christian phenomena in relation to global, international and intercultural developments and contacts. When studying contemporary Christianity one cannot avoid other religions. All religions are mixtures of several other religions, as well as religious and cultural ideas, so that any study of religion should be interreligious to begin with.
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However, one needs to keep in mind that all religious ideas are expressed in a culture and all religion is, therefore, culture. It is impossible to draw clear boundaries between religion and culture. For the same reasons, it can be difficult to draw a line between one religion and another, especially when it comes to lives religion. Even if some differences between religions were clear in principle, in practice they can be blended in the lives of the believers.
Power structures and economic structures are also present in all cultures and religions which makes them, Christianity included, platforms of cultural, political, economic and religious power struggles. Today, relations between religions have increased drastically. They also become increasingly important because they are not only relations of nonchalance or tolerance.
Sometimes the cooperation between religions or churches can contribute to a better world like the joint effort of Christians, Muslims and Jews against South African Apartheid or American Southern racial discrimination. Research of such cooperation can help benchmarking it for other situations to follow. It is also common that interreligious relations are characterized by competition or even enmity. In cases of enmity, ethnic, political, cultural and economic interests intermingle.
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Interreligious research can contribute to alleviate these problems through deepening the understanding of such conflicts and by proposing theological ideas that help the parties to see each other as something else than enemies. Bordering systematic theology and philosophy of religion, this discipline studies the theological and ethical consequences of the above. It may happen in the form of analysis of contextual or interreligious theologies, or through constructing theology on the basis of ecumenical and interreligious encounters. In this case one utilizes different methods of textual analysis and hermeneutical approaches.
In this discipline, one often studies empirically Christian communities concentrating on how different cultural, religious, and theological phenomena interact. It dawned on me that if there is a unique symbol of globalization, it is football! Some plus nations are members of FIFA and the World Cup is the largest televised event ever, globally watched in real time!
The game is a unique expression of global solidarity, friendship and interconnectivity. The growing popularity of soccer in the United States, surprisingly, drew the ire of a political columnist. While there are good reasons to celebrate the shrinking of our world into a global village bringing with it enrichment of cultures and the globalization of knowledge and sensitivity to the diversity of cultures and worldviews, there are also equally good reasons to fear the negative effects of this phenomenon. Positively speaking, globalization has deepened our awareness of and sensitivity to the interdependence of people and societies around the world.
Negatively, it contributes to the homogenization of cultures by repressing local and cultural identities, erosion of social and cultural values and exacerbating nationalism, tribalism, ethnic and interreligious conflicts. The growing expansion of Christianity world-wide, especially in the Evangelical and Pentecostal manifestations, is part and parcel of this new phenomenon. The intensification of the globalization process in recent decade however has forced us to rethink our engagement with this reality with respect to theology and theological education.
In addition, theologians in the West have begun to pay attention to theologies emerging from non-Western cultures in light of the demographic shifting of the Christian concentration to the Southern hemisphere.
Being Church in Europe Today: Migration through a theological lens | CEC
The disestablishment of Christianity in Europe and the gradual decline of allegiance to the Christian faith in North America are some factors that have forced theologians to look at World Christianity for insights and inspiration. The assumption of self-sufficiency of Western theological reflection has been radically questioned by theologies emerging from the global South.
Most theological schools and colleges these days offer courses in World Christianity, World Religions, interfaith dialogue and other elective courses in contextual, ethnic specific, postmodern and post-colonial theologies. The cultural, ethnic, racial and national diversity encountered in classrooms in North America has also forced theological educators to engage with wider global perspectives. Theological schools, especially those with an international faculty or students, in varying degrees have already begun to rethink their curriculum in the face of global realities.
While incremental changes are afoot there are some significant issues that still need to be addressed if theological education in North America is responsive to global realities. I would like to articulate five interrelated issues for our consideration. The Latin Captivity of the Church. That phrase perhaps best captures the state of theology in the globalized world. Both theology and theological education, notwithstanding our newly developed global awareness, invariably privilege European and Euro-American traditions over other theological perspectives. This is true not only in North America but also in the majority world or the global South.