Friday, June 15, 2007

The Holy Spirit in the Church

Each July, the Ecumenical Institute at Strasbourg hosts an Ecumenical Summer Seminar. This year, the topic is "Church-State Relations as an Ecumenical Issue." The topic last year (the 40th anniversary of the seminar) was "The Holy Spirit and the Church." In his paper, "Breathed, Justified, Anointed, Enlightened, Filled: The Churches' Life, Separation, and Hope in the Spirit," theologian Telford Work offers an interesting typology of the Church's distinct relationships with the Spirit. Other papers from last summer's seminar can be found by clicking on the "Summer Seminar" link to the left and scrolling to the bottom of the page.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bishops in the Church

This was the theme of the 2007 Convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) which I joined a couple of years ago. In spite of the name, membership in this professional organization is open to Protestant as well as Catholic theologians. Although the flavor of the conversation is decidedly Catholic, there is also a clear commitment to ecumenical theology and dialogue (not to mention reform and renewal--which has not always been appreciated by all members of the church hierarchy. Click here for an anti-CTSA editorial written in June 1997 by Cardinal Bernard Law and here for a forum on the Cardinal's criticism.) For an idea of what topics were addressed at the 2007 convention, check out John Allen's "Daily Column" at the National Catholic Reporter.

One of the plenary addresses was given by Michael Root, Professor of Systematic Theology and Dean of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and fellow member of the U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue. His presentation was entitled: “Bishops, Ministry, and the Unity of the Church in Ecumenical Dialogue: Deadlock, Breakthrough, or Both?” [As an aside, the person who introduced him quoted Bishop Richard Sklba (Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee and co-chair of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue) who quipped to her that "Professor Root knows more about indulgences than most Catholics do." For those interested in a primer, check out Root's article, "Indulgences, Again."]

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Being the Church in the Midst of Empire

I am working on a paper for a seminar of the Lutheran World Federation that will meet in St. Paul, Minnesota at the end of June. The theme of the seminar is "Confessing and Living out Faith in the Triune God: Being the Church in the Midst of Empire." This consultation is part of the larger theological initiative of the LWF, "Theology in the Life of the Church: Confessing and Living out Faith in the Triune God."

The purpose of this seminar is "to probe and further develop key theological motifs (especially as interpreted through Lutheran lenses) that are counter to the assumptions, power dynamics, and outcomes operating under empire and can nurture resistance to such, especially in and through local churches." Approximately 15 Lutheran theologians will participate, at least six from outside the U.S. My paper will focus on the subtitle "being the church in the midst of empire." Up this this point, my work on ecclesiology has focused more on mission and witness in terms of evangelistic outreach. These concerns, of course, are not unrelated to "being the church" in the midst of empire; even so, I am glad for the opportunity to think about ecclesiology more explicitly in light of this reality.

There is an increasing amount of material available on the theme of empire, much of it by biblical scholars. A couple of background articles were suggested to us in preparation for the seminar, including "Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire" by N.T. Wright and "Up Against Caesar: Jesus and Paul against Empire" by John Dart.

In my research for my paper, I also found this piece by William Cavanaugh: "The Empire of the Empty Shrine: American Imperialism and the Church." This was his keynote address to the 2005 annual gathering of the Ekklesia Project. [For those unfamiliar with Cavanaugh, he is part of the newer theological movement called "Radical Orthodoxy." Several of his articles can be found on-line via this link.]