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.]