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Author: Harald Neervoort

IAPT 2021 conference, Leuven, Belgium!

IAPT 2021 conference, Leuven, Belgium!

Coping with crisis: hospitality, security, and the search for faithful connections

IAPT conference, Leuven, Belgium,

Thursday 8 (16:00u) – Monday 12 July (22:00u) 2021

 

Local Committee:

Annemie Dillen (Chair; KU Leuven); Axel Liégeois (KU Leuven), Anne Vandenhoeck (KU Leuven), Amy Casteel (PhD Student, KU Leuven, associate member), Armin Kummer (PhD student, KU Leuven, associate member), Jack Barentsen (ETF), Jos De Kock (ETF), Arnaud Join-Lambert (UCL – Louvain-la-Neuve)

 

Many people around the world consider their lives and the world as threatened. Climate change and global ecological threats are real threats. Old age and widening inequality are impending socio-economic threats faced by many. In some countries, including Belgium, these are compounded by fears of terrorism and racism.

 

Balancing human rights and privacy with security and surveillance is increasingly difficult and is continuously negotiated. Political and religious movements – fundamentalist, nationalist, ethnocentric – pay attention to the fear and anxiety among many people by supporting their indulgence to fence themselves off from others.

 

This conference considers the multidimensional phenomenon of ‘crisis’ in both its sense of threat and opportunity. How are people coping with experiences of crisis? In what way does the rhetoric of fear and crisis mobilize people for social action? Does the current sense of ‘crisis’ lead to valuable and effective positive actions or does it overwhelm our senses, paralyzing our ability to act? And what does the experience of ‘crisis’ imply for contemporary theological conversations?

 

Communities respond to the sense of ‘crisis’ and anxiety in a variety of ways. Through formal and informal discourses they create a sense of connectedness and belonging among the like-minded. This is true for formal faith communities as well as newer forms of ‘implicit religion’ (such as sports, political parties, groups for social activism). Faith communities try to offer answers to various forms of fear, as they stimulate people’s hope. Such responses are incurably ambiguous, balancing competing demands and values in an effort to both protect and reach out. This leads to many interesting questions for practical theology.

 

How do we evaluate societal and religious reactions to the ‘sense of crisis’ in our globalized world? Do the reactions of religious groups stimulate connections that empower people to cross social boundaries or do they adopt new forms of tribalism, focused on security, that protect against and thus exclude the other? How do faith communities strike a balance between an ethic of hospitality towards ‘the other’ and an ethic of security, which nurtures and protects treasured traditions and identities? Which religious practices and experiences (of groups and individuals) nurture trust towards others, and what forms of practice (implicitly or explicitly) encourage anxiety and self-protection instead? Who benefits from various approaches, and what are their dangers? How can hope, trust, and faith be nurtured on a micro, meso- and macrolevel in an atmosphere of fear and crisis? How can theology contribute to the flourishing of all species?

 

We encourage practical theologians from all disciplines to think about the sense of crisis and adequate reactions to this from a practical theological perspective. Examples of sub-questions are related to discourses, practices and communities:

 

Discourses, views and theories

In what ways would the responses of practical theology enable people to live with risks, insecurity and doubt?

How do biblical-theological metaphors, such as “the family of God,” “the people of God,” “the Kingdom of God” or apocalyptic discourse influence people’s perception of crisis and their strategies for community formation?

How does the sense of crisis impact the value and relevance of our ‘(religious) identity’? What are the advantages (cohesion, security, …) and dangers (exclusion, abuse of power, …) of a new ‘politics’ of religious identity? Where and in which practices do practical theologians recognize these tendencies and possible positive or negative answers to these trends?

How can we build trust in relationships with others, while recognizing our difference from them? What is the influence of our theological anthropology, for instance in a conception of humankind as essentially relational?

 

Practices and experiences

What religious practices nurture openness and generosity towards the other even while acknowledging our fears and insecurities? How do certain practices support people/groups in their coping processes?

How does the rhetoric of crisis influence our motivation and ability to care for especially those who are victims of the crises? How can practices of care be considered as answers to a ‘rhetoric of crisis’? How can we avoid the patronizing or exclusive forms of care that a sense of crisis stimulates? What are the dangers and benefits of various strategies of care, and especially also pastoral care?

What is the role of religious language, rituals, liturgy and homiletics in avoiding dangerous reactions towards the sense of crisis or in stimulating faithful connections between people?

What can be done in religious education, in religiously affiliated schools or in a catechetical context where young people are educated? How can trust be stimulated? How to deal with anxiety and insecurity? What are the agencies of people and movement? Is religiosity considered as ‘dangerous’ or as ‘empowering’ for young people?

 

Communities, churches and personal relations

How can local church communities, groups of Christians active in society, persons interested in spirituality act against all too easy reactions? How can we avoid that the Christian message becomes a ‘closed story’ or an all too easy ‘therapy’ with a theology presenting only a story from ‘woundedness to healing’. How can theologians support the complexity and ambiguity of Christian narratives and also help persons to live with insecurity?

What is the role of religious leaders or those concerned in using this rhetoric of crisis or, alternatively, in defusing it? What are alternative and competing narratives that offer a more comprehensive hope and more inclusive social action?

 

In Belgium, we find lots of connections with this theme from the terrorist attacks in March 2016 to the strong forms of populism in current politics. Yet this connection is not new as Belgium currently hosts the EU, core European organizations and NATO which arose as a response to World War II. Belgium wrestles with its current identity among the economically privileged of the world but also with its history as oppressed and oppressing people. These identities have included defense and deterrence as well as peace-making. Visits will be organized which explore the context of this congress among core social and religious organizations and historical sites in Flanders and Brussels.

Memorial tribute Hans van der Ven

Memorial tribute Hans van der Ven

The following address was delivered at the meeting of the International Academy of Practical Theology at Sao Leopoldo, Brazil on April 7, 2019, in commemoration of Johannes A. van der Ven.

Dear members and guests of the International Academy of Practical Theology!

It is sad news which make me address you. This morning we learned that Hans van der Ven passed away two days ago.

I have been asked to say a few words commemorating him.

I have known Hans for a long time. We first met in 1987 at one of the Tuebingen conferences which later led to the founding of the International Academy. Hans was one of the small number of people who founded the Academy in Princeton in 1991.

Hans first of all was a practical theologian. Many will see empirical theology as his main contribution and achievement, including the Journal of Empirical Theology which he founded about 30 years ago. Yet Hans never equaled empirical research with practical theology. He was also very interested in theology, in systematic theology, especially in post-Vatican II theology. His major books testify to this, like his book on the Church (almost as monumental as the Bible), his continued interest in theodicy which he treated both theologically and empirically, but also his last major topic Human Rights.

I well remember Hans asking me at one the meetings of the Academy if I thought that he should devote the rest of his academic life to this topic (and I agreed). It was a well-considered choice.

Hans also was a wonderful colleague and teacher – a teacher of teachers. His Nijmegen team including his former doctoral students show this in the first place. To just mention those who many in the Academy will remember: Chris Hermans, Hans-Georg Ziebertz, Carl Sterkens, Paul Vermeer.

There would be many other colleagues to mention – colleagues who came to Nijmegen for one of the conferences and symposiums, study groups and exchanges which Hans organized. His inspirations were dear to many in the field.

And certainly Hans was a friend, a personal friend and a caring friend who was interested in what others were doing and how they were doing.

Next year Hans would have turned 80.

I have lost a friend, we all have lost a friend!

I invite you to stand in order to commemorate Hans with a moment of silence.

Thank you!

 

Friedrich Schweitzer (University of Tübingen, Germany)

First volume IAPT Conference Series published

First volume IAPT Conference Series published

From 2019 on IAPT works on Open Access publication of the Academy’s conference volumes. Contents can be downloaded from the IAPT Conference Series website. The first volume published is composed by the proceedings of the IAPT Oslo conference 2017: Reforming practical theology. The politics of body and space; edited by Auli Vähäkangas, Sivert Angel, Kirstine Helboe Johansen.

PhD-position in practical theology Tilburg School of Catholic Theology

PhD-position in practical theology Tilburg School of Catholic Theology

The Tilburg School of Catholic Theology is looking for an enthusiastic PhD student (M/F) for its The late modern transformation of religion: the case of new Catholicism research program. This program brings together specialists from various theological disciplines, including Church History, Systematic Theology, and Practical Theology.

For more information on this job opening, follow this link.

Apply again for membership in May 2019

Apply again for membership in May 2019

New applications for membership will not be handled between 15 January and 15 April 2019, due to the preparations for the conference in Brazil. Feel free to apply again in May 2019

More information on becoming a member can be found in this flyer.

Scholars who are interested in becoming a new member or new associate member are invited to complete this form and to send it to the IAPT secretary. Click here to download the form

 

Assistant Professor Practical Theology and Religious Education at Fordham University

Assistant Professor Practical Theology and Religious Education at Fordham University

Fordham University invites applications for a full-time tenure track position at the rank of Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE). Areas of specialization are open. Teaching will include hybrid (campus and digital learning) formats. Applicants must have completed the Ph.D. by May 2019. For more information follow this link.