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Brief report of the 2021 IAPT conference “Coping with Crisis”

Brief report of the 2021 IAPT conference “Coping with Crisis”

Two hundred participants from Africa, Asia, Australia, North- and South America, and Europe, attended the online bi-annual conference of the International Academy of Practical Theology (IAPT). The conference was hosted by KU Leuven’s Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, and prepared by a scientific committee, unifying in ecumenical harmony, members of all Belgian theological faculties (Evangelische Theologische Faculteit Leuven (ETF Leuven), Faculté Universitaire de Théologie Protestante (FUTP), KU Leuven, and Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)). Almost one hundred paper presentations and six keynote speeches were presented during July 8-10, 2021, and provided a diverse range of scholarly perspectives on the conference theme of coping with crisis.

For a brief report  of the conference: Coping with Crisis: Hospitality, Security, and the Search for Faithful Connections – Theology Research News (

Conference subsidy for IAPT Leuven 2021

Conference subsidy for IAPT Leuven 2021

IAPT full and associate members can apply conference subsidy for the Leuven 2021 by 1.11.2020.  Priority will be given to members from the global south or those from under-resourced countries. Subsidy will include conference fee and accommodation but no travel subsidy. Preference will be given to those who did not receive a subsidy for Brazil 2019 conference.   Send an application in which you explain the need of subsidy to IAPT treasurer Auli Vähäkangas (

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 – Saturday 10 July 2021 (fully online)

Link to the conference website 

Link to the conference leaflet

foto leuven 2021Scientific and Organizing Committee:

Annemie Dillen (Chair, KU Leuven); Axel Liégeois (KU Leuven); Anne Vandenhoeck (KU Leuven); Amy Casteel (KU Leuven); Armin Kummer (KU Leuven); Jack Barentsen (ETF Leuven); Jos de Kock (ETF Leuven); Arnaud Join-Lambert (UCL – Louvain-la-Neuve); Laurence Flachon (FUTP)


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.

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.

2017 Oslo – Information

2017 Oslo – Information

The 2017 Oslo (IAPT) conference

The International Academy of Practical Theology (IAPT) is a scientific community dedicated to the the study of and critical reflection on practical theological thought and action. At present, IAPT has members from over 20 countries.

Every second year IAPT organises an international conference. The 2017 conference will take place in Oslo. The host institutions are the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oslo, MF School of Theology and VID Specialized University.

For more informatie click on this link : 2017 Oslo – Information

Association of Practical Theology in Oceania – 2015 Conference

Association of Practical Theology in Oceania – 2015 Conference

Association of Practical Theology in Oceania

in association with the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

2015 Conference

University House, Australian National University, Canberra

26-29 November 2015

Explorations in Practical Theology:

Faith and the Political in a Post-Secular Age


Resurgence in religious consciousness has become a feature of contemporary public life. Such cultural shift experienced globally, is characterised as a religious-political milieu that some scholars are beginning to describe as post-secular. The 2015 APTO conference will explore this emerging phenomenon which points to an increasing connection between the ‘two cities,’ the temporal-political and the faith-mystical. Key themes for the conference will include: the increasing prevalence in religions of a fundamentalist and radicalized minority; the future benefits of inter-religious dialogue; the ideal of a university; together with the value of dialogue between secular reason and notions of religious emancipation.  The conference will also explore some of the positive aspects of the return of the sacred in popular culture, such as the potential of religion to inform the universal search for values, to be an advocate for the marginalized, while at the same time challenge some of the narrow secular and materialistic assumptions of contemporary Western culture, that would confine reality to what can be seen and measured.


Members of the Association of Practical Theology in Oceania and the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, together with colleagues of associated organisations are cordially invited to submit a proposal for a paper to be presented as part of the 2015 conference. Proposals are particularly welcome that directly address the conference theme from various disciplines and perspectives and that contribute to the broad work of practical theology. Papers of interest will draw upon theological and political issues within the context of Oceania, including questions relating to indigenous cultures and spirituality, the rise of radical atheism, juxtapositioned with religious fundamentalism and the increasing discourse on post-secularity. Relevant subjects also include issues relating to dialogue between ecclesiology and the social sciences, together with questions on environmental ethics, political theology, economics, and the theology of liberation.

2015 Program Outline

2015 Program Outline

The program outline for the 12th Conference of the International Academy of Practical Theology (IAPT), July 16-20, 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa can now be downloaded.

All the registration information and links to the online registration form and accommodation information can be found on the conference page.

IAPT 2015 Call for Papers

IAPT 2015 Call for Papers

The twelfth IAPT biennial conference, the second one in South Africa, will be held from 16-20 July 2015 in Pretoria.

In view of the rich political and cultural heritage of South Africa and the historical and contemporary legacy of injustice that has so powerfully shaped this context, we decided at the Toronto conference to focus on issues of injustice, personhood and human dignity. It also provides an opportunity to explore philosophies and worldviews rooted in the (South) African context that could help to address these problems. In this conference we will explore one such worldview or spirituality that is deeply rooted in the Southern African context, namely Ubuntu.

The call for papers provide members with information on the venue, theme and plenary speakers.

Download the call for papers.

Submit an abstract.