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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.

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


16th International Conference on Children Spirituality

16th International Conference on Children Spirituality

quebec conference

The International Association for Children’s Spirituality and the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences of Université Laval are very pleased to invite you to the 16th  International Conference on Children Spirituality. The conference will be held in Quebec City, 24-27 July 2018. Main theme: Questioning relationships between children’s spirituality and traditions. For more information and registration see the event page

Memorial tribute by Pamela Couture, Oslo, April 2017.

Memorial tribute by Pamela Couture, Oslo, April 2017.

Memorial tribute by Pamela Couture in honor of James W. Fowler

James W. Fowler III is known to many of us as one of the originators and promotors of practical theology as an academic discipline and the International Academy of Practical Theology as an organization (even though he was not able to attend the Princeton meeting, didn’t make the picture of the “original eight,” so is not counted as a “founding father” as such.) He was famous for his classic work Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Development and the Quest for Meaning, a book that most people with any interests in religious education have read. For many of us in this room, including me, he was a colleague, or a mentor, or a friend, or all three.

Jim was born October 12, 1940 in Reidsville, North Carolina, the son of a Methodist minister and Quaker mother. As a child he loved the North Carolina mountains. But he was a country boy with a big intellect–he took his initial degrees from Duke University and Drew Theological Seminary, and his PhD from Harvard University in religion and society in 1971. In the early 1970s he published his work on adapting Lawence Kohlberg’s moral development theory to faith development, the work that launched him into national and then international fame. Though he taught at Harvard and Boston College, he spent most of his career at Emory University. In 1987 was awarded the distinguished chair, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Theology and Human Development. In the 1990s he helped to develop and then directed Emory’s Center for Ethics. He received the Oskar Pfister Award from the American Psychiatric Association and the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science. During all of this time, he found the North Carolina mountains a place of renewal and retreat, where he eventually retired. Sadly, in his mid sixties he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and he died at age seventy-five on October 16, 2015. He and his wife, Lurline, were married 53 years and had two daughters and four grandchildren.

When I taught with Jim at Emory, I was richly rewarded not only by his scholarship and intellect, but by his character–his openness, his willingness to have a friendly and sympathetic conversation, and the sparkle in his eye. When I attended my first IAPT meeting in Bern, and the discussion of organizing the next meeting in Korea arose, I naively volunteered, and Jim, knowing I was already in over my head, offered to help. We worked together, along with the President, Hans van der Ven, to develop the program on globalization and difference. The kind of relationships that Jim established with many people in IAPT—myself included—was the kind that makes this organization so special. Jim’s partook of the every two year ritual of “catching up”—intellectually and personally—and engaging in meaningful conversation, rather than small talk. Many of us will remember our connection with Jim as we think of the crinkle of his eyes when he smiled, his kind and genuine warmth, his coyboyish walk, and the genuine bond he felt with many of us.

For my fortieth birthday party, Jim wrote me a poem around the central metaphor of canoeing, which I did a lot of in those days. So in return, Jim, I’m offering you and your friends this poem by North Carolina Kathryn Stripling Byer from Mountain Time–about faith.

Mountain Time (excerpt)
Kathryn Stripling Beyer,
Black Shawl, 1998

Click here to download this memorial tribute