From Wednesday June 7 to Sunday June 11 2023 the International Academy of Practical Theology will have its bi-annual conference under the title
Practical Wisdom on the Living Web of the Anthropocene
The conference will be held in Seoul and organized by a local committee from Yonsei University, Ewha Womans University, Hoseo University, Busan Presbyterian university, and Kookmin University.
Local Committee: Soo-Young Kwon (Yonsei University), Hee-Kyu Heidi Park (Ewha Womans University), Hyun-Sook Kim (Yonsei University), Jung Eun Jang (Ewha Womans University), Byung-June Hwang (Hoseo University), Yunsoo Joo (Busan Presbyterian University), Joungchul Lee (Kookmin University)
Practical Wisdom on the Living Web of the Anthropocene
You are invited to reflect together in the dynamic cultural terrain of East Asia, where the intersection and interconnectedness of technology, competing political and economic dynamics, and the haunting history of colonialization and wars present endless challenges to the relationship between the human and the earth. Such interconnectedness is lived out both in positive and negative ways. While the rapid economic development is the apparent fruit of the global connectivity, our land, water, and air are also connected on a global level, letting us experience pollution that originates from all parts of the world flowing into our backyards. The phenomena of sharing pollution led those living in these regions to wear masks daily even before COVID-19 struck the world. The definite mark that humankind is leaving on the earth is undeniably visible on this land.
Korea is often cast in the light of the tragedy of the Cold War and colonization, with our Northern half still alerting the international communities with their political actions. However, such past tragedies are not the center of our lived experience on the ground. They may haunt the present, giving it some color, but today’s daily challenges lie in the rapidly developing technological world that both build and break down the relationships between humans and earth. The advancement of technology seems unstoppable despite the urgent calls from the scientific communities to protect our world from imminent environmental doom. The community that drives technological development has its own impulse for curiosity and problem-solving, which are intricately and organically intertwined with the neoliberal rationality that defies the collaboration of the political will to create ethical actions for the common good. Such intersection of technological, economic, and political worlds has created many meta-narratives that compete for our attention in particular ways, seemingly defusing the collective wills to respond to the urgency of the environmental crisis we face. It seems practical theology should find its role to address such a challenge.
In this conference, we call on the practical wisdom of practical theologians working in the trenches of various fields. Why have we not been able to work together to save our common home, the earth? When we did work together, what worked? What did not work? What do we understand about the dynamics of these intersections? How do they shed light on the future of our global community? In asking these questions, our choice of the phrase ‘practical wisdom’ is intentional. If not to address Don Browning’s foundational insight to bring the practical philosophy of phronesis to locate the interpretive process in practice and doing, we would take a step further to call on sources of practical theology beyond the bound of the West– and logos-centered theological traditions. In reconnecting the relationship between the earth and the human, can we find different frameworks in traditions of diverse localities to build practical theology?
Practical theologians have long understood the interconnectedness of our realities. In the beloved metaphor of the living human web, plucking on one thread of the web should deliver the ping over the whole web. Such connection could also be very messy: the web may have many entangled knots that need examination and delicate untangling. The practical wisdom we find in our communities invites us to reflect on the resonating impact of various practical wisdoms stemming from the experiences of different sectors. What does the experience in one end of the connection say about the experience of the other end? What can we say about the state or quality of our interconnectedness? How does justice prevail in such interconnections? Pondering about such interconnection, can we find a better way to meet the impending doom/challenges in a more hopeful way? How do we generate eschatological practical wisdom in our local and global communities?
In such an effort, we invite practical theological engagement in the following topics. Each of these subtopics functions as a call for papers for this conference.
- Economic and Political Concerns of the Anthropocene
Our global community is tasked to manage the “common pool resources (CPRs)’ or commons, namely the resources common and open to all on the planet earth and from which exclusion of individual is not possible, including fisheries, backwoods, groundwater bowls, pastures, lakes, seas, and earth’s climate. This topic explores how we as practical theologians carry out this task. How does the environmental crisis interconnect with the politico-economic reality of our society? Where and how is the margin created? Or where and how are the environmental precariats/NEETs/Freeters generated? How do we as practical theologians understand and create room for political/economic justice in the rapidly changing trajectories of climate change? In light of the changes in the ecological spaces of our common home, the earth, what are the dynamics observable in the rise and fall of human freedom and human right in their various contexts? How do we generate practical wisdom and strategies for practice in such a socio-economical context as practical theologians? How does the church respond?
- Peace/War/Unity and the Anthropocene
As IAPT 2023 is held in South Korea, a country scarred by the Cold War and continues to live it as her reality, we inquire the possibility of unity and peace, even as we move deeper into the new era that will be marked with environmental challenges. We also recognize newly erupting wars, coups, and rise of military power in different parts of the world, which are connected to environmental factors both in the most obvious and covert ways. For example, in South Korea, as the U.S. military bases move out of the localities they occupied since the Korean War, the sites reveal severe pollution primarily caused by military machinery and weapons. At the same time, the DMZ between North and South Korea preserves biodiversity in ways that no other places have. Communities in such places have the task of reckoning with the past historical trauma to build peace and unity, which requires dealing with the aftermath of the past in the context of environmental disaster or paradise. When desertification drove those from formerly agricultural areas to cities, tensions grew among the over-populated urban communities; some trace the genesis of the long-lasting Syrian war from such environmental disaster. How do communities, secular, religious, and interreligious, engage the challenges of such calamities? What are the theological angles from which to reflect on those experiences? We ask practical theologians to excavate the interconnectedness of human communities and ecological changes. Where do you see the communal efforts to create restorative, non-violent solutions to engage such interconnectedness? How do practical theologians understand the practical wisdom that is generated from such efforts?
- Technology and Environment (AI)
Anthropocenic humans have created a world in which God’s creatures compete with human creations for limited resources that our planet can offer. In our rapidly digitizing world, travel to Mars and self-driving cars are already a reality, while the scope of the concept of space gradually turns boundless with the development of virtual reality. Technology advances on its own terms is fueled by neoliberal impulses, while human subjectivity is getting coded and mechanized in the form of AI and virtual reality. Nevertheless, engaging such aspect of human life has been limited in the field of practical theology. What are the theological paradigms and strategies that our practical wisdom can generate to enable the most ecological and sustainable technological development in the given order of the neoliberal world? Or can we create an alternative to the neoliberal world that has the space for just relations among living things, human creations, and the earth? How do we understand God and humans in the age of artificial intelligence and deep learning? What are the stem cells, growth points, blind spots, and black holes of our technological world that practical theologians should be aware of to generate sustainable human flourishing and equity? What does the practical theology of technology look like in the Anthropocene/Capitalocene?
- Eschatological Practical theology on Disaster and Hope
With the so-called carbon clock clicking (https://www.mcc-berlin.net/fileadmin/data/clock/carbon_clock.htm) and science communities warning us with scenarios of climate disasters, practical theologians face the prophetic task of preparing for the upcoming disaster much like the task given to prophet Jeremiah in the Hebrew Bible. Here we face a question of our practical theological orientation. Practical theology is oftentimes understood as the exegesis of the lived experience. These experiences are understood to be lived in the present or the past. Can we exegete the future, the imagined conjecture, the experience to be lived? What does such practical theology look like? What will such practical theology accomplish? What is the task of such eschatological practical theology? Lament? Healing? Goodbyes? The imagination of im/possibilities? How do the sub-disciplines of practical theology engage such tasks of eschatological practical theology?
- Practical Theology Reconsidered: Practical Wisdom from Diverse Traditions Addressing the Challenges of the Anthropocene
Under this theme, we provide opportunities to work on the prolegomena of a practical theology of the Anthropocene, addressing the bigger questions we raised in our rationale of this conference. In such an effort, we see the possibility of engaging diverse traditions to find practical wisdom to find global theological solutions to our ecological challenges. What are the resources that global communities can benefit from? We seek practical theological engagement of wisdom in Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas, focusing on perspectives from the global south.
- Faith Communities in the Rapidly Changing World of the Anthropocene
In various subfields of practical theology, what are the challenges that churches/faith communities encounter?
After the rapid growth in the 20th century, Korean protestant churches are facing a decline, which was exacerbated with the challenges of COVID-19. The generation of millennials and Generation Z, often affected by both eco-anxiety and social insecurity stemming from the plateauing of economic development, show a definite skew toward secularization. In contrast, the older generation is hyper-activated with political zeal toward conservatism. The technological advancement and the growth of civic awareness under the neoliberal paradigm also form the new spiritual environment of contemporary Korean society. From our reflection on such context, we bring this question about the challenges that the rapidly changing world poses on the faith communities. We ask practical theologians to reflect on the trajectories of faith communities’ ministry and the existential challenges of the religious institution in their contexts. Such reflection could come from innovative steps that faith communities have taken to deal with their challenges. How do they manifest? How are they related to the bigger picture of the challenges of the Anthropocene and Capitalocene? What are the challenges of the future of the faith community and its ministry? How do we navigate through them? How do practical theologians respond to the challenges manifesting in their fields? We hope to summon the voices from the ground where practical wisdom is unfolding to confront such challenges.
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 A Japanese term for those who are unemployed. Thought to be a combination of the English word free and the German word Arbeiter.