Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Tale of Two Images

The icon on the left of Peter and Andrew embracing, "The Holy Brother Apostles," was presented by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras to Pope Paul VI on the occasion of their meeting in Jerusalem on January 5, 1964 in the midst of the Second Vatican Council (1963-65). The photo on the right is from the meeting of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul this past weekend, the latest in a series of encouraging contacts between the two communions divided since the schism of 1054. Those who pray and work for the unity of Christ's church await future chapters of this tale in hope.

Monday, December 1, 2014

New publication--"James Wm. McClendon, Jr.'s Narrative Christology in Ecumenical/Ecclesiological Perspective"

The November 2014 issue of the Pacific Journal for Baptist Research (vol. 9, no. 2) includes my article "James Wm. McClendon, Jr.'s Narrative Christology in Ecumenical/Ecclesiological Perspective," The issue in its entirety is available online in PDF (click on hyperlink above); the abstract for the article follows:

ABSTRACT

The reception of Baptist theologian James Wm. McClendon, Jr.’s proposal of a “two-narrative” Christology has focused on its relation to the Chalcedonian “two-natures” Christology. While not ignoring this question, this article addresses the ecumenical and ecclesiological implications of McClendon’s Christology by turning to a pair of different questions. First, what does McClendon’s seemingly non-Chalcedonian Christology look like when viewed through the lenses of the attention bilateral ecumenical dialogue has given to Christology as central to efforts toward confessing “one faith,” in particular in light of the progress in overcoming the fifth-century Christological divisions made in the ecumenical dialogues between the non-Chalcedonian churches of the East and Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches during the past four decades? Second, what are the ecumenical implications of McClendon’s suggestion of a link between his two-narrative Christology and ecclesiology?


Friday, November 21, 2014

Happy 50th birthday, Unitatis Redintegratio

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio (Latin for "the repair of unity"), the Decree on Ecumenism issued by the Second Vatican Council on November 21, 1964. Here's a brief summary of the significance of this decree from a previous publication:

After acknowledging that "division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching to Gospel to every creature," the decree recognizes the modern ecumenical movement that began among Protestants as nothing less than the work of God....This Decree on Ecumenism was the major twentieth-century turning point in the progress of the quest for Christian unity. It acknowledged that all the churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, share responsibility for their contributions to the present divisions. It explicitly affirmed that non-Catholic Christians experience the grace of God through the presence of Christ and the work of the Spirit in Christian communities that are outside the Roman Catholic Church....The decree called for all Catholics, clergy and laity alike, to learn about and learn from the distinctive gifts that the other denominational traditions contribute to the body of Christ. It irrevocably committed the Roman Catholic Church to participation in the various forms of the worldwide ecumenical movement, and thus it also opened the way for many other denominations to follow through on their own ecumenical convictions by entering into formal dialogue with Roman Catholicism. -- From Steven R. Harmon, Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2010)

Various commemorations of this anniversary are underway and forthcoming. I'm looking forward to speaking at one such event, a symposium on Unitatis Redintegratio at Creighton University on February 7, 2015, at which I will offer reflections on the significance of this document and its implications for the ecumenical future along with Fr. John Crossin of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and William Rusch, former executive director of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA). In the meantime, I hope readers of Ecclesial Theology will join me in marking today's anniversary by praying for the unity of Christ's church and reading the text of the Decree on Ecumenism, which makes for edifying devotional reading for all Christians.

Monday, October 27, 2014

New publication--"Free Church Theology, the Pilgrim Church, and the Ecumenical Future"

The new issue of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies (vol. 49, no. 3, Summer 2014) includes my journal article "Free Church Theology, the Pilgrim Church, and the Ecumenical Future" (pp. 420-42). The précis published at the beginning of the article follows below:

Within the framework of receptive ecumenism, this essay addresses the question: is there anything distinctive about theology in the Free Church tradition that constitutes some portion of the ecclesial gifts that the rest of the church might contemplate receiving from the Free Churches? The author’s own Baptist tradition serves as a particular example that represents the larger Free Church tradition in this connection. A survey of the international bilateral dialogues with Baptist World Alliance participation reveals a Free Church theology that is both radically biblical and radically catholic and yet relentlessly pilgrim in its resistance to overly realized eschatologies of the church and its doctrinal formulations. After establishing connections between Free Church and ecumenically shared expressions of a pilgrim church theology, the essay concludes by proposing seven ecclesiological theses rooted in the narrative Christology of Baptist theologian James Wm. McClendon, Jr., regarding what it might mean ecumenically for the church to embody the story of Jesus as a pilgrim people.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

French Baptist sole female fraternal delegate to Synod on Family

Today the Extraordinary Synod on the Family convened by Pope Francis concludes the first week of its two-week gathering at the Vatican. The synod is intended to be representative of the universal church: among the 253 men and women from five continents participating in the synod are not only Catholic clerical representatives, including 114 presidents of Catholic bishops' conferences, 13 heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and 25 heads of divisions of the Roman Curia among Catholic clerical representatives, but also laypersons--including 13 married couples and 16 experts in various fields germane to the matters under discussion--as well as 8 "fraternal delegates." representing non-Catholic traditions. Among these, Valérie Duval-Poujol, a professor of biblical exegesis at the Catholic Institute of Paris, France, is representing the Baptist World Alliance and is the only woman among the eight fraternal delegates to the synod. On Friday, October 10, she gave an address to the synod. A transcript of her address appears on the web site of the Fédération des Églises Évangéliques Baptistes de France (en Français). Earlier this week she was interviewed on Vatican Radio (audio also en Français).

Prof. Duval-Poujol, whose academic specialty is Septuagintal studies, serves as President of the Ecumenical Commission of the Protestant Federation of France and is a member of the Baptist delegation to conversations between the BWA and the World Methodist Council. An interview with Duval-Poujol about her role as a fraternal delegate to the synod appears on the web site of the Protestant Federation of France (print; also en Français). (In the course of the interview she also mentions the work of an ongoing national bilateral dialogue between Baptists and Catholics in France that has produced several significant reports on their work over the past two decades, including most recently a document summarizing their conversations on Mary.)

The other seven fraternal delegates to the synod are as follows. Ecumenical Patriarchate: His Eminence Athenagoras, metropolitan of Belgium; Patriarchate of Moscow: His Eminence Hilarion, president of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, Russian Federation; Coptic Orthodox Church: His Eminence Bishoy, metropolitan of Damietta, Kafr Elsheikh and Elbarari, Egypt; Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch: His Eminence Mar Yostinos, archbishop of Zhale and Bekau, Lebanon; Anglican Communion: His Grace Paul Butler, bishop of Durham, England, Great Britain; Lutheran World Federation: Mr Ndanganeni Petrus Phaswaha, president of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in South Africa; World Communion of Reformed Churches: Rev. Benebo Fubara-Manuel, president of the Nigerian Communion of Reformed Churches, Nigeria.

(Many thanks to Jane Stranz, a French Reformed pastor who coordinates ecumenical relations on the staff of the Fédération protestante de France, for making me aware of Prof. Duval-Poujol's participation in the synod via Twitter and Facebook contacts.)

Update: A YouTube clip is available from a press conference in which Valérie Duval-Poujol summarizes (in French) her address to the synod, beginning at 14:58 in the clip. After she speaks, a translator summarizes her remarks to the press corps in English.

Update #2: Jane Stranz has posted as a Facebook note an English translation of the text of Prof. Duval-Poujol's address to the synod on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance.

Friday, September 26, 2014

GWU Divinity Professor Reviews New U2 Album (Office of University Communications)

The Gardner-Webb University Office of University Communications has published a story drawing on my review of U2's new album Songs of Innocence for Associated Baptist Press / Herald and my radio interview for the campus radio station WGWG. The press release "GWU Divinity Professor Reviews New U2 Album" begins:

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. —U2 forged a music career by blending the spiritual and secular worlds, and the band revisits its theological roots in its latest album, Gardner-Webb University Professor Dr. Steve Harmon offered in recent reviews for the Associated Baptist Press and WGWG.org.

Harmon teaches in the GWU School of Divinity and specializes in Christianity, religion and theology.  After discovering U2 as a high school student about 30 years ago, he has maintained an interest in the band, often reviewing the group’s albums...(read the full story at Gardner-Webb University NewsCenter)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

U2 Songs of Innocence radio interview


Last week I sat down in the studios of WGWG, the campus radio station of Gardner-Webb University, to discuss U2's new album Songs of Innocence (on which I had previously offered my theological first impressions in an Associated Baptist Press / Religious Herald guest commentary). The embedded SoundCloud player above should play the interview (which also includes three full-length songs from the album thanks to Gardner-Webb's streaming license) within this blog post; here is the direct SoundCloud link:

https://soundcloud.com/wgwgdotorg/u2s-new-album-dr-steven-harmon.

(I should point out by way of correction that contrary to a comment in the interview introductory remarks, the members of the band were not all "Catholic schoolboys" once upon a time.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Updated information on January 2015 ecumenism course at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity

Peter and Andrew Embracing, icon
presented in 1964 by Pope Paul VI to
Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras
Important format and date updates for the January 2015 short-term M.Div. course on ecumenism I'm teaching at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity:

DSTH 401 Special Topics in Theology: The Quest for Christian Unity will now be offered as a one-week intensive course Monday, January 5 through Friday, January 9, 8:00 A.M.-4:30 P.M. each day.

The new format and schedule may make it possible for additional students to take advantage of this opportunity, which is available not only to current Gardner-Webb divinity students but also to students enrolled elsewhere who would like to transfer the course credit to their home institutions, to non-degree students, and to registered auditors. For more information, see the previous Ecclesial Theology post Ecumenism divinity course opportunity--January 2015 short term.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mount Aloysius College Fall Ecumenical Lectures

Mount Aloysius College
For the information of readers of Ecclesial Theology in Pennsylvania and the surrounding region, I am delivering the Fall Ecumenical Lectures at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania on October 9. At 12:30 I will present the lecture "The Baptist Eschatological Vision and the Ecumenical Future" (registration required); at 3:30 I will present a public lecture, "What Do Catholics Have in Common with Baptists?" (open to the public free of charge).

For more information, see the MAC press release "Mount Aloysius Fall Ecumenical Lectures to Feature Baptist, Catholic Commonality"; to inquire about registration for the luncheon lecture, contact the office of Mount Aloysius College’s Vice President for Mission Integration, Sr. Helen Marie Burns, RSM (814-886-6510 or hburns@mtaloy.edu).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Baptist theology and Baylor University Press

I received the Fall 2014-Spring 2015 Baylor University Press catalog in the mail at the office yesterday. Its new releases include two substantial constructive projects by Baptist theologians: Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists by Curtis W. Freeman and Baptists and the Communion of Saints: A Theology of Covenanted Disciples by Paul S. Fiddes, Brian Haynes, and Richard Kidd. In addition, BUP is releasing The Collected Works of James Wm. McClendon, Jr., vols. 1 and 2, ed. Ryan Andrew Newson and Andrew C. Wright.

These follow on the heels of BUP's 2012 republication of McClendon's Systematic Theology (vols. 1, 2, and 3). With these publications, Baylor University Press is making significant contributions to the furthering of Baptist constructive theology.