Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How the Pope Teaches

The Baptist News Global Perspectives blog has published my post "How the Pope Teaches." An excerpt from the beginning of the post follows.

Word is out that Pope Francis’ long-awaited encyclical on the environment will be published later this month with the titleLaudato Sii—“Praised Be You”—words from the Latin text of St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun. (Baptist News Global readers will be familiar with it in the form of the adapted hymn text “All Creatures of Our God and King.”)
This encyclical will not merely reflect the personal perspectives of the pope—contrary to what some critics with unfortunate access to news media seem to think. As an expression of Catholic magisterial teaching it will have undergone a process of thoroughly communal formulation with collegial input from others in the Catholic Church, including its theologians, ethicists, and Scripture scholars, lay as well as religious; collegial input from others in the wider church; and collegial input from the scientific community, including its Catholic, non-Catholic Christian, and non-Christian members....(read the full post at Baptist News Global Perspectives)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

SECSOR AAR Constructive Theologies call for papers

The call for papers for the next meeting of the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion, March 4-6, 2016 in Atlanta, is now available on the SECSOR web site. As chair of the American Academy of Religion--Southeast Region Constructive Theologies section, I'm also posting the Constructive Theologies CFP below. See the full CFP on the SECSOR site for information on requirements, guidelines, and deadlines for submitting proposals.

(AAR) Constructive Theologies

Themes: (1) joint session with Philosophy of Religion and Religions of Asia on “apophasis within or across religions”; (2) joint session with Religion and Ecology on the ecohermeneutics of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical scheduled for release this year; (3) open call for papers relating theologies of social location to the 2016 SECSOR theme “Translation and Context”. Submit all proposals to Steven R. Harmon, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity, (sharmon@gardner-webb.edu) and Elizabeth O’Donnell Gandolfo, Wake Forest University (elizabeth.gandolfo@gmail.com). *For the joint session on apophasis within or across religions, please include also Lisa Battaglia lbattagl@samford.edu), Rachel Pang (rhpang@davidson.edu), and Nathan Eric Dickman (nedickman@yhc.edu); for the joint session on the ecohermeneutics of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, please include also Todd LeVasseur (levasseurtj@cofc.edu) and Jefferson Calico (jcalico70@gmail.com).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Baptist Ecumenical Dialogue and Vatican II" (video)

In my previous post I passed along a link for downloading an audio podcast interview on "Baptist Ecumenical Dialogue and Vatican II" that I recorded for the Creighton University "Catholic Comments" program hosted by theology department faculty members John O'Keefe and Wendy Wright when I was there in February to speak at a conference on the legacy of the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio. The Creighton University Center for Catholic Thought has now uploaded this video of our studio recording session to YouTube:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Baptist Ecumenical Dialogue and Vatican II

While at Creighton University in February to speak at a conference on the legacy of the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, I recorded a podcast interview on "Baptist Ecumenical Dialogue and Vatican II" with Catholic Comments program hosts John O'Keefe and Wendy Wright of the Creighton Department of Theology faculty. That podcast is now available. Here's a link for listening to or downloading the podcast on the Catholic Comments site.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book announcement: Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

I'm pleased to announce that my book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community has entered the production phase and is scheduled for a March 2016 release by Baylor University Press. I'll post updates regarding the book's publication, including pre-ordering information, here at Ecclesial Theology during the next few months. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here's a draft of the copy for the catalog and back cover description:

Baptists tend to be the “problem children” of the ecumenical movement. The Baptist obsession to realize a true church birthed a tradition of separation. While Baptists’ misgivings about ecumenism may stem from this fissiparous genealogy, it is equally true that the modern ecumenical movement itself increasingly lacks consensus about the pathway to a visible Christian unity.

In Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community, Steven R. Harmon explores the relationship of the Baptist calling to be a pilgrim community and the ecumenical movement. Harmon argues that neither vision can be fulfilled apart from a mutually receptive ecumenical engagement. As Harmon shows, Baptist communities and the churches from which they are separated need one another. Chief among the gifts Baptists have to offer the rest of the church is their pilgrim aversion to overly realized eschatologies of the church and their radical commitment to discerning the rule of Christ by means of the Scriptures. Baptists, in turn, must be willing to receive from other churches neglected aspects of the radical catholicity from which the Bible is inseparable.

Embedded in the Baptist vision and its historical embodiment are surprising openings for ecumenical convergence. Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future urges Baptists and their dialogue partners to recognize and embrace these ecumenically oriented facets of Baptist identity as indispensable provisions for their shared pilgrimage toward the fullness of the rule of Christ in their midst, which remains partial so long as Christ’s body remains divided.

Also in the meantime, check out some other forthcoming releases from Baylor University Press.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Harmon reviews Kinnamon in Christian Century


The May 13, 2015 issue of the Christian Century (vol. 132, no. 10) includes my review of Michael Kinnamon's book Can a Renewal Movement Be Renewed? Questions for the Future of Ecumenism (Eerdmans, 2014). The review appears on p. 39 of the print edition; an electronic version of the review is currently available on the Christian Century web site. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the review:

Lament over the current “ecumenical winter” and analysis of the factors that have contributed to it have become commonplace in recent ecumenical literature. As he considers the future of ecumenism in Can a Renewal Movement Be Renewed? Michael Kinnamon gives four reasons for why the ecumenical movement stands in need of renewal: “loss of commitment among church leaders to the goal of Christian unity,” “divisions and other signs of weakness within the ecumenically supportive churches,” “an increasing split between two sets of ecumenical priorities,” and “diminishment of key instruments of the ecumenical movement, including councils of churches”....(read the full review at Christian Century)

Forthcoming/recent books on Baptist studies from Baylor University Press

Over the past few months, Baylor University Press has released several notable books on themes in Baptist studies. Now another is scheduled for a September 2015 release: Evangelical Christian Baptists of Georgia: The History and Transformation of a Free Church Tradition by Malkhaz Songulashvili, whose leadership of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia has been noted in previous Ecclesial Theology posts.

This will follow some significant titles in Baptist studies published by BUP in the second half of 2014:

Baptists and the Community of Saints: A Theology of Covenanted Disciples by Paul S. Fiddes, Brian Haymes, and Richard Kidd

Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island's Founding Father by Linford Fisher, J. Stanley Lemons, and Lucas Mason-Brown

Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists by Curtis W. Freeman

The Collected Works of James Wm. McClendon, Jr., edited by Ryan Andrew Newson and Andrew C. Wright, Volume 1 and Volume 2

Earlier in 2012, BUP re-issued the Systematic Theology of James Wm. McClendon, Jr. (originally published by Abingdon Press) with a new introduction by Curtis W. Freeman: Ethics: Systematic Theology, Volume 1; Doctrine: Systematic Theology, Volume 2; and Witness: Systematic Theology, Volume 3.

I'm looking forward to passing along information about another forthcoming BUP release in Baptist studies here at Ecclesial Theology in the near future. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Spirituality of the Johannine Jesus: Christ's Body as Embodied Fellowship

This past weekend I lead a breakout session on "The Spirituality of the Johannine Jesus: Christ's Body as Embodied Fellowship" for the annual General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina, held at First Baptist Church in York, South Carolina April 17-18. (The theme for this year's CBF of SC General Assembly was "A Place at the Table.) I've had several inquiries about my presentation from people who were unable to attend, so I've made the handout for the session available online (click on hyperlinked breakout session title).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Savoring the 'sacrament of the present moment,' with a little help from The Decemberists

The Decemberists perform "The Mariner's Revenge Song"
at The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC, April 9, 2015 (photo by Steve Harmon)
Baptist News Global has published my post "Savoring 'the sacrament of the present moment,' with a little help from The Decemberists" on its Perspectives opinion site. An excerpt from the beginning of the post follows:

Christian thinking about the world we live in and God’s goals for it wrestles with a tension. What God envisions for the world is already being made manifest in the Easter reality of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and in the body of his church that strives to incarnate this reality in the world. But this reality does not yet fully embrace this world, as even a glance at it confirms.

In the art form of popular music, the Irish rock band U2 renders this tension well. By faith we believe that through Christ what ought to be is already here. But it’s plain to see that the world around us is not yet that, so we still haven’t found what we’re looking for.

That’s not any easy tension to maintain. An over-emphasis on the “already” of the Christian life—what theologians call an “overly-realized eschatology”—can blind us to its “not-yetness,” the unfinished nature of God’s work with us, with the church, with the world. But an over-emphasis on the present “not-yetness” of the world can blind us to the things that ought to be that are already all around us—what 18th-century French Jesuit spiritual writer Jean Pierre de Caussade called “the sacrament of the present moment.”

Also in the art form of popular music, a song from the new album by Portland, Oregon folk-rock band The Decemberists renders well what it means to savor the sacrament of the present moment in the midst of all the things in the world that ought not to be....(read the full post at Baptist News Global Perspectives)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

More musings on Holy Saturday

A previous Ecclesial Theology post committed to writing some musings on a Holy Saturday in 2013. Here are some more.

With Christ on Holy Saturday we enter God's rest in the boundary between the work of creative suffering and the new creation it brings about. Christian theology has not fully explored the connections between Holy Saturday in Holy Week and Sabbath in the Jewish week that are latent in Christian liturgy. The week of creative work, the travail of creative suffering, culminates in Good Friday. On the Sabbath, Christ enters the rest that is death; the Christian tradition has developed the connection between rest and death liturgically in the office of Compline ("The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end," or in an older version, "The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect death"). The resurrection on the first day of the week is then the new creation, but first is the rest of death from the work of creative suffering that brings about the new creation of resurrected life. Today is the day of suspended in-betweenness. With Christ, it can be experienced as entrance into God's own rest. And just as both the cross of Good Friday and the resurrection of Easter Sunday function as ongoing paradigms of the Christian life, so may the rest of Holy Saturday.