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Does Ecumenical Theology Have a Future?

The superb International Journal of Systematic Theology has posted the theme for the 2009 Colin Gunton theological essay contest, which is: Does ecumenical theology have a future?

I think I may actually enter an essay for this one. I’ve thought about doing it for previous years but have never found the topics interesting enough until now. So, for the time being, what says my readership? Does ecumenical theology have a future? If so, what is it?

12 Comments

  1. Jason Oliver wrote:

    Go for it, Halden!!!

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink
  2. D C Cramer wrote:

    I believe it has a future in the way John Howard Yoder conceived of it: theology as a project for the whole church, to call the whole church to greater faithfulness to Jesus. The kind of ecumenical theology sometimes advocated, however, of ignoring our differences for the sake of unity, probably doesn’t (or shouldn’t) have a future. I’d read what you have to write on this for sure.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink
  3. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    And this helps to solve the problem you shared earlier! An outlet for getting you back on the academic horse. And this, sir, might even make you rich. Think about this: the future of “ecumenical theology” is the emergent church.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Well, I do really just want to be super rich.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  5. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I want you to write a piece on ecumenism in the emergent church. Really.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    Shut up.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink
  7. maufman wrote:

    What’s “ecumenical theology” anyway? I’m UCC, but I’ve been influenced by Bonhoeffer (Lutheran), Merton* (Catholic), Hauerwas (Methodist), Barth (don’t know) and others, as well as my own denomination’s giants (the Niebuhr brothers). I think my experience is typical. So if “ecumenical theology” means being influenced by people outside our own denominational tradition, then I think that’s alive and well. I’m a little puzzled that a scholarly journal would suggest such theology has no future.

    On the other hand, if by “ecumenical theology,” they mean efforts to explain and (where possible) bridge differences in belief among denominations, then yes, I think that discipline is in trouble. Ironically, the discipline is a victim of its own success– the ecumenical movement of the ’50s and ’60s was so successful that 90% of the laity can’t begin to describe the difference between their denomination and other similar ones. (There’s obviously a huge difference between the UCC and the SBC, but aside from polity, I’d be hard-pressed to explain how Congregationalists and Presbyterians differ.) In fact, the trend is in the opposite direction– with most lay people perceiving no difference among the liberal/mainline Protestant denominations, church growth efforts (e.g., “Still Speaking” in UCC) are emphasizing the distinctiveness of their denominations.

    Sorry for the long non-answer from a lurker. Good luck with your article, should you choose to write it.

    *-Yes, I know Merton isn’t truly a theologian.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink
  8. Skip Newby wrote:

    The Love of our Father shown us in Jesus Christ with a transforming power in us by His Spirit. And, in plain language.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 9:32 pm | Permalink
  9. Evan wrote:

    I think maufman hits the nail on the head.

    Friday, March 27, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink
  10. Evan wrote:

    “There’s obviously a huge difference between the UCC and the SBC, but aside from polity, I’d be hard-pressed to explain how Congregationalists and Presbyterians differ.”

    I also wonder whether church polity itself might be the future of ecumenical theology, given immense recent interest in ecclesiology and the ecumenical situation that maufman describes.

    Friday, March 27, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink
  11. Steve wrote:

    What is “ecumenical theology”?

    Lots of people talk about it, but few say what it is. Perhaps you could write about that.

    Friday, March 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  12. Halden wrote:

    I think I will blog about that, actually, regardless of what I end up doing with the essay itself. Because that is (one of) the million dollar question(s).

    Friday, March 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

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