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Globales Gemeinwohl

Sozialwissenschaftliche und sozialethische Analysen


Edited by Marianne Heimbach-Steins, Matthias Möhring-Hesse, Sebastian Kistler and Walter Lesch

Welches „Wohl“ und welche öffentlichen Güter werden in der Konturierung einer global dimensionierten Sozialethik angestrebt, wem kommen sie zugute und welche Akteure verfügen über welche Einflussmöglichkeiten, um die Herstellung, Bereitstellung oder Erhaltung dieser Güter zu bewerkstelligen?
„Gemeinwohl” ( common good) galt über lange Zeit als eine Schlüsselkategorie christlicher Sozialethik. Diese Selbstverständlichkeit ist einem selbstkritischen Sozialkatholizismus theoretisch wie praxisbezogen abhandengekommen. Ist der Appell an die Gemeinwohlverpflichtung mehr als ein diffuses und hilfloses Postulat? Lässt sich, zumal unter den Bedingungen globaler Verflechtungen und Abhängigkeiten, mit dieser Kategorie auf neue Weise sozialethische Relevanz erzeugen?


Melinda McGarrah Sharp

Multiple forms of oppression, injustice, and violence today have roots in histories of colonialism. This connection to the past feels familiar for some and less relevant for others. Understanding and responding to these connections is more crucial than ever, yet some resist rather than face this task directly. Others resist oppressive postcolonial conditions.

Using intercultural stories and pastoral care scholarship, this book charts pathways through five resistances (not me, not here, not now, not relevant, not possible) to awaken creative pastoral care in a postcolonial world. McGarrah Sharp recommends practices that everyone can do: believing in each other, revisiting how histories are taught, imagining more passable futures, heeding prophetic poets, and crossing borders with healthy boundaries.

Collaborative Practical Theology

Engaging Practitioners in Research on Christian Practices


Henk de Roest

Collaborative Practical Theology documents and analyses research on Christian practices conducted by academic practical theologians in collaboration with practitioners of different kinds in Christian practices all around the world. These practitioners include professional practitioners, everyday believers, volunteers and students in theological education. The book offers rationales for setting up joint investigation groups with different ‘communities of practice’, describes a wide range of collaborative research strategies and methods and also has a clear eye for their limitations. In Christian practices faith is mediated, enacted and nurtured. The aim of the book is to improve the utility of theological research on these practices. It communicates the vision that academic research is for the people of God in today’s world.

Antipas L. Harris


Theological authority is of paramount importance for the future of African American Pentecostal public theology. Largely ignored as authoritative sources by white Pentecostals in the years following the Azusa Street Revival, black Pentecostals were often snubbed by black denominations as well. Consequently, at the traditional table of theological discourse, black Pentecostal pastors have been notably absent. The question of theological authority in black Pentecostalism can be answered, in part, by examining its historically relevant contributions to theology in general, and to black liberation theology in particular. Early social prophetic theologians left a treasure trove of leadership hermeneutics and models for public engagement. This article highlights four pastors who left legacies built on their roles as pioneers in the black Pentecostal movement. The biographic profiles reveal sources of i) historical authority within the broad contours of the black Pentecostal tradition, and, ii). innovative hermeneutics as valid models for engaging public theology.

Jayme R. Reaves and David Tombs


The #MeToo hashtag and campaign raises important questions for Christian public theology. In 2017, a church sign at Gustavus Adolphus church in New York City connected Jesus with #MeToo through Jesus’ words ‘You did this to me too’ (Matthew 25:40). This church sign offers appropriate recognition of the theological solidarity of Jesus with #MeToo at a metaphorical level, but this article argues a more direct historical connection should also be made. It examines work by Tombs (1999), Heath (2011), Gafney (2013), and Trainor (2014) that go beyond theological solidarity to identify Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse in a more historical and literal sense. It concludes that naming Jesus as victim of sexual abuse is not just a matter of correcting the historical record but can also help churches to address the damage caused by victim blaming or shaming.

Oliver D. Crisp, James M. Arcadi and Jordan Wessling


In the past decade analytic theology has established itself as a flourishing research program that includes academic journals, monograph series, a dedicated annual conference, research centers on several continents, and a growing and diverse body of work produced by scholars drawn from philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. In this short monograph Oliver Crisp, James Arcadi, and Jordan Wessling introduce readers to analytic theology. The work provides an account of analytic theology, some of the main areas in which analytic theologians have worked, and some of the prospects for the future of analytic theology going forward. It also addresses some key objections to analytic theology as a theological method, and aims to acquaint scholars and students with this new and promising theological movement.

Timothy Harvie


After critically reviewing the ongoing development of various publics in public theology, this article attempts to develop an additional public in nonanthropocentric terms in order to ground adequately public theology’s approach to the current climate crisis. Seeking a path between an account of Earth as a commons, with its emphasis on similarity and the diffractive method’s emphasis on the separateness of biodiverse lives, it argues that Merleau-Ponty’s articulation of the flesh of the world provides material for a politically engaged public theology. In emphasizing the separateness of embodied selves in the perceptual fields of embodied flesh, it develops an account of the ecosphere as an ontologically grounding public to correct the limitations of various ‘publics’ as human-centered institutions. In doing so, the transcendence of Earth’s embodied inhabitants is emphasized that conceives of public in terms of the connective tissues of more-than-human bodies.

Aaron P. Edwards


This article engages the condition of religious apathy in western secular society, drawing on the apparent pessimism of secularization as a creative catalyst for re-imagining the scope of public mission. It first highlights the reality of religious apathy as observed sociologically, and briefly surveys varied missiological responses to western church decline. An alternative response, ‘Radical Inculturated Proclamation’ is then offered, embodying the inherently paradoxical nature of the Gospel as both drastically distinct and culturally embedded within the religiously apathetic western context. This concept is further explored with a nuanced reflection on the intentionally ‘absurd’ idea of self-aware street preaching and the possible implications for creative interruption of contemporary public spaces. Incorporating the perceived inappropriateness of such practices is deliberate, enabling active embodiment of the Gospel’s inculturated radicality within a public sphere with no apparent ears to hear. Such a proposal contributes to public theological engagement by reconstructing the cultural and theological limitations of contemporary kerygmatic expression within a post-Christendom context.

Graeme Smith


The article argues that Richard Rorty’s idea of edification should be adopted as the central approach of public theology. It begins by outlining Rorty’s definition of edification before exploring the argument in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature which led to this definition. Various critical responses are then explored, especially the critique by Roy Bhaskar that Rorty’s approach is politically frivolous. It is suggested, however, that the criticism that Rorty is either relativist or unconcerned with ethical agency is unfair. Instead, rather than being concerned with different types of speaking Truth to power, public theologians should be focused on producing novel, unique and eye-catching redescriptions of social and political phenomena.

W. Travis McMaken


Some important thinkers have treated Liberation Theology and “Barthian” Theology as incompatible, understanding the latter as an impediment to self-consciously contextual theological approaches. But some proponents of Barth’s theology argue that it is contextual in important ways, and therefore a helpful resource for doing public theology. One way to redescribe the common complaint at the core of all these criticisms, and a way that relates those criticisms to liberation theology more generally, is by saying that they all pertain to the relationship between theory and praxis. The purpose of this article then is to address the relation between theory and praxis in the theologies of two significant practitioners of theology ‘after’ Karl Barth—Helmut Gollwitzer and Eberhard Jüngel—in part by examining their understanding of the relationship between Christianity and socialism.

Jos Pieper


This article examines the similarities and differences between a religious-philosophical approach to contingency and a (religious) psychological approach to coping with health problems. We elaborate on theoretical and empirical developments in research on coping, meaning-focused coping and religious coping. Religious coping is seen as a special form of meaning-focused coping. These coping perspectives are related to Wuchterl’s model for dealing with contingency and an extension of this model, based on Dutch empirical research among cancer patients.

Martina Kraml


This article focuses on the methodological meaning of the concept of contingency. I illustrate this with a study of doctoral qualification processes, which examines the methodological and substantive dimensions of the contingency paradigm. The study focuses on the way in which doctoral students perceive and conceptualize their research processes, and it crystallized the factors that influence the writing of their dissertations. Horizons of meaning and epistemic concepts, for example, play an essential role. These influence the areas of conflict that arise, the strategies for acting that the doctoral students opt for, and the consequences that result from these strategies. Dealing with contingency turns out to be the central challenge, especially in the supervision of dissertations. The study demonstrates the importance of developing competencies in “contingency encounter” in research and teaching.

A Curious Case of Contingency: the Buddha and Buddhists on Caste

Two Case Studies, Ancient Sources, Modern Embodiment

Paul van der Velde


A meeting in South India (Bylakuppe) with a group of Buddhists, followers of the low-caste politician Ambedkar led to a closer investigation of the often found idea that the Buddha opposed the caste system. In this contribution we focus on the tension between the generally held ideas if it comes to the Buddha’s attitude of the caste system (rejection) and everyday practice of a modern group of followers. For this, apart from the exposure in Bylakuppe several episodes from the Pali canon were investigated. It was the unexpected course and the end of the meeting in Byalakuppe that brought the researcher to this reflection, surprised as he was by the course of events. This lead to a renewed reading of several of the ancient sources that are usually brought forward if it comes to the Buddha and caste distinctions. In his own words, a case of ‘creative contingency’ ensuing in a reflection that things were yet more complicated than they seemed to be at first sight. Methodologically speaking one could say this is a field observation that led to a further reflection and a closer investigation of ancient textual sources.

Michael Scherer-Rath

J. Copier, C.A.M. Hermans and T.S.M. van der Zee


This article reports the results of an empirical study into the relationship between school leaders’ experiences of contingency, and how they formulate goals and aims for the future of the children at their schools.

We distinguish between three ways of handling experiences of contingency: contingency denial, contingency acceptance, and contingency receiving. We expect that school leaders who have received new insights in their experiences of contingency (contingency receiving) formulate future aims more often than school leaders who have accepted or denied experiences of contingency. This hypothesis is based on the assumption that both contingency receiving and formulating aims are characterised by transcendental openness and an ethical orientation towards the good life.

The study consisted of qualitative interviews with 24 school leaders of primary schools in the Netherlands. The results confirm the hypothesis, and give insight into the complex relation between personal biography and professional identity in school leadership.

Yvonne Weeseman, Hanneke van Laarhoven and Michael Scherer-Rath


Narrative integration of experiences of contingency describes the ways (modes) in which people assimilate the uncontrollability—or contingency—of life, while accepting, acknowledging and tolerating the existential fears accompanying these experiences, thus keeping contingency open. Contingency is defined as events being ‘possible (or not impossible) and also not necessary at the same time’. Experiences of contingency, caused by the interplay between life events, one’s worldview and ultimate life goals, disrupt one’s life story, challenging one’s basic needs for understanding, coherence and meaning.

The different modes of narrative integration are studied in six highly sensitive Dutch children, aged between 6 and 12 years old. A practice-based model by Kruizinga et al. (2017) is compared to a theoretical construct of religious philosophical contingency constructed by Wuchterl (2011; 2019). Practical and theoretical differences are discussed. This study confirms the findings by Kruizinga et al. (2017).

Four modes of dealing with contingency are identified: Denial, Acknowledging, Accepting and Receiving. In mode four, Receiving, people transcend themselves (self-transcendence). Contrary to Wuchterl’s theory, vertical transcendence is not a prerequisite for narrative integration of contingency, or for keeping contingency open. We conclude that the model of narrative integration of experiences of contingency by Kruizinga et al. is a valid tool for further research. Possible applications in the field of spiritual care are discussed.

Iris D. Hartog, Michael Scherer-Rath, Tom H. Oreel, Justine E. Netjes, José P.S. Henriques, Jorrit Lemkes, Alexander Vonk, Mirjam A.G. Sprangers, Pythia T. Nieuwkerk and Hanneke W.M. van Laarhoven


The theoretical model: ‘Narrative meaning making and integration of life events’ hypothesizes that life events such as falling ill may result in an ‘experience of contingency’. Through narrative meaning making, this experience may be eventually integrated into patients’ life stories, which, in turn, may enhance their quality of life. To contribute to our understanding of this existential dimension of falling ill and to further validate the theoretical model, we examined the relationships among the concepts assessed with the RE-LIFE questionnaire.

Two hypothesized mediation models were assessed using regression-based serial multiple mediation analysis. Model 1, assessing the influence of ‘experience of contingency’ on ‘acknowledging’, was significant and showed partial mediation by indirect influences through ‘negative impact on life goals’ and ‘existential meaning’. Model 2, assessing the influence of ‘experience of contingency’ on ‘quality of life’, was also significant, with a full mediation by the variables ‘negative impact on life goals’, ‘existential meaning’ and ‘acknowledging’. In conclusion, several hypothesized relationships within the theoretical model were confirmed. Narrative meaning making and integration significantly influence people’s self-evaluation of their quality of life.

Kurt Wuchterl


The existentially important problem of contingency has in recent times been the topic of discussion not only in the philosophy of religion, but also in psychology, in sociology and especially in empirical theology. In the theory of the experience of contingency developed here, “contingency” is first clarified by differentiating the meanings of “necessity”, which makes it possible to distinguish several fundamental personal patterns of behaviour in dealing with contingencies. Since both the purely scientific considerations as well as those relating to reason have reached their limits, the focus is on the meaning of contingency in religion. The central point at issue is what lies beyond the limits of reason. Naturalists and immanent agnostics judge responses to contingency differently from religious agnostics and adherents of institutionalised religions.—Finally, by applying the notion of a latent philosophy as a basis for these religious-philosophical reflections, it becomes a bridge to empirical theology, which attempts to mold the individual ways of dealing with contingency into being practically applicable.

Egbert van Dalen, Michael Scherer-Rath, Hanneke van Laarhoven, Gerard Wiegers and Chris Hermans


According to philosopher of religion Kurt Wuchterl, contingency acknowledgement (German: Kontingenzanerkennung) means that rational thinking is inadequate for explaining contingency experiences. The authors argue that, in the tragic narrative of a contingency experience, subjects face limitations in three dimensions: in the individual, social and transcending dimensions. The individual dimension is expressed in powerful, visual metaphors for the confrontation with forces that do not take the human dimension into account in any way, even coercing the subjects to relinquish their existence. The social dimension concerns the tragic subject’s feeling of being avoided and excluded by some individuals in their environment. The transcending dimension emerges in the complaint “Why me?”, which religious persons address to a religious power, using moral arguments. Empirical research suggests that the acknowledgement of one’s own limitations resulting from a contingency experience can be seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness, for, by doing so, one shows the courage to let go of past interpretative frameworks and be vulnerable. This creates the possibility of an opening in the interpretation crisis, which can lead to an unexpected, new perspective.

Patrick Kofi Amissah


The purpose of this article is to draw upon the condemnation of bribery, corruption and miscarriage of justice to be found in the book of Amos for the sake of a public theology. The occasion for such is a bribery scandal that hit the Ghanaian judiciary. An investigative journalist presented evidence to substantiate the hitherto unsubstantiated perception that some judges in Ghana take bribes to skew judgement. The scandal is deepened through many of the judges being Christian. They attracted widespread criticism from religious leaders, both Christian and others, as well as from the wider society. The public sphere of a fair and independent judiciary was thus compromised. The argument draws upon an assessment of Amos 5:7; 10, 12 and 6:12. These texts are examined in the light of this judicial bribery and corruption scandal and thus provide an example of how the Bible can play a part in a public theology and nurture of social justice.

Roshnee Ossewaarde-Lowtoo


The works of Reinhold Niebuhr contain invaluable examples of how Christian resources can be fruitfully exploited to address urgent economic and political issues. The ideas of sin and continuous redemption, which arguably belong to the core of the Christian faith, are creatively translated by Niebuhr, so that they can be included in public debates and interdisciplinary dialogues. In this article, his conception of sin as the perversion of the will-to-live into the will-to-power is endorsed. Its counterforce, it is argued, is human love infused with divine love. Love is, therefore, not a simple possibility, which can be applied to our economic and political problems. Instead, it is the impossible possibility, the ultimate and critical perspective from which prevailing forms of justice and philanthropy are judged. Through the public theology of Niebuhr, the ideal of love becomes a universally valid alternative to the rationalist and naturalist approaches to human morality.

Derek McDougall


The key task for Christian public theology is to determine the most effective way in which theological insights can contribute to the public good within any given polity and beyond. In the past the assumption has been that this task is undertaken in a secular political environment. After examining different ways in which such an environment might be understood, this article examines the approaches of Stanley Hauerwas, Rowan Williams and Oliver O’Donovan to Christian political engagement. These approaches are characterized as separatist, pluralist and sympathetic to Christendom. Subsequently there is a shift in focus to consider how relevant these approaches are to the emerging post-secular and pluralist environment in the western world. While there is a range of approaches as to how to pursue the public good in this context, I argue that Hauerwas, Williams and O’Donovan remain relevant, contributing to the task of public theology in various ways.

Samuel Lee


Contemporary missions, regardless of the sending country, often include socio-economic dimensions. One application of the socio-economic aspect is Entrepreneurial Church Planting which uses business entrepreneurs and clergy members to launch spiritually and economically integrated communities of faith. In a world that measures success economically, how should be success being measured in such endeavours? For too long in the history of the Christian faith, financial stewardship or the number of conversions has sufficed. Increased economic pressures have led to the need not only to be governed by the quantifiable elements of reconciliation or financial flourishing, but also to evaluate outcomes of transformation—and thus to be accountable. This article explores these issues through a case study of the Blue Jean Church in partnership with Arsenal Place Accelerator and the Children’s Policy Council in Selma, Alabama. It represents a form of a congregationally-based practical public theology.

Richard Brash


The theologian John Webster (d. 2016) is sometimes criticized for having little to say about politics. This article seeks to demonstrate how Webster furnishes a set of conceptual resources that provide the theological and anthropological bases for a Christian public theology, as well as the rationale for the sort of moral reasoning that will give involvement in politics its appropriate shape and content. Webster understands humanity theologically, as creatures of God. The consequence of this position means we must appreciate the (protological and eschatological) givenness of our situation, rejecting the possibility of secular space, and accepting our teleologically-oriented vocation. Webster’s theological anthropology constitutes an indirect challenge, and a clear—and ultimately more compelling—alternative to the political liberalism proposed by John Rawls.

Patrik Hagman and Liisa Mendelin


This article explores the connections between political activism and Christian asceticism. It does so through a discussion with recent political theologies and historical research into (early) Christian asceticism. Two present-day cases, the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Buy Nothing Year, are used to demonstrate similarities and potential for fruitful engagement between the two traditions. It is suggested that asceticism needs to be understood in a fuller range, incorporating introspective, imaginative and institutional aspects in order to make visible the potential for a dialogue between the Christian ascetic tradition and present-day political activism. The article thus contributes to the discussion concerning asceticism in the Christian tradition, developing public theology as a bodily practice and to a theological understanding of political activism.

Joseph Drexler-Dreis


This essay develops a response to the historical situation of the North Atlantic world in general and the United States in particular through theological reflection. It offers an overview of some decolonial perspectives with which theologians can engage, and argues for a general perspective for a decolonial theology as a possible response to modern/colonial structures and relations of power, particularly in the United States. Decolonial theory holds together a set of critical perspectives that seek the end of the modern/colonial world-system and not merely a democratization of its benefits. A decolonial theology, it is argued, critiques how the confinement of knowledge to European traditions has closed possibilities for understanding historical encounters with divinity, and thus possibilities of critical reflection. A decolonial theology reflects critically on a historical situation in light of faith in a divine reality, the understanding of which is liberated from the monopoly of modern/colonial ways of knowing, in order to catalyze social transformation.

Derek C. Hatch

Five years have passed since the publication of the report from the second round of international ecumenical dialogues between the Baptist World Alliance and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. When this document—titled The Word of God in the Life of the Church—was released, readers recognised that it would demand ongoing reflection and engagement as part of its reception. This article describes how Baptists have received the report during this interval. To do so, the article will discuss printed journal articles, books, academic sessions, and ecclesial events where the report has appeared, been discussed, and critically engaged. The article also articulates several suggestions for cultivating further awareness and active engagement with the report by Baptists. It concludes with the hope that deeper Baptist reception of The Word of God in the Life of the Church will bolster mutual understanding between both communities.

Stefan Paas

In response to the ongoing secularization of the West, much missiological reflection on the church has turned to post-foundationalist, pragmatic and traditioned approaches culminating in a ‘counter-cultural’ model of the church. This model, developed most extensively in neo-Anabaptist contributions, is believed to contain rich promises for missionary ecclesiology in a post-Christendom age. In this article several traditions that have contributed to this approach are examined, with an emphasis on neo-Anabaptism – especially the works of Yoder and Hauerwas. A critical discussion of the model’s idealism and view of culture follows. Based on this analysis, the article discusses how the model of the counter-cultural church can contribute to Christian mission in the secularized societies of the West.

Gabrielle Thomas

This article investigates potential learning for the Church of England with regard to ‘mutual flourishing’. It begins by summarising the findings from recent research, which employs the principles of receptive ecumenism to explore women’s experiences of working in English churches. During this research, ‘mutual flourishing’ (as described in the ‘Five Guiding Principles’) was identified repeatedly, as an area of practice which is a ‘live’ wound in the life of the Church of England. The article moves on to discuss the theme of friendship in the theology of Thomas Aquinas, arguing that Thomas’s particular approach to friendship, if appropriated prudently, could contribute to healing the ‘wound’ identified during the research. The final phase moves on to suggest what it might mean in practice to appropriate Thomas’s theology of friendship in the life of the Church of England.

Paul Avis

The purpose of this article is to bring to light the ecclesiological reality of cathedrals, with a main focus on the Church of England. It initiates a concise ecclesiological discussion of the following aspects of the English, Anglican cathedrals: (a) the cathedral as a church of Christ; (b) the place and role of the cathedral within the diocese; (c) the relationship between the cathedral and the diocesan bishop; (d) the mission of the cathedral. The article concludes with a brief reflection on (e) the cathedral as the ‘mother church’ of the diocese.

Ida Heikkilä

‘Witness’ belongs to the central vocabulary of contemporary ecumenism. Despite its ecumenically significant role the concept has not been defined in ecumenical dialogues, neither analysed in academic research. Already a rough mapping of dialogue documents shows that the concept is used in various ways and contexts but not in a coherent or conscious way. This article studies the meaning of ‘witness’ in two ecumenical documents issued by the World Council of Churches, ‘Together towards Life. Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes’ (2012) and ‘The Church: Towards a Common Vision’ (2013). Both documents see witness as the characteristically Christian way of participating in the mission of the Triune God but give it different roles in the life of the church.

Im Gravitationsfeld von Mystik und Politik

Christliche Sozialethik im Gespräch mit Maria Skobtsova, Dorothee Sölle und Chiara Lubich


Petra Steinmair-Pösel

Am Beginn des dritten Jahrtausends steht die Welt vor großen gesellschaftspolitischen Herausforderungen – vom Klimawandel über globale Gerechtigkeitsfragen bis hin zum erstarkenden Rechtspopulismus. Woher sind konstruktive Lösungsansätze zu erwarten? Drei aktuelle sozialethische Fragestellungen stehen im Zentrum: die umweltethisch geforderte Reduktion des Ressourcenverbrauchs angesichts einer ungehemmten Wachstumsökonomie, die Notwendigkeit universaler Solidarität in einer zum globalen Dorf zusammengewachsenen Welt und die Bedeutung echten interreligiösen Dialogs vor dem Hintergrund eines befürchteten clash of civilizations and religions.

Joseph N. Goh, Kristine C. Meneses and Donald E. Messer


Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), and people living with HIV (PLHIV) feel estranged from and misunderstood by their Christian communities. Churches, in turn, continue to wrestle with issues of theology and pastoral care pertaining to LGBT and PHIV. In response, this article aims to construct an ecclesiological praxis of inclusivity toward LGBT and PLHIV. Framed by Elisabeth Schüsler Fiorenza’s notion of Jesus’ basileia vision as the praxis of inclusive wholeness, we analyze, interpret and theologize narratives from elite interviews with three community leader-practitioners in Singapore and the Philippines who shared on their ministerial struggles, practices and visions. We suggest that churches can take the lead to engender an ecclesiological praxis of inclusivity by being (i) spaces of support, belonging and dignity for LGBT and PLHIV; and (ii) avenues for fostering dialogue with LGBT and PLHIV to articulate God’s inclusive love.

Frederike van Oorschot


This article examines how public theologians aim to bring their theology into the practice of the church. In the first part it analyses the references to the church in the work of contemporary public theologians from the United States and Germany and suggests four different categories for the relations explored (explicit function, implicit function, public church, church as public). In the second part, it discusses three systematic aspects of these relations. First, following Kuyper, it defines the term ‘church’ more accurately. Second, it offers insights into liturgical research in order to help to sharpen the places where and means by which the implicit shaping of individual ethical behaviour in the church takes place, as exemplified in the work of Dirk Smit. Third, it discusses the task of pastors as mediators between church and theology.

Benyamin Intan


Religious violence in Indonesia has its origins mainly in factors that are external to religion. One factor in particular is the striving for political power initiated by the Ministry of Religion wherein religion and the state seek to subordinate the other. Within the Pancasila-based state religions have been enabled to live together in peace and harmony; opportunities have been created in which each religion can play an active role in the public sphere. This principle allows all religions and beliefs to function in public life. In a society like Indonesia a civil society—and how a particular religion functions—must begin with the reality of religious diversity. On this foundation a ‘public religion’ in the service of a civil society has the potential to be a transforming and liberating power necessary for democratic socio-political life.

Darren Cronshaw


Hunger Games are young adult fiction and movie franchises, which address issues of Empire, border control, politics of fear, human rights, gender, ethnicity, refugees and global inequity. The narrative of Hunger Games echoes the dilemmas of balancing personal sovereignty and self-fulfillment with the struggle that goes on for advocacy for social and political change. They make heroes of protagonists who rebel against the status quo and make a stand for justice in oppressive social-political contexts. The basic plot is ancient, but it is striking a chord with a generation of westerners who are disaffected with current societal and political trends. This article is a literary analysis of Hunger Games, analyzing its treatment of public theology, sovereignty and justice issues, especially for younger adults. It affirms the appeal of the books for resisting oppression, but questions unchallenged assumptions about ethnicity, gender, retributive violence and personal authenticity.

Ulrich Schmiedel


As of 1 June 2018, the symbol of the cross has to be shown in all state offices of Bavaria in Germany. In order to chart the churches’ reaction, I return to a conversation that Robert N. Bellah and Martin E. Marty had during the 1960s and the 1970s. Drawing on the core concepts of this conversation, I analyze and assess today’s cross controversy as a case of what I call the ‘populist predicament’. I argue that Marty’s programme of public theology provides a path out of the populist predicament because it combines the celebration and the critique of identity. Ultimately, I advocate for a pluralist position of public theology in the post-migrant context.

L. Juliana Claassens


In this article, I am contributing to the ongoing conversation on a feminist public theology. Drawing on examples of feminist public theologians in my own context in (South) Africa, I propose that a feminist public theology ought to deal honestly and constructively with the reality of the deep wounds and the scars caused by racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia, which, if left unattended, may fester and return with a vengeance. It is also imperative that a feminist public theology continues to imagine the world to be otherwise, thus helping not only to name the injustice of the past, but also to be able to see beyond the violence to help foster values such as compassion, justice, resistance and resilience. Drawing on examples from the book of Jeremiah, I will illustrate something of my own vocation as a feminist public theologian in the context of South Africa today.

Megachurches and Social Engagement

Public Theology in Practice


Mark J. Cartledge, Sarah Dunlop, Heather Buckingham and Sophie Bremner

This book is the first detailed academic study of megachurches in the UK. In particular, it explores the nature and significance of social engagement by megachurches in the context of London. The research contains empirical case studies of two Anglican and three African diaspora Pentecostal churches. As well as exploring the range of social engagement activities provided by these churches, the study offers explanations in term of theological motivations and the influence of globalisation. Subsequently, the book outlines the importance of the findings for the relationship between church and society in the contemporary context, addressing the implications for social policy and practice. The book advances discussions in public theology, megachurch studies, Pentecostal and Charismatic studies and ecclesiology.

Simon Hill and Henk de Roest

Roman R. Williams

Visual research shows promise in the study of congregations. And with so many people carrying cameras to worship services in the form of a smartphone, opportunities abound for those interested in visual approaches to engagement and research. This article explores the potential of a participatory action technique known as photovoice in congregational settings through a case study of a church located in the midwestern region of the United States. Photovoice, it is argued, gives participants permission to discuss matters of personal significance, builds relational bridges across differences (in this case, across different age cohorts), and may help a congregation to see itself from new perspectives. Likewise, the materials produced in a photovoice project comprise a rich collection of data that may be analyzed by a researcher to explore themes central to their research agenda. When used in conjunction with familiar ethnographic practices such as fieldnotes and interviews, photovoice can become a valuable component of a project that pursues both research and engagement.

‘I might be wrong’

Ecclesiology after Kester Brewin

Rein Brouwer

For about ten years (1998-2008), Kester Brewin was one of the principal instigators of the Vaux community, a ‘vehicle for exploring radical theological thought and practice’. From these experiences and events, he wrote The Complex Christ: Signs of Emergence in the Urban Church (2004). Since then he moved on as a blogger, columnist, tedx-er, and writer. In 2016 he published Getting High: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the Dream of Flight with Vaux Publishing. Getting High is a fascinating reflection on an era dominated by the flight of technology (from the 1960s on), substituting for the eternal longing for the ultimate. But it is also a moving introspection into Brewin’s own life. Being the son of a preacher man, he was getting high on evangelical ecstasy as a young adult, before he became one of the influential figures in the emerging church movement. He ended up, however, ‘outside of what would be taken as orthodox belief.’ This paper discusses Kester Brewin’s ‘piratic’ thoughts on the church, based on his books, blogs, and columns. How did his ‘theological’ thinking evolve, and what does it mean for ecclesiology?

Grace Davie and Caroline Starkey

On Friday 2nd September 2016, The Guardian published an online article entitled ‘Bishop of Grantham first C of E bishop to declare he is in a gay relationship.’ In response, a large quantity of correspondence was sent to the Bishop from members of the public, the vast majority expressing support. In this paper, we set the empirical data contained in the letters themselves within a context of continuing change in both society and the Church of England. We consider the reactions of the Church at the ‘tipping points’ of social change as it seeks to balance its responsibilities as a guardian of ‘truth’ with the need to keep in touch with modern ways of living. A key concept underpinning our analysis will be the notion of ‘vicarious religion’, which deals with the subtle but continuing relationships between the actively faithful and a wider body of more loosely attached adherents.

Jan Grimell

This article applies Bonhoeffer’s description of Christian discipleship to research literature on military culture and costs of military service. Bonhoeffer’s theological understanding of discipleship illustrates a calling, subordination, obedience, discipline, loyalty, mission focus and the cost thereof, and a collectivistic approach. These are commonly understood as core features of military communal life and service. This article suggests that service members may have a certain cultural disposition which resonates to Bonhoeffer’s teachings of discipleship. Christian communities may serve as cultural platforms capable of assisting veterans in transition from military to civilian life and supporting their reintegration into society. Additionally, veterans may reinvigorate Christian discipleship by bringing these closer to the teachings of Bonhoeffer which may work in the service of renewed commitment and devotion. This could serve the larger society; it may have a positive influence upon communal life as well as the individual.

Daniel Dangendorf

This practical-theological research paper presents the main results of a grounded theory inquiry into the criteria for song selection among pastors, musicians and liturgists in German Protestant Churches and Free Churches. It argues that, in contrast to some current practical manuals, practitioners focus less on systematic rational assessment of songs, but make decisions in the process of song selection habitually, interacting with others involved in the process and negotiating manifold social, theological and musical criteria. It is necessary to distinguish the particular capabilities of pastors, liturgists and musicians, who each approach the process of song selection from different angles. Interpreting those results in dialogue with Christopher Small’s musicking theory and James K.A. Smith’s reflections on the role of habitus in liturgy, the paper closes with a plea to reconsider current forms of practical-theological guidance on song selection.

Armand Léon van Ommen

Most churches intercede every Sunday in their public worship for the needs of the world and for their fellow members. However, it seems that some topics are consistently left out from the prayers, such as prayers for mental health. This article addresses the question whether some topics are taboo, by investigating what churches pray for or not. Empirical research in this area is largely absent. Through the gathering and analysis of prayers, and interviews and focus groups with prayer leaders in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium this article shows reasons why certain topics, such as mental health, are indeed absent from public intercession. A significant finding is that the prayer leaders explain this in terms of pastoral sensitivity rather than taboo. This article suggests that the pastoral sensitivity does indicate a taboo, or stigma, on these topics.

Chammah J. Kaunda


This article employs a public theology approach from the perspective of a decolonial theory. It analyses how the Declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation functioned as a nationalist neo-colonial ideology during the presidential campaign of 2016. It did so in a way that was designed to legitimize President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s political candidacy and moral authority within the Pentecostal-Charismatic religious sector. The analysis seeks to demonstrate how the Declaration and the photography of the social media presidential campaign intersected in order to represent the image of Lungu as an idea Christian President. Informed by a thematic analysis and a decolonial public theology, the article unmasks and exposes how ideology can become normalized as social practice within a particular historical context. The theological-ethnographic material within the analysis was collected during the period from January 2016 to February 2017.

Mark Dawson


Church action for Fair Trade in the United Kingdom serves as an example of an activity, inspired and guided by theology, which has grown to involve the active participation of large numbers of churchgoers. Public recognition of Fair Trade is high, embracing a wide, secular society. The expansion of Fair Trade has come at a price, however, with the increasing involvement of large commercial organisations threatening diminution of the original theological insight. In learning from the experience of the mainstreaming of Fair Trade in the United Kingdom, it could be argued that the theological reflection that gave rise to the Fair Trade movement was the beginning of a public theology. It needs to be acknowledged and now taken further, to respond to the changing context. A public theology involving congregations should be nurtured, so that the public theological insight can be disseminated and its guidance put into practice.

Nico Koopman


This article discusses the development of a public theological response to the various challenges that have confronted South African democracy over the past twenty-five years. A public theology addresses three interdependent themes, namely the inherent public contents of faith, the public rationality of faith and the public significance of faith. The praxis of a Trinitarian theology and anthropology of vulnerability captures the emphasis liberation theology placed upon dignity, healing, justice, freedom and equality. The focus on human rights is a vehicle for justice while the call for unity—within the church and society at large—seeks a reconciliation that overcomes alienation. It seeks an end to oppression and dehumanization. In a context where the democratic vision of dignity, healing, justice, freedom and equality for all, especially for the most vulnerable, are not fulfilled, the prophetic modes of envisioning and criticism have to enjoy priority.

Caroline Redick


This article seeks to offer a theological response for the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis (2011–19) by examining the doctrine of the Trinity in light of the contemporary landscape of displacement. In order to explore divine identity in relation to displacement and hospitality, the theology of Jürgen Moltmann will be utilized in order to interpret the current crisis through the lens of Trinitarian salvation. Moltmann’s understanding of Trinitarian persons as spaces will be explored to highlight the role of risk in love and to illustrate how salvific enfolding even embraces the possibility of harm. Finally, building from his theology, the article will argue that this understanding of Trinitarian salvation impacts a Christian ethic of hospitality during the refugee crisis.

Where Public Theology and Public Administration Meet

Reflections on Jürgen Habermas’ Post-Secular Turn

Robert van Putten, Patrick Overeem and Ronald van Steden


Since 9/11 Jürgen Habermas has paid considerable attention to religion in the public sphere. He has described contemporary Western societies as ‘post-secular’, arguing that believers and non-believers should show a mutually cooperative attitude and engage in complementary learning processes. Although public theologians have urged for policies that would encourage such collaboration, public administration scholars and practitioners seem to have completely neglected this call. In this article we inquire into the possibility of a ‘post-secular public administration’, which grants a more significant place to beneficial forms of religion in modern societies. By presenting a case study on Street Pastors in the British night-time economy we offer an example of both a post-secular religious contribution to the public sphere, as envisaged by Habermas, and a piece of post-secular empirical social science research. Finally, we critically assess Habermas’ post-secular turn within the context of a cross-narrative between public theology and public administration.


Edited by Amy M. Austin and Mark D. Johnston

A Companion to Ramon Llull and Lullism offers a comprehensive survey of the work of the Majorcan lay theologian and philosopher Ramon Llull (1232-1316) and of its influence in late medieval, Renaissance, and early modern Europe, as well as in the Spanish colonies of the New World. Llull’s unique system of philosophy and theology, the “Great Universal Art,” was widely studied and admired from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries. His evangelizing ideals and methods inspired centuries of Christian missionaries. His many writings in Catalan, his native vernacular, remain major monuments in the literary history of Catalonia.

Contributors are: Roberta Albrecht, José Aragüés Aldaz, Linda Báez Rubí, Josep Batalla, Pamela Beattie, Henry Berlin, John Dagenais, Mary Franklin-Brown, Alexander Ibarz, Annemarie C. Mayer, Rafael Ramis Barceló, Josep E. Rubio, and Gregory B. Stone.

The Spirit, Indigenous Peoples and Social Change

Māori and a Pentecostal Theology of Social Engagement


Michael J. Frost

In The Spirit, Indigenous Peoples and Social Change Michael Frost explores a pentecostal theology of social engagement in relation to Māori in New Zealand. Pentecostalism has had an ambiguous relationship with Māori and, in particular, lacks a robust and coherent theological framework for engaging in issues of social concern. Drawing on a number of interviews with Māori pentecostal leaders and ministers, Frost explores the transformative role of pentecostal experience for Māori cultural identity, a holistic theology of mission, an indigenous prophetic emphasis, and consequent connections between pentecostalism and liberation. He thus contributes a way forward for pentecostal theologies of social change in relation to Māori, with implications for pentecostalism and indigenous peoples in the West.

Vietnamese Evangelicals and Pentecostalism

The Politics of Divine Intervention


Vince Le

This book offers an analysis of the historical, theological, and social conditions that give rise to the growth of pentecostalism among contemporary Vietnamese evangelicals. Emerging from the analysis is an understanding of how underprivileged evangelicals have utilized the pentecostal emphasis on divine intervention in their pursuit of the betterment of life amid religious and ethnic marginalization.
Within the context of the global growth of pentecostalism, Vietnamese Evangelicals and Pentecostalism shows how people at the grassroots marry the deeply local-based meaning dictated by the particularity of living context and the profoundly universal truth claims made by a religion aspiring to reach all four corners of the earth to enhance life.

John A. Williams

The author has previously argued that in recent times the mainstream churches in the uk have tended to co-opt elements of a postmodern analysis of contemporary culture in support of a mission strategy focused on presentational innovations and limited structural adjustments, without allowing the implications radically to challenge ecclesiological or theological foundations. This article conducts an experiment in pursuing the logic of a postmodern discourse about the Church to bring its more radical implications into view: it begins to sketch out an alternative view of church as an 'ecclesianarchy', the distinctive purpose of which is to become a socio-cultural site for the symbolisation and enactment of the impossible. The proposal is explored with reference to examples of contemporary innovations in ecclesial praxis, and attention is drawn to critical questions such churches will need to attend to in the interests of furthering their evolution in a time of instability and change.

Henk de Roest and Simon Hill

Samuel Tranter and David Bartram Torrance

This article begins by introducing recent work by Michael Banner, who advocates the use of social anthropology generally (not just the anthropology of Christianity) for the Christian ethics of everyday life. His use of ethnography in Christian theological ethics is then situated in relation to recent discussions in ecclesiology and ethnography. Situated thus, Banner’s work forms the springboard for a brief discussion of what is at stake for theological ethics in turning to ethnographic research. While some dangers are highlighted, a way forward is offered for the fruitful use of ethnographic research in this field.

Elizabeth Jordan

A study of congregational life has been illuminated by Christian relational epistemology. A shared Christian identity is fundamental to this research methodology, as relational epistemology is treated as an approach grounded in the relations of the Trinity, from which all Christian ontology derives. The congregation is shown to be a network of relationships and the relationship that the researcher establishes with its members is integral to the knowledge about its nature. This approach has also provided insight into the relation between secular theory and theology in the study of congregations and the ethical concerns arising from insider research into situations in which one has pastoral responsibility for research participants. The paper shows that some understanding of the nature of the congregation is not accessible to those who do not participate in its life and so recommends an epistemological method for all ministers, lay or ordained, who wish to study their congregations.

Andrew Village and Judith A. Muskett

Using a range of qualitative data, this article presents a case study of changing episcopal roles in the Diocese of Truro, necessitated by its bishops’ involvement in the innovative Accompanied Ministry Development Programme (amd). This style of engagement foregrounds the activity specified in the ordinal of ‘getting to know the people and being known by them’. Findings raise questions such as whether roles currently undertaken by the bishops could be shared among senior staff and, if not, how the role of bishops could be adjusted to cope with an ongoing commitment to engage with incumbents and parishes across the Diocese on a regular basis. These are questions upon which any diocese may wish to reflect when initiating change that requires direct episcopal support.

Jason S. Sexton

Among various carceral governance structures meant to punish, educate, and rehabilitate is the carceral governance structure of the church with its dynamic structure operative in the reconstitution of prisoners’ humanity. Presenting an interdisciplinary theological vision of this phenomenon found in the material content of personal faith, this paper presents preliminary results of twenty-four interviews of former prisoners who participated in the incarcerated church, interpreting the ethnographic data in dialogue with the ecumenical creed. Thus, it reinterprets in-depth interview data so as to begin presenting a coherent theological vision of what the members of the prison church both are and could increasingly become within the carceral context.

Muthuraj Swamy

The concept and practice of ecumenism has played a crucial role in the theological construction of ecclesiology for the last few decades. In spite of the various steps taken for promoting local ecumenism in different parts of the world, the continuing challenge for ecclesiology (and also for theology in general) is to place grassroots efforts for ecumenism in the centre of theological discussions. While local ecumenism is defined and practiced in a number of ways, this essay discusses the ordinary and everyday efforts for church unity among Christians in South India, and the theological potentials of such efforts. A study of local ecumenism can contribute to the discussions in ecclesiology and ethnography, and such discussions in turn can help further to encourage local ecumenism by bringing to the centre the everyday experiences of Christians that have not often been focused or highlighted in mainline academic ecclesiology or theology.

Cas Wepener and Hendrik J.C. Pieterse


Expressions of anger can be observed all over South Africa and by individuals and groups from different social, economic and racial backgrounds. In this article the argument is advanced that such expressions of anger can be expressions of love and signs of hope showing that people still care. Therefore, anger should not be avoided, but instead be embraced and channelled for positive ends. This article furthermore develops an argument in favour of the celebration of angry liturgies and the preaching of angry sermons as an integral part of the on-going road towards reconciliation and healing after apartheid in general and in particular it reflects on sermons preached in Afrikaans Reformed churches in South Africa on the theme of anger between 2010 and 2015. By means of content analysis, and specifically Grounded Theory, the collected sermons were analysed and a homiletical theory for praxis regarding angry preaching developed. In conclusion the theory for praxis is presented as homiletical route markers for angry preaching as one way of liturgically embracing and meaningfully channelling anger.

Sungho Choi


This article deals with a theological approach to the issue of climate change and examines some of the misconceptions found within Christianity with regards the environment. These distortions of understanding can be traced back to the way in which salvation is articulated and perceived. In the circumstances it becomes a pressing public task to consider the key biblical conceptions of salvation. Of critical significance is how the salvific tradition is understood to be corporate rather than individualistic. That is so right from the beginning of Israel’s redemptive history and carries through the biblical material to include God’s redemptive work in Christ which is itself extended through to the rest of creation. The current mitigation measures (and their limitations) with regards to climate change are critically evaluated alongside these salvific claims.

Clive Pearson

Jakub Urbaniak


Much has been already written about public theology’s prophetic role in democratic South Africa. This study seeks to offer a reality check. By probing some of Nico Koopman’s views on justice and reconciliation I draw tentative conclusions regarding the shortcomings characteristic of the prevalent discourses that have developed in South Africa under the umbrella of public theology since the mid-1990s. I seek to explain why liberation theologies—be it black, feminist or queer—may and should constructively disrupt these discourses. I also point to some promising (prophetically-loaded) insights coming from the chosen public theologians that revolve around the tension between civic spirit and public anger. Lastly, I suggest that one essential aspect of public theologians’ navigating between a populist temptation and a prophetic calling may be found in the need to rethink their theological accountability whereby grooving with people’s anger appears as a sine qua non condition for prophetic theologizing.

Scott Cowdell


This article reflects on political virtue in conversation with an influential manifesto from English Radical Orthodoxy: The Politics of Virtue, by John Milbank and Adrian Pabst. They see social and economic liberalism as destroying a sustaining metaphysics of communal abiding, with classical and Judaeo-Christian roots. They commend an ‘alternative modern’ version of this past, albeit through British and European political traditions and arrangements preserving elements of its ‘conservative socialism.’ Yet they undersell the spiritual capacities of secular modernity, also the political virtue of principled, non-ideological pragmatism. And they oversell the actual pacific character of that idealised past, since such closed worlds required the discrete use of violence to maintain order and boundaries. A more mainstream Christian account of political virtue today would see liberal autonomy augmented by a revived communitarianism, along with the civilizing of global capital.

Marco Derks


This article discusses two major ways in which sexual and religious identities are conceptualized in Dutch public discourses about homosexuality. In a secular discourse that stresses that LGBTs should be able to ‘be themselves’, certain religious identities are often ignored, subordinated or attacked, while the self that needs to be realized is rendered primarily a sexual self. A conservative Protestant (counter-)discourse on ‘being in Christ’ subordinates (homo)sexual identity to Christian identity—or even rejects it. To move beyond such (Late) Modern oppositional constructions of religion and homosexuality in terms of (religious/sexual) “identity”, this article explores the (queer) Catholic concept of sacramental characters—as an anti-identity—and suggests that it has the potential to unsettle some of the deadlocks in public discourses about homosexuality and sexual diversity.

David Thang Moe


This article pays particular attention to the three themes in Barth’s macro-political theology and their contextual significance for a micro-political theology for Myanmar. First, I explore Barth’s renewed doctrine of political Lordship in response to the traditional doctrine of two kingdoms. Second, I examine his hermeneutics of the dialectical relation between church and state and the ethical role of the church in the sociopolitical situation in the light of his theological document of the Barmen Declaration against the evil of Nazism and the errors of the church. Finally, I seek to show how Barth’s political theology and liberation theology are convergent and divergent in their synthetic goals of transforming unjust rulers and liberating the oppressed, reforming and renewing the ethnic church, and establishing an embracive and reconciled community in Myanmar.

Adrianus Sunarko


In order that religions in a multicultural modern democratic society like Indonesia do not become a source of conflict, the adherents of religions must develop a certain rationality of faith. That rationality is related to the attitude towards other religions and beliefs, to the autonomy of science, and to the procedures inherent in the democratic system. Hopefully, religious communities can develop a positive attitude towards those three things, without denying their religious identity. The learning process associated with them cannot be imposed from outside, but must be born of the dynamics within the community of the faith/ religious community itself. If the learning process is successfully pursued, the adherents of the religions can give an important contribution to the development of democracy in Indonesia.

Justin Ariel Bailey


This article situates and evaluates the cultural hermeneutic method of theologian Kevin Vanhoozer. His “theodramatic imagination” sets forth a method for rightly interpreting both Scripture and culture. Fellow theologian William Dyrness criticizes Vanhoozer’s model as theoretical rather than theatrical, focused on extracted ideas instead of embedded imaginaries. The article argues that, although Dyrness’ critique misses its mark, the true disagreement is pneumatological in nature. In the view of the author, this is the real limitation for Vanhoozer’s method: he prepares us to recognize and respond to the Spirit at work in shaping the Church’s “theodramatic” imagination, but we are less equipped to recognize the same Spirit outside the walls of the church, where much of the drama of redemption is set. Constructively, this article develops Vanhoozer’s cultural hermeneutic with a stronger connection to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the wider world, employing an underdeveloped concept from Vanhoozer’s theology.

Taking on Practical Theology

The Idolization of Context and the Hope of Community


Courtney Goto

In Taking on Practical Theology, Courtney T. Goto explores the regnant paradigm that shapes knowledge production and that preserves power, privilege, and historic communal injury even as scholars intend to enlighten and transform communities.

Approaching “context” as a case study, Goto illumines how this commonly used, taken-for-granted concept is “idolized.” Though practical theologians are sensitive to context, researchers often fail to consider how their own assumptive world dictates and influences their practices of research, teaching, and engaging in scholarly conversations. These practices unwittingly validate scholars who enjoy the most social capital while inflicting harm on both communities they research and on colleagues and students who do not fit (or fit less well) the norms of the majority.