Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Christian Theology's Engagement with Religious Pluralism

Over 200 participants of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) meeting in Philadelphia gathered for a Special Topics Forum on Monday, Nov. 20th, to hear a distinguished panel of Christian theologians address the question of Christian Theology’s Engagement with Religious Pluralism.

The idea for this Special Topics Forum arose at last year’s AAR meeting at which I invited Christian theologians for an informal conversation regarding what I perceived to be the inadequacy of Christian clergy formation to deal with religious plurality in our local communities. Twenty two theologians gathered for that conversation, at which they suggested that we request such a forum from the AAR. With the intervention of my colleagues, Susan Harlow (professor at Meadville-Lombard Theological Seminary) and Kathy Talvacchia (consultant to AAR), AAR invited us to hold this forum.

Diana Eck (Harvard University and Director, Pluralism Project), Paul Rajashekar (Dean, Lutheran Theological School at Philadelphia), Damayanthi Niles (Eden Theological Seminary), Tony Ritchie (Society for Pentecostal Studies) and Francis Tiso (US Conference of Catholic Bishops) formed the panel. Barbara Brown Zikmund (Co-chair, NCC Interfaith Relations Commission) moderated the discussion.

We think of this as the first step in a longer process of theological work. As an immediate next step we will post the papers on a website and invite those who signed up for an electronic discussion. We will certainly explore the possibility that this might be a Group within the AAR which gives the discussion a longer life-span.


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