Thursday, September 11, 2014

U2's Songs of Innocence: first impressions (ABP News/Herald)

The Associated Baptist Press / Religious Herald has published my first impressions theological review of the new U2 album Songs of Innocence, "On first take, the latest U2 album still offers grace." Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

I’d told myself I wouldn’t do it this time.

Writing a theological review of the latest U2 album has been de rigueur for me since offering my two cents on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. With increasingly credible rumors pointing to the release of the next album this fall (while I’m deep in the midst of a writing project about the “pilgrim church” character of the Baptist ecclesiological vision in relation to the ecumenical future), I’d decided to enjoy listening to whatever the band released but excuse myself from the self-imposed expectation to publish something about it.

Then I made the mistake of intermittently watching the live stream of Apple’s Sept. 9 product launch for its iPhone 6 and Apple Watch to see how the rumored U2 involvement in that event would unfold....(read the full article at ABP News/Herald)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In Memoriam: Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014)

Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg died Friday, September 6 at the age of 85. Pannenberg's former student Philip Clayton, a theologian at Claremont School of Theology, has blogged a nice personal tribute on Tony Jones' blog.

Most theological students recognize Pannenberg's name as a theologian mentioned in their systematic theology courses, probably in connection with concepts of revelation and Christology (the two loci in which I consistently reference Pannenberg in my courses at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity). Fewer may be familiar with his work as an ecumenist. In my article “Ecumenical Theology and/as Systematic Theology,” Ecumenical Trends 38, no.9 (October 2009): 6/134-9/137, 15/143, I wrote this about Pannenberg's ecumenical work:

The close relationship between ecumenical and systematic theology is epitomized by the career of Wolfhart Pannenberg, who long served in the dual role of Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Institute of Ecumenical Theology at the University of Munich, participated actively in various forums for ecumenical dialogue, wrote extensively on ecumenical themes, and treated each of the systematic loci with ecumenical comprehensiveness in his three-volume Systematic Theology with the purpose of contributing to the ecumenical goal of the visible unity of the church clearly in mind (p. 7/135).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ecumenism divinity course opportunity--January 2015 short term

Peter and Andrew Embracing, icon
presented in 1964 by Pope Paul VI to
Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras
In the January 2015 between-semesters term at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, I will be teaching a Master of Divinity course titled "Special Topics in Theology: The Quest for Christian Unity" (DSTH 401). The course will meet four class sessions per week for three weeks, 9:00 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Tuesday through Friday, January 6-23, 2015 on the Boiling Springs campus.

For M.Div. students at Gardner-Webb, the course will fulfill the Historical/Theological Studies Electives requirement for the Pastoral Studies concentration and the General Electives requirement for all concentrations. The course is also open to transient students who are enrolled in a degree program at another institution and wish to arrange transfer credit, as well as to non-degree students and registered auditors.

By the course's conclusion, students should be able to meet these objectives:
  1. Be familiar with the broad outlines of the history of ecclesial divisions and efforts to overcome them.
  2. Consider the current divisions of the church in light of the biblical imperative for Christian unity.
  3. Articulate a theological rationale for ecumenical engagement.
  4. Offer informed responses to some of the key proposals and agreements of the modern ecumenical movement.
  5. Appreciate the quest for Christian unity as central to the task of congregational ministry.
  6. Propose concrete practices of grassroots ecumenical engagement.

In addition to various ecumenical documents available online, the following are the required texts:

Students will also select one of the following books about the ecumenical movement and its future as the subject of a written response and class presentation:

In addition to participation in class lecture and seminar-style discussion sessions, course requirements will include an exam, an analysis of a national- or international-level dialogue between the student's own denominational tradition and another Christian communion, a response to one of the books about the ecumenical movement and its future, and a proposal for practices of concrete ecumenical engagement that can be implemented in local church settings.

Gardner-Webb divinity students will register through the usual process. Students at other institutions wishing to arrange transfer credit should confer with their academic dean early in the process and contact Kheresa Harmon, Director of Admissions for the School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb, for information about application procedures for transient students (; 704-406-3205). Others interested in taking the course as non-degree students or registered auditors should contact Kheresa Harmon as well. Applications from prospective students for the course not currently enrolled at Gardner-Webb will need to be received by December 1, 2014.

Baptist-Catholic dialogue report in PCPCU Information Service

The most recent issue of the Information Service bulletin published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (No. 142, 2013/II) includes in its "Documentation Supplement" the full text of "The Word of God in the Life of the Church: A Report of International Conversations between the Catholic Church and the Baptist World Alliance, 2006-2010," along with an official Catholic commentary on the document written by Thomas A. Baima. The issue can be downloaded in its entirety in PDF from the Vatican web site; the report was previously published in an issue of the American Baptist Quarterly and as an HTML document on the Vatican site.

Other articles and notices in the issue are of interest to followers of ecumenical developments. The Table of Contents appears below:

Pope Francis and Ecumenism (July-December 2013)

Visit to Rome of His Holiness Moran Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, 4-6 September 2013

Tenth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches
Busan, South Korea, 30 October – 8 November 2013 

Visit of a Delegation of the Holy See to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the Feast of St Andrew, 28 November – 1 December 2013
Message of Pope Francis to His Holiness Bartholomew 
Address of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 
Ecumenical News
International Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue: Sixth Round of Conversations
Baltimore, MD, USA, 13-19 July 2013 
Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews

Documentation Supplement

The Word of God in the Life of the Church
A Report of International Conversations between the Catholic Church and the Baptist World Alliance, 2006-2010 
Commentary on "The Word of God in the Life of the Church"
A Catholic Reflection on the Report of the International Conversations between the Catholic Church and the Baptist World Alliance 2006-2010, by Thomas A. Baima

Friday, August 29, 2014

Associated Baptist Press on Freeman's Contesting Catholicity

A previous Ecclesial Theology post linked a notice by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology blog of Curtis Freeman's new book Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists, due for release September 15 by Baylor University Press. Now Associated Baptist Press has issued a story by Bob Allen titled "New Book Proposes a Theology for 'Other' Baptists" offering a substantial preview of Freeman's book. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

Four centuries after originating as a protest movement within the church, Baptists today have evolved into a distinct sect committed to preserving its place in a hierarchy of denominations, Baptist theologian Curtis Freeman argues in a new book.... (read the full article at

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fr. William Henn on Pope Francis and Ecumenism

Fr. William Henn, O.F.M.Cap., has been one of the Catholic Church's leading ecumenical theologians since the 1987 publication of his dissertation on The Hierarchy of Truths According to Yves Congar. Currently serving as the Robert Bellarmine Professor of Ecclesiology and Ecumenism at Gregorian University in Rome and consultant to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Henn represents the Catholic Church as a member of the Standing Commission of the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order and has served on the Catholic delegations to international bilateral dialogues with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, representatives of Pentecostal churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the Mennonite World Conference, and the second phase of conversations with the Baptist World Alliance. I had the privilege of serving as a member of the Baptist-Catholic joint commission with Fr. Henn, for which we both presented papers on the relationship between Scripture and tradition in the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum and co-drafted a preliminary version of the section on "The Authority of Christ in Scripture and Tradition" in The Word of God in the Life of the Church: A Report of International Conversations between The Catholic Church and the Baptist World Alliance 2006-2010.

A month after the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis last year, Fr. Henn granted an interview to the National Catholic Reporter offering his perspectives on the ecumenical implications of the beginning of Pope Francis' papacy. I discovered it only today, but it's such an insightful article, with observations that hold true a year-and-a-half later, that I thought it worth calling to the attention of readers of Ecclesial Theology now.

Here's an excerpt from the beginning of John L. Allen, Jr.'s interview article:

Rome – For years, experts on ecumenism have said that the main stumbling block to putting the divided Christian family back together again isn’t so much the papacy, but a certain overly monarchical model of it. If we could find new ways of exercising primacy, they prophesied, unity might move a massive step closer to reality.

One veteran expert believes those “new ways” may have arrived with Pope Francis, predicting that this pontiff will prove a “boon” to ecumenism.

“He’s bringing to life what Vatican II added about the role of the papacy being understood from within the college of bishops and the communion of churches,” said Capuchin Fr. William Henn of Rome’s Gregorian University....(read the full article at National Catholic Reporter)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology on "Baptist Catholicity"

The Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology blog has posted a notice for Curtis Freeman's book Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists, about which I'll say more here at Ecclesial Theology when it's released by Baylor University Press next month. The post situates Freeman's book in a trajectory of Baptist theology that includes my book Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision; it mentions Ecclesial Theology, too.

Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the post:

An interesting development of the last decade or so has been the appearance of a distinctively Baptist strain of “evangelical catholic” theology.  It is strongly ecumenical and seeks to affirm Baptist links with the larger tradition of the Church  Perhaps the most prominent advocate of this approach has been Steven Harmon.... (read the full post at Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ecumenical Perspectives on the Filioque for the 21st Century--now available

Ecumenical Perspectives on the Filioque for the 21st Century, ed. Myk Habets (New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark), a book to which I contributed the Foreword "Ecumenical Reception of Ecumenical Perspectives on the Filioque," has now been released in the North American market. It's available directly from the publisher and from (in both hardcover and Kindle formats). The book description and Table of Contents appear below.

About Ecumenical Perspectives on the Filioque for the 21st Century

The volume presents a range of theological standpoints regarding the filioque. With some contributors arguing for its retention and others for its removal, still others contest that its presence or otherwise in the Creed is not what is of central concern, but rather that how it should be understood is of ultimate importance. What contributors share is a commitment to interrogating and developing the central theological issues at stake in a consideration of the filioque, thus advancing ecumenical theology and inter-communal dialogue without diluting the discussion. Contributors span the Christian traditions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and Pentecostal. Each of these traditions has its own set of theological assumptions, methods, and politics, many of which are on display in the essays which follow. Nonetheless it is only when we bring the wealth of learning and commitments from our own theological traditions to ecumenical dialogue that true progress can be made. It is in this spirit that the present essays have been conceived and are now presented in this form.

Table Of Contents

Foreword: Ecumenical Reception of Ecumenical Perspectives on the Filioque. Steven R. Harmon
List of Contributors
1. Introduction: Ecumenical Perspectives and the Unity of the Spirit. Myk Habets
Part 1: The Filioque in Context: Historical & Theological
2. The Filioque: A Brief History. A. Edward Siecienski
3. Theological Issues Involved in the Filioque. Paul D. Molnar
4. The Filioque: Reviewing the State of the Question, with some Free Church Contributions. David Guretzki
Part 2: Developments in the Various Traditions
5. The Eternal Manifestation of the Spirit ‘Through the Son’ According to Nikephoros Blemmydes and Gregory of Cyprus. Theodoros Alexopoulos
6. The Spirit from the Father, of himself God: A Calvinian Approach to the Filioque Debate.
Brannon Ellis
7. Calvin and the Threefold Office of Christ: Suggestive Teaching Regarding the Nature of the Intra-Divine Life? Christopher R.J. Holmes
8. The Baptists ‘And The Son’: The Filioque Clause In Noncreedal Theology. David E. Wilhite
9. Baptized in the Spirit: A Pentecostal Reflection on the Filioque. Frank D. Macchia
Part 3: Opening New Possibilities: Origin, Action, & Intersubjectivity
10. Lutheranism and the Filioque. Robert W. Jenson
11. On Not Being Spirited Away: Pneumatology and Critical Presence. John C. McDowell
12. The Filioque: Beyond Athanasius and Thomas Aquinas: An Ecumenical Proposal. Thomas Weinandy
13. Beyond the East/West Divide. Kathryn Tanner
14. Getting Beyond the Filioque with Third Article Theology. Myk Habets

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pacific Journal of Baptist Research 9, no. 1 published

The most recent issue of the Pacific Journal of Baptist Research, for which I serve as a member of the Editorial Board, has now been published and is available online. Vol. 9, no. 1 (May 2014) is a Festschrift issue in honor of New Zealand Baptist theological educator Laurie Guy, with contributions from John Tucker, David Bebbington, Peter Lineham, Allan Davidson, and Martin Sutherland, along with a bibliography of Guy's published work. Click the embedded reader above to read the issue here; it is also available as a PDF download on the Pacific Journal of Baptist Research web site, where back issues are available in PDF as well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

AAR-SE Constructive Theologies 2015 Call for Papers

As chair of the Constructive Theologies section of the American Academy of Religion--Southeast Region meeting in connection with the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion, I am pleased to call attention to the Call for Papers for our upcoming meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, March 6-8, 2015:

(AAR) Constructive Theologies

Themes: (1) Invited panel responding to Amos Yong’s work on theology and disability, with response from Professor Yong. (2) “Theological Anthropologies” (open call). Proposals engaging theological anthropologies with implications for theological reflection on disability are encouraged, but this session is not limited to papers making such connections. Submit all proposals to Steven R. Harmon, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity (

Further instructions and guidelines for paper proposals are available in the full 2015 Call for Papers on the SECSOR web site.