The 2019 conference in Bamberg

September 23rd–26th, 2019

“Place and Space: Theological perspectives on living in the world”

Consultation of the Global Network for Public Theology
at the Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Research-Centre for Public Theology, University of Bamberg

Conference report

by Dr Calvin D. Ullrich

One might say that one of the challenges of ‘Public Theologies of Space and Place’ is to resist, while at the same time having to negotiate, the ‘logic of the container.’ We heard in this morning’s keynote addresses, in particular, that instead of moving and living in a world of objects where lines and demarcations are often-times policed, invaded and controlled, creating insides and outsides, boundaries and borders, whether virtual or analogue, we are always-already involved in intricate webs of social relations that constitute us as in-spaced beings, and thus, there will always be fluidities, antagonisms, agonisms, blurrings, constructions and deconstructions of ourselves and our worlds.

One might put this another way by saying that there is a kind of necessary (soft) fault line in public theologies which reflect on space and place. On the one hand, we attempt to respond to that theological insight which highlights or emphasizes what stands outside the demarcated space (or at the margins as we theologians like to say), and on the other hand, we face the equally theological attempt to reconcile this outside and ‘other outsides’, into a realizable vision of a transformed reality, whether that be economic, political, ecological, or otherwise—though to be sure, these are not mutually exclusive. Even here, of course, this fault line itself is never always clear, it is often a subtle weighting or shift in momentum from one side to the other.

By way of example, in this conference we heard the need to raise the profile of post-colonial critiques with a particular eye toward black suffering and gender-based violence on the one hand, while trying to bring this emphasis into a theologically coherent project of reforming our communities in response to these and many other pressing issues. There were indeed many fascinating public theological responses to the latter; ranging from creative and often-times painful pedagogical practices in university contexts or contextual bible studies, from inter-denominational liturgies, even para-liturgies from the 15th century, as well as new digital possibilities for theological publics. On the other side of these responses, which again, reveal a shift in weight not opposed to but supplemented by, we encountered visions drawing attention to policy-specific public theologies. Here one thinks about the gentrification of space, the imminent threat posed to our cities in the midst of ecological crisis, discerning the limits and theologically informed ways of reconciling radical populisms, and many more.

Panel discussion “Public Theology – Time for a Critical Self-Reflection?” with Bishop Prof. Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (Germany), Dr Esther McIntosh (UK), Prof. Dr Tinyiko Maluleke (South Africa), and Prof. Dr Thomas Wabel (Germany) – © Joseph Beck

Keynote speakers

  • Bishop Prof. Dr. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Munich (Germany)
  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Bieberstein, Bamberg (Germany)
  • Prof. Dr. Claudia Jahnel, Bochum (Germany)
  • Prof. Dr. Willie J. Jennings, New Haven (USA)
  • Prof. Dr. Tinyiko Maluleke, Pretoria (South Africa)
  • Prof. Dr. Esther McIntosh, York (GB)
  • Prof. Dr. Rima Nasrallah [van Saane], Beirut (Lebanon)
  • Prof. Dr Hubert Knoblauch, Berlin (Germany)

Published by gnpublictheology

The Global Network for Public Theology (GNPT) is an academic research partnership that promotes theological contributions on public issues, especially those issues affecting the poor, the marginalized and the environment in a glocal (global-local) context.

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