Church and the Common Good
To various degrees, several recent books and articles attempt to specify the contribution churches can and sometimes do make to articulating a vision of the common good. While this is not a new area in the study of the church, it may be an especially important area of investigation at a time when many of the other institutions and structures that have historically participated in conversations about the shape of common public life have been undermined or have disappeared. For this session, we seek papers situated at the intersection of political or public theology and ecclesiology that provide fresh thinking on ecclesial involvement in projects to strengthen commitment to some understanding of the common good in pluralistic, often polarised, and sometimes outright fractious societies in the contemporary context. Among other topics papers could explore churches and ecclesial movements that have implemented the methods of community organising such as from the Industrial Areas Foundation; ecclesial leaders who call for the common good today such as Rowan Williams on overcoming political tribalism or Pope Francis on integral human development; ecclesial (re)imagining where subsidiarity, common good, communion, and ecological conversion meet such as found in Laudato Si; the articulation and promotion of the common good through Church associated organisations such as in schools, universities, hospitals, and aged care, where staff and clients are religiously and culturally diverse.
Current Debates on Women's Ordination to the Diaconate (Co-Sponsored Session with Eastern Orthodox Studies Unit)
At this session we would like to discuss women's ordination in various forms across churches, with the focus on those churches that are currently in debates about expanding ordination through the diaconate or other structures. The conversation surrounding the female diaconate is especially important in Orthodox Christianity (in both Eastern and Oriental traditions) and for the Catholic Church. Interest in the historical tradition of the female diaconate has prompted dialogue and controversy within Orthodox Christianity, as well as reconsideration of more recent expressions of the female diaconate where it exists. In the Catholic Church, the discussion about the female diaconate did reach a certain level of theoretical consensus, but has yet to result in any practical applications. In addition to ecclesiological aspects, we welcome proposals that explore related questions of sexuality and gender constructions, taboos, ideals, prejudices, etc. that shape current conversations related to women’s ordination, ecclesial leadership and apostolate in general, as well as the overall participation of women in church. We would also like to invite papers on lessons that can be learned from the realities of ordained women's work and examples of exercising authority, in churches that ordain women or otherwise have recognized the exercise of authority by women for some time.
LGBTQ+ Experience as an Ecclesial Issue (Co-Sponsored Session with the Queer Studies Unit and Wesleyan and Methodist Studies Unit)
The reality of LGBTQ+ experience is a complex phenomenon among churches on local, regional, national, and global levels, within Methodist and Wesleyan communities as well as other denominations and church families. That complexity has impacted the pastoral reality of churches and their self-understanding on all these levels. We invite papers that consider how LGBTQ+ people and their experiences impact churches' experiences and ecclesiologies, particularly in Wesleyan and holiness traditions but also in other churches and traditions. How are LGBTQ+ Christians changing the way we think about the church? How are LGBTQ+ experiences challenging local churches, denominational bodies, and ecumenical relationships? When it comes to tensions and even schisms, what are the competing rationales and forms of ethical discernment underlying opposing visions? What are the differing hermeneutical, historical, narrative, scriptural, traditional, social, and cultural dimensions at work? Are divisions inevitable or are new forms of understanding yet possible? In what ways have LGBTQ+ Christians functioned as a gift, an opportunity, or a challenge to envision or understand the church? What resources in Methodist and Wesleyan theology and ecclesiology, and those of other communities, might assist churches in their responses to LGBTQ+ experiences?