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From World Mission to Interreligious Witness:
Visioning Ecumenics in the 21st Century
June 16-18, 2010 | Trinity College Dublin
The centenary of the ecumenical 1910 World Mission Conference in Edinburgh is an opportunity to engage, critically, with the achievements and failures of Ecumenics as that can be interpreted through the changes of vision and action manifest in the ecumenical movement. From the vantage point of the new century, one of the most important elements of revisioning relates to the character and concept of ecumenical Christian witness across cultures and faiths. The diversity of cultures and faiths was, of course, already evident in 1910 and provided the context in which ‘world mission’ was envisaged. However, political, philosophical and theological developments of the 20th century have recalibrated the significance of that diversity and have raised radical new questions for Christianity in its many manifestations:
- What is the significance of the way in which Christianity has moved from World Mission to World Christianity?
- How can Christian mission and witness be theorized and embodied in the 21st century?
- What does Christian witness entail in the public squares of the world, which represent not only multiplicity as spatial and historic entities, but also plurality within?
- How can religious actors best acknowledge the fact that the public square should not simply be regarded as the ‘other’ of some imagined religious sphere?
- How can Christianity re-imagine and re-position itself in light of the contested and often contradictory trajectories of secularization and religiosity?
- Will the 21st century confirm a transition from Christian witness to interreligious witness?
- How will Christian theological reflection develop alongside altered expressions of ecclesiality?
Since its founding in 1970, the Irish School of Ecumenics has examined and defined ‘ecumenics’ as a multi-disciplinary field of study concerned with dialogue, peace and reconciliation. It has envisioned ecumenics as three strands: intra-Christian (inter-denominational), interreligious, and international peace and reconciliation. This conference is thus rooted in the School’s founding while also envisioned as a means of reassessing and reevaluating the present and future of ecumenics in the 21st century.
The International Theological Journal Concilium has also been grappling with the above questions for the past few decades, particularly by drawing inspiration from the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. As Concilium’s vision statement observes, “It [Concilium] fosters international, intercultural, interreligious exchanges…… Deep theological questions arise because of cultural and social challenges, of a change of epoch, of social and religious initiatives, of the search for a new and more just interrelationship between nations and cultures….. We contribute to ecumenical and to inter-religious dialogue. We deal with global factors and communications, hoping that a renewed church and ‘another world’ are possible.”
There is, thus, a great convergence of concerns between the Irish School of Ecumenics and the International Theological Journal Concilium. Through this joint research conference, both of these bodies seek to explore together the above questions in a three fold trajectory:
- From World Mission to World Christianity and Beyond
- Cultures of Faith and Public Theology: Ecumenical Witness
- Religious Pluralism and Interreligious Witness
Building on the insights gained in each strand of this exploration and drawing on cutting-edge theological developments in the field, the conference not only seeks to re-appropriate the under-standing of ecumenical Christian witness for our times but also to set out a vision for Ecumenics in the 21st century as intercultural theology, ecumenical public theology, and interreligious theology.