In the fall of 1517, Martin Luther’s challenge to the authority of the papacy and church tradition—along with his appeal to Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)—inspired various reformers to read scripture and to understand the liberating power of the Holy Spirit in new ways. But what started as a renewal movement within the Catholic Church soon led to a host of divisions, giving rise to Protestant, Anabaptist, and other traditions, including those groups known as the Believers’ Church. Among the latter, the deep debts to the renewal impulses of late medieval Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation are unmistakable. In the 500 years since then, the church—including the Believers’ Church movement—has further expanded globally in a great diversity of forms.
This conference seeks to explore the gifts and tensions of the Reformation legacy for the Believers’ Church tradition, with a view toward its ecumenical and global dimensions. The gathering will focus especially on the debates that have swirled around the themes of Biblical authority, the movement of the Spirit, and the renewal of the church.
The conference theme “Word, Spirit, and the Renewal of the Church” can encompass a wide range of disciplines, approaches, and topics. We seek proposals from theologians, biblical scholars, ethicists, historians, pastors, and graduate students that address how the debates of the sixteenth century continue to find expression in contemporary understandings of Word, Spirit, and the renewal of the church. We are especially interested in papers that bring voices from the Believers’ Church into conversation with other Christian traditions.
Possible questions and topics to address include:
- How does a given understanding of Word and Spirit, and their relation to each other, interact with another doctrine (e.g., creation, Christology, ecclesiology, etc.)?
- What are some of the theological and sociological dynamics of past and present renewal movements within the Believers’ Church tradition?
- How do groups in the Believers’ Church tradition interpret the Bible and its authority vis-à-vis other Christian traditions?
- How has the Reformation called into question the location of the church: where/who is the church today?
- What are some of the key issues facing comparative theologies, ethics, and practices of grace, discipleship, tradition, enculturation, church unity and renewal, worship and preaching, etc.?
- How are the central issues of the Reformation relevant to the Believers’ Church, especially in its global dimension?
Presentations should reflect a thoughtful engagement with scholarship but be accessible to a broad audience, including interested lay people. A limited number of travel grants will be available, with highest priority going to presenters coming from the Global South and students.
Please submit a one-page CV and a 250-word abstract for a paper or a complete panel/workshop session (with presenters indicated) by April 1, 2017 to John D. Roth (firstname.lastname@example.org). Conference organizers will respond by May 1, 2017.