Theological Society of South Africa 2011: Call for papers !

Can a distinctively South African way of doing theology be identified? How does one capture contemporary South African theological discourse? How is “South African theology” different from other regions in Africa and elsewhere in the world?

The Theological Society of South Africa will address these questions under the theme, “A distinctly South African way of doing theology? Revisiting and gathering various strands of contextual theology”

Dates: Wednesday 22 – Friday 24 June 2011

Venue: St Augustine’s College, Johannesburg

Background to the conference theme:
Is it at all possible to address such questions? In former times it may have been possible to capture South African theological discourse in terms of major conflicts. Consider the contrast between liberal and orthodox/pietist/fundamentalist theologies before 1930. By the 1960s a clear conflict between apartheid theology (a form of Kuyperian neo-Calvinism) and confessing theology (associated with Bonhoeffer and Barth) could be identified. One may suggest that confessing theology culminated in the Belhar Confession of 1982/1986. By 1985 the Kairos Document focused on the conflict between prophetic theology on the one hand and state theology and church theology on the other. What is the situation in 2011? Is it appropriate to suggest that South African theologies have become issue orientated after 1994 – driven by long litany of issues on the social agenda of the church, each vying for attention? Or can one still capture the scene with reference to particular theological movements and/or ways of doing theology? In the 1980s the Institute for Contextual Theology defined contextual theology with reference to especially four mutually complementing discourses, namely African theology, Black theology, Feminist theology and Liberation theology. Since it was recognised that all forms of theological reflection (including apartheid theology) are necessarily contextual, contextual theology could no longer be used as a self-evident rubric. After 1994 other discourses emerged, including reconstruct-tion theology, African women’s theology, queer theologies, ecotheology and public theology. Are these discourses still complementing each other or are they actually in competition, vying for dominance? Consider the suggestion that there is a need to move “from liberation to reconstruction”, that black theology is one school within African theology (but not vice versa), the critique of African inculturation theologies from within the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, and so forth. How are these discourses related to the current interest in public theologies? What about the emergence of Pentecostal theologies, AIC theologies and the return to confessional (or denominational) theologies. Moreover, how should theological discourse in the academic sphere respond to the evident popularity of the prosperity gospel and the return to “family values” based on patriarchal structures? While one may still identify several conflicts, these are typically focused on particular issues (patriarchy, exclusion on the basis of homosexuality, stigmatisation of HIV/AIDS victims). One may even suggest that the criticisms are heard only within the discourse where it is expressed, since the various discourses have become largely isolated from each other. There is a tendency to maintain a respectful distance rather than to engage in painful confrontations. As a result, theological reflection is done in distinct schools, contexts and institutions. One may even suggest that theology has a matter of consumerist choice, with various “brands” each vying for attention or attraction, if not dominance. Is this description accurate? If not, how should contemporary South African theological discourse be characterised? These questions will be explored in both the 2011 and the 2012 annual meetings of the TSSA.

In 2011 the focus will be on revisiting the strands of contextual theology while the focus in 2012 will shift to relating (or gathering together) these strands to each other.

Additional considerations:
Papers on topics other than the conference theme, including reviews of recent publications by TSSA members, will also be considered for small group sessions.

The programme for the conference will also include papers for three “sections”, namely:

  • “Transforming Traditions” (contact persons: John de Gruchy, Robert Vosloo),
  • “Christian Faith and the Earth” (contact persons: Ernst Conradie, Andrew Warmback), and
  • Christian discourse on ethics, with specific reference to teaching applied ethics. Colleagues interested in contributing to the envisaged section on Christian ethics should contact Louise Kretzchmar (Unisa), Etienne de Villiers (UP) or Piet Naude (NMMU).

Any person may participate in the programme. You do not need to be a member of the TSSA. Scholars and post-graduate students from other countries in Africa and other continents are warmly encouraged to submit proposals. Proposals may be submitted in any language. However, only proposals in English will be considered for plenary sessions.

The TSSA cannot support speakers financially, e.g. to cover costs for transport, accommodation or conference fees.

Instructions for submitting proposals
Please send the title of your proposal, a short abstract of 100-200 words describing the content of the proposed paper and your personal contact details to the conference secretary at the address mentioned below.

Please note the following relevant dates in this regard:
Final date for submission of proposals: 28 February 2011
Confirmation of accepted papers and pre-final draft of the programme: 31 March 2011.
The final conference programme including practical details on registration and accommodation will be distributed at least by 30 April 2011.

We are looking forward to welcoming you at the 2011 Annual Meeting !

Please note that the 2012 Annual Meeting of the TSSA will again form part of a Joint Conference of Academic Societies in the fields of Religion and Theology, to be held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg from 18 to 22 June 2012.

Sincerely Ernst Conradie (Conference secretary: Theological Society of South Africa)

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