Theology without Walls Planning Meeting

Here are minutes from the planning session at the November 2019 AAR meeting.  We have been in touch with Pim Valkenberg and Bede Bidlack about a panel with scholars from the larger comparative and interreligious theology community commenting on Theology Without Walls: The Transreligious Imperative (Routledge 2019), with responses from some of the contributors.  Since we always have two sessions, I will be circulating ideas about the topic for the other session soon.  The minutes reflect opening discussions on that matter as well.  

Theology without Walls Planning Meeting

Marriott Marquis Hotel – Catalina Conference Room– San Diego, CA

November 23, 2019 – 5:00 pm

Presiding: Jerry L. Martin, University of Colorado

Present: Christopher Denny, St. John’s University (rapporteur); John Thatamanil, Union Theological Seminary; Jeanine Diller, University of Toledo; Kurt Anders Richardson, University of Toronto; Perry Schmidt-Leukel; University of Muenster; Rory McEntee,  Drew University; Katarzyna Tempczyk, De Gruyter Open; Abdulla Galadari, Jim Sharp, Royce Anderson, Andrew Schwartz, Center For Process Studies; Mark Banas, Marc Pugliese, St. Leo University: John Becker, Center for Process Studies; Myriam Renaud

1. The meeting began at 5:00 pm.

2. Report

Jerry Martin reminded those in attendance of the book reception the following evening (Nov. 24, 2019) from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in room Pacific 14 of the Marriott Marquis to celebrate the release of the new book Theology Without Walls: The Transreligious Imperative, edited by Jerry Martin and published by Routledge in their New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology, and Biblical Studies series.

Discussion ensued regarding ways to publicize the book.  Attendees were urged to have libraries order the book.  Particular emphasis was given to the contributions of Wesley Wildman and Robert Neville, insofar as they illustrated that the new book is not just about religious diversity, a topic that can become very abstract without further qualifications.

3. New Business

a. Ideas were solicited for a new TWW issue in the journal Open Theology.

b. Jeanine Diller informed attendees that there is no planned follow-up volume to the book Models of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities.

c. Jeanine Diller was asked by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to write an article on concepts of God.  She declined at the current time, and explained that she would need five additional co-authors.  The article would be 10,000 words, and she solicited co-contributors.  Diller asked how the article should be framed.  “Religious Ultimacy” was suggested as a title, although a comment about bosons was used to illustrate that naturalist approaches might not be included within such an approach.

d. Discussion ensued about how to embed TWW panels and papers in other groups at the national AAR meeting.  The Interreligious and Interfaith Studies Unit was proposed as one possible venue for TWW papers.  Rory McEntee suggested that new scholars from outside the circle of active TWW participants be invited to present at TWW sessions, in the hope that TWW’s profile could be raised through these contacts.  Further discussion prompted suggestions that TWW members attend the business meetings of various AAR sections and suggest future calls-for-papers based upon themes that overlap with Theology Without Walls. 

e. The meeting moved to a discussion of what topics should be addressed at future TWW sessions.  Soteriology, or alternatively, “human wholeness” was nominated.  Another proposal was made to engage the Global Spirituality Index.  Other proposals included

  • artificial intelligence
  • animism
  • Theology Without Walls from an anthropological perspective
  • public theology in India
  • “religious liberty” vs. the rights of a religion
  • Prohibitions against blasphemy.       

Respectfully Submitted,

Christopher Denny, Saint John’s University

Theology Without Walls 2019 AAR Panels

M23-300Theology Without Walls Group
Theme: Rising Scholars Discussion
Jerry L. Martin, University of Colorado, Presiding
Saturday – 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Marriott Marquis-Catalina (South Tower – Fourth Level)

This will be a free-for-all discussion among emerging Theologians Without Walls, following brief opening remarks by a senior scholar and a younger scholar. Obvious topics include: how to be a transreligious theologian and where one sees one’s own work on the developing theological landscape.

Panelists:John Thatamanil, Union Theological Seminary
John Becker, Center for Process Studies, Claremont



Theology Without Walls Group Theme: Planning Meeting
Jerry L. Martin, University of Colorado, Presiding
Saturday – 5:00 PM-6:00 PM
Marriott Marquis-Catalina (South Tower – Fourth Level)

A discussion of panel topics, journal topics, and other issues pertaining to the future of Theology Without Walls. One focus will be the new Routledge volume edited by Martin, Theology Without Walls: The Transreligious Imperative.John Thatamanil, Union Theological Seminary
PublicationsJeanine Diller, University of Toledo
Models of GodKurt Anders Richardson, University of Toronto
Global Trends Business Meeting:
Christopher Denny, St. John’s University



Theology Without Walls Group Theme: Book Reception for Theology Without Walls: The Transreligious Imperative
Sunday – 6:00 PM-8:00 PM
Marriott Marquis-Pacific 14 (First Level)

We will celebrate the publication of this landmark volume of essays with food, drink, and talk. At 6:45, we will hear very brief presentations by Robert Neville, Christopher Denny, Kurt Richardson, John Thatamanil, Wesley Wildman, Jeanine Diller, Linda Mercadante, Mark Heim, Francis Clooney, and Jeffery Long to exhibit the range, scope, and diversity of the contributions.



Theology Without Walls Group Theme: Theology Without Walls versus Deep Religious Commitment?
Mark Heim, Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School, Presiding
Monday – 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Marriott Marquis-Torrey Pines 1 (North Tower – Lobby Level)

Our religious lives have existential grip. We commit ourselves fully to them. That seems to be essential to their being transformative. TWW seems to lack existential grip. It may even appear to be incompatible with having religious commitments. It may appear to require a tabula rasa and a “view from nowhere.” How can an intense commitment to a single vision relate to a theological project that is more encompassing?Jeanine Diller, University of Toledo
How to Theologize Globally and Affiliate LocallyBin Song, Washington College
Wang Longxi’s “Seeded Open Inclusivism”: TWW with Deep Commitment in Neo-ConfucianismRobert C. Neville, Boston University
Theology Without Walls and the Existential Depth of ReligionKurt Anders Richardson, University of Toronto
Mythologizing or De-Mythologizing in Theology: Transcending the DichotomyLinda A. Mercadante, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
A Theology for the Spiritual But Not Religious?



Theology Without Walls Group Theme: Does the Heavenly City Have Gates? Eschatology Without Walls
Jerry L. Martin, University of Colorado, Presiding
Monday – 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Marriott Marquis-Rancho Sante Fe 3 (North Tower – Lobby Level)

While John Hick is usually identified with a Kantian conviction that takes religions to be phenomenal representations of an unknowable Reality, his book, Death and Eternal Life, may provide a better model for TWW. There he present relevant evidence about whether we survive death and, if so, what sort of self survives. He draws insights and arguments, not only from the religions, but also from the sciences, philosophy, parapsychology, and the humanist perspective. Panelists are asked to address the question: What speculations on death and the afterlife do you find most persuasive? What kinds of evidence and argument do you find most compelling?Jan-Olav Henriksen, MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society
Experiential Evidence for an Eschatology without Walls? Hick’s Position from a Pragmatist PerspectiveMichael T. McLaughlin, Old Dominion University
Hick’s Eschatology of Mutuality in Higher Worlds Meets Affect in SpinozaJeffery D. Long, Elizabethtown College
Reflections on Rebirth: Science, Christianity, and Vedanta in ConversationThomas Oord, Northwest Nazarene University
Relentless Love of the AfterlifeChristopher Denny, St. John’s University
Aesthetic Persuasion and Eschatology: What Literature Can Teach Us about the Next World