Theology without Walls Planning Meeting
Marriott Riverwalk Hotel – Bowie Conference Room– San Antonio, TX
November 19, 2023 – 5:30-6:30 pm
Presiding: Jerry L. Martin, University of Colorado, Boulder; John Thatamanil, Union Theological Seminary; Jeffery D. Long, Elizabethtown College
Present: Fred Tappenden, St. Stephen’s College; Shandon Klein, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University; Royce Anderson, Independent Scholar; Ruben Habito, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University; Hans le Grand, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Julius-Kei Kato, Kings University College; Greylyn Hydinger, Gannon University; Jeanine Diller, University of Toledo; Jon Paul Sydnor, Emmanuel College; Mark Heim, Yale Divinity School; Mathias Schneider, University of Münster; Perry Schmidt-Leukel, University of Münster; Phil Towne, Hope International University; Kurt Richardson, Institute for Abrahamic Relations; Christopher Denny, St. John’s University (rapporteur); Abigail Rosenthal, Brooklyn College, City University of New York (rapporteur).
1. The meeting began at 5:30 pm.
2. Publication Plans
Jerry Martin reported that Rory McEntee has been designated as the contact for future publication plans. Bin Song has also been involved. Jerry thinks that books convey a permanence that journals do not have. Christopher Denny and Rita Sherma are editing a volume of pre-printed TWW essays tentatively titled Theology without Walls: Founding Essays. Hopes are that four or five titles can be published in the first year of the series.
John Thatamanil noted that peer review is very important for younger scholars seeking hiring and tenure in academic posts.
3. Report on TWW Sessions at 2023 AAR Annual Meeting
Linda Mercadante was unable to join the previous day’s TWW panel session in person and had to give her paper on remote via a smartphone. The challenges with audio led to a discussion about audio-visual support for future TWW panels. Rental costs for A/V equipment are prohibitive. Some present expressed a willingness to bring their own equipment, but others noted that contractual provisions with the meeting venues often prohibit bringing in outside equipment.
4. New Business
Jeanine Diller circulated material from a current manuscript Great Stories in the World’s Religions, which is part of the Great Stories project. Francis Clooney’s work has been an inspiration for this initiative.
Selected organizations whose work mirrors that of TWW were mentioned. These include the Fetzer Institute (www.fetzer.org). Kurt Richardson reported on the Institute for Abrahamic Relations (https://abrahamsbridge.com/); Richardson is trying to get Abrahamic studies off the ground at a time when Israel is facing a brain drain of scholars. Gabriel Said Reynolds at Notre Dame is a scholar whose work is notable.
TWW is looking to expand its influence beyond its origins in North America. Challenges to this goal were noted in Europe, as Perry Schmidt-Leukel mentioned that religious education in Germany is conducted along purely denominational lines. Hans le Grand said that nothing like TWW currently exists in Europe. Schmidt-Leukel suggested that the Templeton Religion Trust (https://templetonreligiontrust.org/) might be interested in donating money for initiatives like TWW. Jerry Martin asked if Templeton could fund a TWW event at the Parliament of World’s Religions (https://parliamentofreligions.org/).
Regarding future meetings at the American Academy of Religion, Christopher Denny reported on changes to the meeting structure of the AAR, with a completely-online meeting scheduled for late spring 2024. Jon Paul Sydnor, the current chair of the AAR’s Open Theology group, wants to work with TWW. The Open Theology group has been traditionally concerned with Christian themes, but has branched out into comparative theology. Sydnor thinks that the Open Theology group should be working with other groups according to the very definition of its stated purpose.
Discussion ensued about expanding the current bibliography in TWW-related sources posted on the TWW website (https://theologywithoutwalls.com/publications/).
Apropos of conceptual definitions of TWW, Martin raised the issue of TWW’s distinction from comparative theology. Richardson related that Marianne Moyaert succinctly responded to TWW’s programmatic formulation by saying, “I have walls. Good-bye.” Schmidt-Leukel noted that that even TWW has an epistemic starting point. Richardson said that TWW tends to attract refugees from religion. Martin said that TWW doesn’t want to keep people enclosed on a religious reservation of sorts.
Discussion then moved to future topics for TWW meetings. Mark Heim suggested the idea of progress. Diller said that TWW could build future programming around subtopics in systematic theology, with distinctive panels on TWW eschatology, TWW soteriology, etc. Schmidt-Leukel said that Diller’s idea could be fleshed out with case studies. Sydnor proposed examining marginalization within TWW. Denny put forth the theme “Is the Ultimate Still Speaking? Ideas of Continuity and Change in Revelation.”
The meeting adjourned at 6:30 pm.
Christopher Denny, Saint John’s University
Christopher Denny email@example.com
Fred Tappenden Frederick.firstname.lastname@example.org
Shandon Klein email@example.com
Royce Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org
Ruben Habito email@example.com
Hans le Grand firstname.lastname@example.org
Julius-Kei Kato email@example.com
Greylyn Hydinger firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeanine Diller Jeanine.email@example.com
Abigail Rosenthal firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Paul Sydnor email@example.com
Mark Heim firstname.lastname@example.org
Perry Schmidt-Leukel email@example.com
Phil Towne firstname.lastname@example.org
Kurt Anders Richardson email@example.com