War ... where theology meets politics

Dan Smith, who in the 1980s was a prominent activist in the movement for nuclear disarmament, has just published a blog post which analyses Barack Obama's intellectual debt to the just war theory, in the U.S. president's acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.Smith notes
The Just War tradition is prevalent to a degree many people do not notice and it is perhaps surprisingly durable. Any time you think of a specific action in a war as unjustified, any time you name something as an atrocity, or criticise forces for causing civilian casualties, or for treating prisoners inhumanely, you are – knowingly or not - drawing on the Just War tradition. It is, therefore, one of the intellectual and moral currents that shape the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement and humanitarianism in general as well as the ideas underlying International Humanitarian Law, which used to be known as the Laws of War. Likewise if you criticise war or an act of war as aggressive, or lacking in proper authority, or as aimed at securing power and wealth rather than defending a territory and its people, you are – knowingly or not - drawing on the Just War tradition. It is, therefore, one of the intellectual and moral currents that shaped the United Nations and the legal idea that a war of self-defence is justified but a war of aggression is a crime against humanity. In fact, Just War so imbues our thinking on what is right and wrong in war that much of what it’s about has the status of commonsense.And while the Just War tradition as such is very much a Christian tradition, similar distinctions have long been influential in Islam.

Danish church decides to join Porvoo ... in time for the Archbishop of Canterbury

Alongside the events in Copenhagen for the climate change summit, a brief press release on Friday (11 December) in Danish announced that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark has decided to join the Porvoo Communion of Anglican churches in the British Isles and Ireland, and Nordic and Baltic Lutheran churches.

Benedict XVI and Liberation Theology

The Zenit news agency today carried a report that Benedict XVI had told a group of Brazilian bishops on 5 December that Brazil needed to get over the divisions left by Marxist-inspired liberation theology (the Vatican text of the Pope's statement is here in Portuguese).

From World Mission to Interreligious Witness ...

The Irish School of Ecumenics has announced a 2010 conference on "From World Mission to Interreligious Witness: Visioning Ecumenics in the 21st Century":

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:

Rastafari Theology

On Saturday I enjoyed listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 about how Bob Marley dropped out of the Jamaican music scene and spent a year driving a forklift truck in the Chrysler car factory in Wilmington, Delaware (programme can still be listened to here until 11 December). Then, as I happened to visit Ben Myers' Faith and Theology blog, I came across a whole post devoted to Rastafari Theology and a book by Noel Leo Erskine, From Garvey to Marley: Rastafari Theology (University Press of Florida 2005)..

Remembering Lesslie Newbigin

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lesslie Newbigin, an English Presbyterian missionary to India who went on in 1947 to become one of the founders and a bishop of the (United) Church of South India, and subsequently general secretary of the International Missionary Council and associate general secretary of the World Council of Churches. Coincidentally, the Times newspaper on 5 December published an account of Newbigin's passage to India in which he recounts that as soon as the ship reached Suez on the voyage out all the Europeans aboard ship donned topees (pith helmets) and insisted that he go ashore to buy one: “Literally you were a cad if you didn’t wear a topee,” he recalled, years later. “It wasn’t just that you were silly, you were definitely, you know, you had gone native ... it was rather like having taken to meths drinking or something.”

Primacy revisted

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I and the Vatican recently exchanged messages to mark the visit to Istanbul by a delegation headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper for St Andrew's Day, the "thronal feast" of the patriarchate. Both referred to to the continuing discussions of the Orthodox Roman Catholic international theological commission on the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.

Unity in diversity or ... diversity in unity?

One of the phrases most of associated with the ecumenical movement in the past fifty years has been the slogan, "Unity in Diversity", the idea that church unity does not mean uniformity. It has also been suggested that this slogan has influenced the European Union in its quest - it is used as the title for a document setting out different persectives and common goals in the enlerged EU. But one of the issues I have been wrestling with recently is whether it is better now to speak of "Diveristy in Unity" - in other words: rather than taking the idea of unity as normative and explaining how this does not mean uniformity, one starts with the diversity that exists in the worldwide Christian community and asks how this diversity may be held in unity.

Moving towards Christian convergence?

Are we moving toward a "united Christianity"? That's the assertion made by Adrian Pabst on the Guardian's  Comment is Free site. In the article, Pabst suggests that by opening a new chapter of theological engagement and concrete co-operation with Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, Pope Benedict XVI is changing the terms of debate about church reunification, leading to "the end of the Great Schism between east and west and a union of the main episcopally-based churches" - by which Pabst is referring to Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism. Leaving aside the miniscule size of Anglicanism compared to Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, this does not, of, course add up to a "united Christianity".

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