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‘Worldly Christianity in Practice’ attracts Theologians from across the Country

6 December 2017 | General Interest

Theologians, ministers and members of religious congregations from across the country have come together in Sydney for the 13th Annual Australian Bonhoeffer Conference on 6 December, hosted by BBI-The Australian Institute of Theological Education.

Started in 2005 through the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, the conference is a unique opportunity for those interested in the writings of the influential 20th century German Lutheran theologian to meet and reflect upon his ongoing inspiration. The event attracts interest from across the different Christian denominations with representatives present this year from the Catholic, Anglican, Uniting and Presbyterian churches.

The theme for this year’s event was “Worldly Christianity in Practice” as the guest speakers focused on applying the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to the contemporary issues of ecumenism, climate change and Islamism.

 

 

 

 

Conference Convenor and BBI-TAITE Faculty member, Emeritus Professor Terence Lovat delivered a particularly memorable address, ‘Bonhoeffer on Islam and Radical Islamism: What would he have made of it all? in which he reflected upon Bonhoeffer’s commitment to understanding and appreciating faith traditions other than his own.

“Bonhoeffer was particularly fascinated by the religions of the Indian subcontinent, including Hinduism and he was so inspired by the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi that he wrote to him, asking to meet him personally”, Professor Lovat explained.

“I think it’s therefore fair to argue that Bonhoeffer would have adopted a progressive approach to interfaith dialogue in the modern world and would have embraced dialogue rather than violence as a way of resolving any misunderstandings between the world’s religions”, he added.

Fellow BBI-TAITE Faculty Member, Dr Dianne Rayson also delivered a thought-provoking presentation at the conference which focused on applying Bonhoeffer’s  earthly Christianity to one of the great moral challenges of the time- climate change.

“Bonhoeffer was concerned very much about preserving and protecting the ecosystem and preventing species’ extinction and he saw this very much as part of the duty a Christian has towards Mother Earth”, Dr Rayson said.

“It is from Bonhoeffer’s writings that lessons can be drawn then on how best to shape a Christian response to climate change”.

The Bonhoeffer conference was also an opportunity to recognise the 2017 Flechtheim Scholarship Winner and Master of Theology student Peter Truasheim. The scholarship was set up to support ongoing research into the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and is administered by BBI-TAITE. It is named after Julius Flechtheim, a Jewish law professor who lectured in Germany and who like Bonhoeffer, was also killed by the Nazis.

In his presentation, Peter Truasheim reflected upon how strong a role Martin Luther had played in shaping Bonhoeffer’s sense of discipleship and his belief in a Gospel for the common people.

The conference also benefited greatly from two presentations by academics from the University of Divinity in Melbourne. Rev Dr Gordon Preece provided some insights into Bonhoeffer’s letters from prison, while Rev Dr Sean Winter reflected upon the writings of the English theologian Keith Clements on Bonhoeffer’s ecumenical vision for Christianity.

Participants in the conference remarked on what a rewarding experience it was for them. The Annual Bonhoeffer Conference will continue again next year with international speakers invited to attend a gathering on 7 and 8 June 2018.

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