The College Theology Society's Second Annual Forum Will Tackle Race Relations and the Role of Theology

On Monday, October 19, the Boston regional meeting of the College Theology Society will host a forum for theologians in the greater Boston area to discuss their role in addressing race relations in a national context and the church’s mobilization around the matter.

This year’s forum on the intersection of race and theology will be led by Dr. M. Shawn Copeland of Boston College, a Systematic Theologian with a specialty in African and African-American theological and philosophical anthropology, and Dr. Courtney T. Goto, an Assistant Professor of Religious Education at Boston University with a specialty in the study of aesthetics, culture, and race and practical theology. Dr. Copeland will begin the discussion with a 15-minute address on race relations and its intersection with theological disciplines, after which Dr. Goto will offer a 15-minute response to Dr. Copeland’s address. After the delivery of both addresses, attendees are invited to partake in the discussion and offer comments and insights about what was discussed.

Most distinctive is the format in which these discussions will occur: Dr. Copeland’s discussion will begin with an evaluation of race from the perspective of systematic theology, which aims to formulate an orderly and rational account of Christian doctrines and beliefs. Dr. Courtney Goto’s discussion will be centered around the approach of practical theology, which aims to analyze how the life of the Church is realized in practical, concrete ways -- it focuses on how theology is enacted in practices that apply to daily life while considering how those practices can be more fully aligned.

Race and institutional bias have been incredibly contentious topics in the news as of late. Events like the Ferguson unrest and the 2015 Chapel Hill Shooting of Muslim citizens in February have brought race-related conflicts into the limelight.

“Events like Ferguson have not only made waves nationally, but are events that teachers have been working through in classrooms,” said Cynthia Cameron, a Ph.D candidate at Boston College. “Students are often very interested discussing these topics in the theological classroom -- we decided to hold this event to have a discussion on understanding not only what the Christian Ministry’s response is to these tragedies, but how we [as theologians] hope to form other people so that their faith is one that does justice.”

The College Theology Society, founded in 1954, strives to provide students of theology with the resources to augment their knowledge of the discipline and foment conversations that explore the breadth of theological study and its role in cultivating the life of the mind, in an engaging manner. This idea translated into a professional society in which men and women found common ground in their passion for theological studies as both scholars and instructors of the discipline.

Image courtesy of College Theology Society / Facebook

Image courtesy of College Theology Society / Facebook

In recent years, questions about ecclesial authority and power within the church have come to the forefront through questions of liturgical practice. Questions of religious rites, of the regulation of communion and of doctrinal axioms in governing the role that the church assumes in the contentious issues of the modern era all have raised questions about the positive and negative dimensions of power in the structures of the church. In order to address these issues, The College Theology Society holds annual conventions in which member institutions are provided a theme to discuss and study over the year -- last year’s theme concerned resilience and finding virtue in the “unexpected wilderness.”

To that end, Boston College’s branch of the College Theology Society held its first forum (in adherence to the Eco-Theology theme) last year, in which the discussion was led by Dr. Nancy Pineda-Madrid of Boston College, an Associate Professor of Theology and Latino/Latina Ministry; Daniel Horan, a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province and doctoral student at BC; and Dr. John Hart, a professor of Christian Ethics at Boston University.

The event is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. at Fuel America in Brighton. The event is open to the public, and dinner will be provided. This discussion is organized by Cynthia Cameron and Jessica Coblentz, who are both Ph.D. candidates at Boston College.

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