Theologians and the Church?
I have recently returned from the Theologians and the Church event that the Centre for Theology and Philosophy hosted at New College, Edinburgh (It was worth the trip just to hear Graham Ward’s plenary).
The conference hoped ‘to bring together the next generation of theologians to explore the relationship between academic theology and the worshiping community. Postgraduates from all traditions and none are invited to gather and discuss the role theologians play in the life of the Church, be it pastorally, educationally, or ecumenically.’
The event organisers originally hoped that forty people might attend. In the end registrations were capped at just over one hundred and twenty people. The passionate desire of these post
The obvious manifestation of that desire went beyond attendance. It surfaced in papers, self
Jamie Smith’s work has the ‘Christian College’ in his sights, suggesting that the Christian University, should be ‘nourished ex corde ecclesiae, “from the heart of the Church”’. Within this Jamie invites the ‘ecclesial university’ to ‘extend and amplify the formation that begins and continues in Christian worship’. Jamie’s compelling thesis is that theology can be about the mission of the Church, part of the passionate engagement of radical discipleship. For to often theology is an intellectual pursuit separated from our core passions, when in reality our core passions are engaged in other locations, the ‘thick practices’ of life outside the Church. Jamie invites theology to be honest about the ‘thick connections’ that even those intellectualizing theology make. For if intellectual theology is actually practiced by those who are embedded in deep worship of a form of life, why can’t Christians embed their theology in the ‘thick practices’ of the Christian life? At least that’s how I read Jamie.
So back to these students from Oxford, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Kings College London,
Then some students are fortunate to be in church environments that support their theology as passionate discipleship, but many less so it seems. And many remain in academic environments antithetical and often hostile to theology made and given from the ‘thick connections’ Jamie suggests.
Perhaps it’s time for a new underground theological education, a la Bonhoeffer, a training of confessing academic theologians that takes place underground. Might that foster the kind of connections some of the students are looking for? (at the same time perhaps giving rise to students passing around rumours that one of their peers or professors was suspected of being part of such an underground movement).
For in a secular Europe often at odds with the thick connections theology students desire, perhaps such an underground movement would embody the very notion of ex corde ecclesiae? For how can theology be connected to the heart of the church unless it is undertaken with risk, to reputation and station in life.
 Desiring the Kingdom, 221.