Public Theology: William Storrar

On the train, I have been reading Willima Storrar’s article “2007: A Kairos Moment for Public Theology”, published in the first issue of the International Journal of Public Theology, 1(2007):1 5-25. W. Storrar heads the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton and published this article on the occasion of a workshop to start the Global Network for Public Theology (GNPT), about which I have already spoken in previous entries on this blog.

W. Storrar understands “public theology to be a collaborative exercise in theological reflection on public issues which is prompted by disruptive social experiences that call for our thoughtful and faithful response” (6).  In the further, narrative part of his article in which he describes how he got involved in public theology himself, he points to the importance of “presence and voice of those most affected by the public issue under scrutiny” (18). This seems to me to be a clear reference to a preferential alliance with the poor, in the line of a well-known claim of his mentor Duncan Forrester (founder of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, CTPI, in Edinburgh): “We must never talk about the poor behind their back”. The article describes how, from very local issues in which public theology was mainly concerned with prophetic resistance against injustice and oppression, it has grown to become involved in more global issues in which it sometimes collaborates closely with political authorities. Elias Lopez, a fellow Jesuit and doctoral student at my home theological faculty of the K.U.Leuven (Leuven, Belgium) would remark that liberation theologies have to learn to emphasize also, apart from the prophetic role, the sapiential (constructive) dimension.

Personally, I would further like to emphasize two aspects that also appear in W. Storrar’s contribution: the hermeneutical significance of “public” (theology is concerned with public matters, ánd these public matters are a primary resource for our theologizing and the development of theological concepts and ideas), and the ecclesial dimensions of such public theology (“public” theology is also about building a public space of discernment, an ecclesial community).

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