In his study on faith and culture, German-American theologian, Paul Tillich, claimed that religion is the substance of culture and that culture is the concrete form in which the religious dimension of the human spirit is expressed. But what happens when different religions and cultures coexist in the same society, in close proximity to each other? That is the case in many places across the world today. At an intellectual level, the challenge for people who take their faith seriously is how to balance the absolute claims of their faith tradition (they are after all claims about God or ultimacy, with universal scope) with the also absolute claims of the neighbors’ faith. The peaceful coexistence of our communities depends on the success of that balancing act.
 On the refrigerator of the Community of Christ in the City in Manhattan, where Richard John Neuhaus lived and worked for decades, amid all the photos and postcards and whatever else the various residents collected that magnets and tape could affix to an open space, there was a little scrap of paper, turning brown […]
In Part I of his look at ministry in multi-faith contexts, Grafton lays out the religious context of the United States as it was perceived in the 20th century and how it is lived in actuality today. What does it mean to be a public church, as the ELCA is called to be, when the public is not a community that is predominately Lutheran, or even Christian? For Grafton, the answer lies not in forsaking Lutheran principles, but in living them out in relationship.
Upon the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, many reflected that we had entered an ecumenical and inter-religious age of the Lutheran movement. Schersten LaHurd and Trumm impressively detail what that looks like on the ground, as well as at a national level. What does working for justice with and for our neighbors look like, and how does our theology feed this work?
Part II: Public Ministry in Multi-Faith Contexts: What It Is Not, What It Is and What It Requires of Religious Leaders
Part II serves as a helpful guide as to how public multi-faith ministry should and should not function. Drawing upon resources from the World Council of Churches and his experience with Lutheran-Muslim relations, Grafton dispels assumptions about how inter-religious work need be formal and focused on finding agreement. Instead, he points to intentionality, maturity, patience, and being guest-oriented as keys to fruitful mutuality.
Coming Home to Earth by Mark Brocker || In Coming Home to Earth, Mark Brocker, current President of the International Bonhoeffer Society (English Language Section), offers a profound reflection on a theology of the religious affections and seeks to reorient how we see and love the Earth community. Brocker argues persuasively that our time of deep ecological crisis requires not only a reorientation, but also a “paradigm shift” in Christian theological reflection with a radical revisioning of the theology of salvation (79). Written in a clear, engaging, compelling, pastoral, and, at times, deeply personal and passionate style, the book is clearly intended for a wide audience and can be recommended for use in congregations and college classes. Yet even experts in Lutheran ethics will appreciate Brocker’s theological contributions.
Radical Discipleship: A Liturgical Politics of the Gospel by Jennifer M. McBride || This is not another book talking about “lived theology” but actually doing it. The author draws upon key insights from especially Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as a variety of other recent theological voices (e.g., feminist), which will be familiar to many of us. We share many of her basic commitments –- e.g., that Jesus calls us to be disciples not simply believers, and that the gospel is always social and political, transforming not only individuals but also systemic structures and policies. Her incisive analyses of incarceration and homelessness, and their related causes, draws on what others have written.But what is distinctive is how she lives this out, and does constructive theology in the context of the Open Door Community in Georgia –- especially with those who are incarcerated, homeless and poor. She went there to teach theology to the imprisoned women, but heard from them theological meanings and connections that most academic theologians would not encounter.