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Public theology and historic peace churches topic of Menno Simons Lectures

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Theology, culture and peace are topics that Scott Holland of Bethany Theological Seminary will treat in the 58th annual Menno Simons Lectures at Bethel College Nov. 1-3.

Holland is completing a decade at Bethany, the Church of the Brethren seminary and graduate school affiliated with the Earlham School of Religion (Quaker) in Richmond, Ind. As associate professor of theology and culture, Holland teaches in the general area of church and society, which includes directing both the peace studies and cross-cultural studies programs as well as teaching graduate courses in public theology and comparative theology and seminars in ecumenical and interfaith approaches to peacemaking and conflict transformation.

Before he joined the Bethany faculty, Holland for many years combined pastoral ministry and teaching. An ordained minister in the Anabaptist tradition (Church of the Brethren), he served urban, suburban and university-related Mennonite and Brethren congregations in Pennsylvania and Ohio and taught part time at Carlow College, Seton Hill College, Westminster College, Ashland Theological Seminary and Duquesne University.

Holland writes and lectures widely in the areas of public theology, peace studies and Christianity and culture. He is a contributing editor to CrossCurrents: The Journal of the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life. He is a commissioner on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches and active in the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) program. Recognized for his creative pulpit work, he often accepts guest minister invitations often and also serves as a member of the pastoral leadership team at Monroeville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, outside Pittsburgh. He is active in a number of professional guilds, including the American Academy of Religion and the Peace and Justice Study Association.

Holland’s role in the 10-year collaboration between the DOV program and the Historic Peace Churches’ (Quakers, Brethren, Mennonites) vision for “Seeking Cultures of Peace” has involved him in planning and participating in international conferences, lectures and projects in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America as well as in publishing a number of articles and books. The latter include Seeking Cultures of Peace: A Peace Church Conversation (Fernando Enns, Scott Holland, Ann Riggs, eds., Cascadia Publishing, Herald Press and World Council of Churches Publications, 2004); Seeking Peace in Africa: Stories from African Peacemakers (Donald Miller, Scott Holland, Lon Fendall, Dean Johnson, eds., Cascadia, Herald Press and WCC Publications, 2007); and Seeking Peace in Asia (forthcoming, 2010).

In addition to the above books, several lectures and articles by Holland have also emerged from this international peace theology work, such as “New Starting Points in the Ecumenical Peace Dialogue,” Journal of Ecumenical Theology, Fall 2002; “The Gospel of Peace and the Violence of God,” CrossCurrents, Winter 2002; “Peace and Polyphony,” Conrad Grebel Review, Spring 2002; and “Public Theology and Democracy,” Conrad Grebel Review, Spring 2005.

This international work of Seeking Cultures of Peace is explicitly linked to Holland’s projects in ecumenical and public theology. He has been involved a long series of consultations and conferences at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, which resulted in How Do Stories Save Us? An Essay on the Question with the Theological Hermeneutics of David Tracy in View (Louvain: Peeters Press, and Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2006).

Other work in public theology and peacemaking with American democracy and theories of civil society in view include “How Would Jesus Vote?” in Brethren Life and Thought, Winter 2008; and Entering Whitman’s America: A Theopoetics of Public Life (forthcoming book of public theology, blending the concerns of social ethics, aesthetics, deep democracy, peacemaking and ecumenical/interfaith spirituality, with a projected publication date of 2010).

In his role as contributing editor at CrossCurrents, Holland has edited three special issues of the journal directly related to the concerns of public theology, peace and pluralism: “Theology, Democracy, and the Project of Liberalism” (Winter 2006); “The Jewish-Christian Schism Re-Visited and Re-Imagined: Reflections on the Work of John Howard Yoder” (Winter 2007); and “Theopoetics, Pluralism and Public Life” (Winter 2009).

Holland earned a Ph.D. in theology from Duquesne University, where he received the McAnulty Award for Excellence in Scholarship. He currently divides his time between Richmond, Ind., and Pittsburgh.

The overall title for Holland’s Menno Simons Lectures is “Prophets, Poets & Pragmatists: The Historic Peace Churches and Public Theology.” Sunday, Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m., he will present “Public Theology as Seeking Cultures of Peace”; Monday, Nov. 2, at 11 a.m. (Bethel College convocation), “Entering Whitman’s America: A Theopoetics of Public Life”; Monday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m., “The Poetics of Peace”; and Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 7:30 p.m., “Prophetic Vision, Poetic Voice and Pragmatic Solidarity.”

All lectures are in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center and are free and open to the public. Opportunity for questions and discussion will follow the presentation of each lecture. For more information, call 316-284-5354 or e-mail mjantzen@bethelks.edu.

The John P. and Carolina Schrag Kaufman family established the Menno Simons Lectureship Endowment to promote research and public lectures by recognized scholars relating to Anabaptist-Mennonite history, thought, life and culture, past and present. Since 1997, the family of William E. and Meta Goering Juhnke has also contributed substantially to the endowment. Both families have their roots in the Moundridge area.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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