The final approach before the conference lands at lunchtime. This morning continues with yesterday's theme, looking at responses to societal and religious changes in Europe: Die Antwort der Religionsgemeinschaften auf die (gesellschaftliche) Pluralität.
The first paper is by Professorin Dr Isolde Karle from the Ruhr-Universität in Bochum on Kirche in der späten Moderne: Herausforderungen und Perspektiven. Again, I need to read the text as she raced through it and I think I missed the odd bit. But, she noted the need for the church to shape societal change and not be associated simply with complaining about it. Culture is always in process of being shaped, including how its ethos impacts on individuals and wider society. The church is one of the losers in Modernity (in some respects), but it must also value what it maintains on behalf of others: for example, (a) keeping alive the language of corporate lament, celebration, praise, etc.; (b) a public value for people regardless of their economic value – care for the weak and poor not to be taken for granted in a society in which the basis for such care is sometimes assumed whilst being exercised consciously only by the church (which has a specific theological anthropology). Church can create the space in which people find belonging and value even when they don't 'belong' to the church itself – the place of a Volkskirche. Questions revolved around the difference between urban and rural (Stadt und Land) contexts, the place of 'belief' in all this church stuff (what does the church actually believe and how important is this 'belief' to its life or to our belonging to it?), and how decentralisation can encourage fresh expressions and a more relaxed approach to the messiness of church development.
The second paper, by Professor Dr Karl Gabriel (formerly of the Universität Münster) addressed Entweltlichung: Kleine Gemeinschaft(en) als Zukunft der Kirche? in seven theses. Basically, and having asked where the boundaries between church and world collide (among other things), he suggested that smaller groups within the church will increasingly need to be ecumenical in a decentralising church at local level. 'Elitist minoritism' must be challenged and cannot thrive in a pluralising context. But, the church's value is essentially to create and maintain space in which faith can thrive, develop and be secured. Questions arose about the difference – in nature and implications – between 'organisation' and 'institution', and how the (Roman Catholic) church has managed either to blend in (or disappear) in public spaces on the ground. The implications of an Anglican understanding of territory/parish (being there for the common good of all and not just for a church's own members) were explored – especially in the potential here for better ecumenical partnership. The top-down nature of the RC Church (and the papacy) was compared unfavourably with the Lutheran understanding that the organisation of the church does not assume the holiness of the people who run it!
The third input of this section came from Professor Dr Peter Heine (Strausberg) and took as its theme: Rückwirkungen westlichen Denkens auf islamische Theologie und Identität. This was really interesting as he told some surprising stories. Noting the constant criticism of Islamic theological approaches – that it has not begun to take seriously the historical-critical method – he cited a group of Shiite theologians in Iran who had read Karl Popper and wanted to establish the Islamic state along Popper's lines. Khameini had told Ahmadinejad that the greatest enemy of their theocratic system is… Jürgen Habermas! (The reason, explained later, was that 'democracy' does not translate into Arabic, but is only associated with Capitalism – and 'Habermas' breaks down as 'money-ism'. Bizarre.) Heine noted that Islamic scholars demonstrate a great interest in western theological and philosophical conversations, whereas western scholars either show little interest in Islamic theological conversations (and usually cannot even pronounce the names properly) and talk about them rather than talking with them. Too much to record and I didn't follow it all (again, what's new there?), but Heine covered a wide range of contexts and ideas.
The final morning of the symposium concluded with a conversation between the former Ministerpräsident of both Rheinland-Pfalz and Thüringen (not at the same time, obviously) Professor Dr Bernhard Vogel, and Dr Daniel Deckers, Political Editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, on Zeitgenössische Öffentlichkeit: Glanz oder Elend der Religion?
That's it. A summary session and then it is over.