The Future of Theology in Europe

Workgroup Information

The future of theology in the changing landscapes of universities in Europe and beyond

Dr. Dietrich Werner, Programme Coordinator of ETE,WCC
and Prof. Vidar Haanes, MF School of Theology, Oslo, Norway

The purpose of this research group is to document both the preparatory papers, the proceedings
as well as the results and the follow up process of this international dialogue and conference process.

Historically, Europe has fostered theology as a scholarly enterprise within the context of
university studies, mostly supported by the government. This has been important for the role
of religion in society, and for the recognition and transparency of religious positions. The
situation was one in which societies were more monocultural than what is presently the case,
and where the Christian church has an unchallenged hegemony. However, in recent years,
due to the increasing religious pluralism, the conditions for theology’s position in the
university context seem to be changing. The need for a new type of politics of religion which
takes this pluralist position into account calls for a reconsideration of on what terms theology
should be part of the University. At the same time there is a new discourse on how the
missionary challenges of secularized Europe are to be properly reflected and related to by
theology and theological education in this context. Both the missionary challenges as
frequently described by the CEC study program on common mission in secularized Europe as
well as present challenges and dynamics on the political and demographic level, several of
which have deep implications for the future of Christian theology and theological education
on this continent, need to be addressed adequately.

In what ways then, can the advantages of having a university-based study of religion and
theology be combined with the need for addressing and relating to pluralist conditions as well
as to the missionary challenges on the European continent? Is the traditionally strong position
of theology as religion’s reflective and self-critical mode to be left behind, giving way to a
more privatized approach to religion which does not live up to the standards established
throughout the centuries? Theological research and education during the last couple of years
have undergone subtle changes related to the political conditions and university related
structural environments for theological education and ministerial formation- The plausibility
and legitimacy of ‘theology’ (as a confession bound distinct academic discipline) in a secular
university context is questioned in some places.

Due to encounters within the Graz process of European theological faculties which was
facilitated by CEC and its CiD Commission and also accompanied by ETE Programme of
WCC plans have been mande for a major international consultation under the title:
"The future of theology in the changing landscapes of universities in Europe and
beyond" which is to meet in MF Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo from 6th to 8th of June 2012.


Expected outcomes

Access policy
The working group and its materials will be open for the general public in GlobeTheoLib.

The working period of this working group is envisaged for April 2012 until end of November 2013 (WCC Assembly in Busan, Korea).