The next conference will take place in Groningen in the Netherlands 7-12 June 2024. Theme and further information will be posted soon.
Conference theme: PREACHING TOWARD TRUTH Societas Homiletica 15th International Conference, Budapest, August 2022
Preaching is driven by the quest for truth – and at the same time, this quest is contested in church, theology, and our societies. In a ‘post-truth era’ and in a fake-news world, it is a challenge to preach the good news of God’s truth and of Jesus who claims “I am the truth” (John 14:6). On the one hand, the longing for clarity may lead to reducing truth to all-too-easy propositional statements; on the other hand, the theological complexity of truth may lead to powerless sermons that have no impact on a world full of lies. “What is truth?” (John 18:48) – Pilate’s question remains a spiritual, theological, and homiletical challenge. When Pilate posed the question, truth was standing in front of him. In Christ, truth is relational and dialogical. Accordingly, preaching toward truth is moving toward the acknowledgment of a reality external to our small lives and our global contexts. From a homiletical perspective, the following three questions among many others may be asked: (1) How do we preach if we accept that we do not possess truth but believe that truth is revealed in God’s active presence in the world and through God’s final coming? Theologically speaking, eschatology (the promise that the truth will be revealed) and economy (the facts of daily life and work) have to be brought in a critical relation to one another. (2) Who is the preacher, and what is her or his role when the church does not own truth and at the same time cannot be silent and has to proclaim truth? Humility and authenticity as well as boldness and the charisma of the preacher also need to be addressed. (3) How do we preach in a ‘post-truth era’, in which the grand – often oppressive – narratives are lost and yet there is a deep longing for stories to live in? How do we honor ‘facts’ and ‘emotions’ in our sermons? What language will help us to address these needs; poetical, metaphorical, referential, or mythical? We face the challenge of preaching that opens up truth and moves toward truth. In Budapest we will have five days (12-17 August 2022) to work on these basic and relevant homiletical questions and to share our perspectives with colleagues from around the world.
Keynote lectures 2022
"Talking about Truth" Keynote by Sam Wells, King’s College London and St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London Abstract: The address will include a sermon in apologetic mode, and offer analysis on what the preacher is doing when seeking to present Christianity as public truth. It will consider which kinds of arguments are appropriate in church and in public settings, and the balance of whether to respond to perceived criticisms of Christianity or whether to present the faith in compelling ways regardless of those critiques. It will also consider the place of exegetical preaching in apologetics. Sam Wells is one of today’s most influential public theologians. He writes, speaks, preaches and broadcasts on a range of pastoral, political and theological issues. He is Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics at King’s College London. Sam has been Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London, since 2012. He has served as a parish priest for 22 years – 10 of those in urban priority areas; he also spent 7 years in North Carolina, where he was Dean of Duke University Chapel. He has published 35 books.
“Recovering truth: Preaching like it matters” Keynote by Serene Jones, Union Theological Seminary Abstract: Everything is falling apart, and something new is emerging. The new can’t emerge without the old breaking down. I have never felt more strongly that, at a spiritual level, each and every one of us is called to serve as midwives to this birth. Preachers have the opportunity, tools, and talent needed to lead us forward in this birthing process. A highly respected scholar and public intellectual, the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is the 16th President of the historic Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. The first woman to head the 182-year-old institution, Jones occupies the Johnston Family Chair for Religion and Democracy. She is a Past President of the American Academy of Religion, which annually hosts the world’s largest gathering of scholars of religion. Jones came to Union after seventeen years at Yale University, where she was the Titus Street Professor of Theology at the Divinity School, and Chair of the University’s Program in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is the author of several books including Trauma and Grace and, most recently, her memoir Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World. Jones, a popular public speaker, is sought by media to comment on major issues impacting society because of her deep grounding in theology, politics, women’s studies, economics, race studies, history, and ethics.
“Preaching toward Truth in different contexts” Panel with Alfred Stephens (India), Szabina Sztojka (Hungary), Júlio Cézar Adam (Brasil) and Ferdi Kruger (South Africa)
Alfred Stephen, Doctor of Theology (University of Basel) Professor of Homiletics and Vice Principal, Dean of Post Graduate Studies and External Studies at the Tamilnadu Theological Seminary. Has researched and written extensively on Homiletics from the Underside focusing on the Art of Contextual Preaching and Eco Homiletics. Founder of Ecumenical Center for Homiletic Orientation (ECHO) which promotes Homiletic concerns among the Clergy and Laity.
Szabina Sztojka, Assistant Minister at St. Columba’s Church of Scotland international congregation in Budapest and student of the Károli Gáspár Reformed University, has years of experience working with Roma communities in Hungary. She earned her ThM degree at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, where she was honored with the Frederick Buechner Award (Excellence in Writing). The title of her ThM thesis is A Way Towards a Roma Theology: Using Black Theology of Liberation as a Source. Being Roma herself, the work of reconciliation is her passion, she leads reconciliation workshops internationally as well as leading the ministry in Hungary.
Júlio Cézar Adam, Doctor in Theology (University of Hamburg, 2004), associate professor of Practical Theology and coordinator of the Post-Graduate Program at Faculdades EST, São Leopoldo/ RS, Brazil, has worked and researched focusing on Practical Theology on the following subjects: Liturgy, Homiletics, Spirituality, Social Movements and Liberation Theology, Media, Pop Culture and Youth, and Lived Religion in the Brazilian context.
Ferdi P. Kruger has been a professor of Practical Theology (Homiletics and Liturgics) at the Faculty of Theology of the North-West University since 2014. He is lecturing at the Potchefstroom Campus and is the research director for the Unit for reformational Theology and the Development of the South African Society. He is also the author of several scholarly articles and focuses on the forming and functioning attitudes within the research fields of Homiletics and Liturgics. The importance of cognition to make sense of experiences, the functioning of remembrance and attitudes are in his area of interest.
"Religious Communities and Transgenerational Transfer of Trauma: Testimony and Truth-Telling" Keynote lecture by Srdjan Sremac, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Srdjan Sremac is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Religion and Theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and co-director of the Amsterdam Center for the Study of Lived Religion at the same university. He is a research fellow and management member of the PACS (Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). Srdjan is widely published with 16 (co-) authored or edited books and over 50 journal articles and book chapters. He is also the managing editor of Palgrave Studies in Lived Religion and Societal Challenges (Palgrave Macmillan). His interdisciplinary research interests include narrative psychology of religion, biographical-reconstructive research, religion and sexuality, war-related trauma, substance dependence and spirituality, lived religion of marginalized groups, material non-western culture/religion, and post-conflict reconciliation studies.
"More than Truth: The Hope of Preaching and Its Languages" Keynote lecture by Lisa L. Thompson, Vanderbilt University. Abstract: Truth, in its partial or full disclosure, is an encounter, as in we experience it. And our ways of thinking being and doing are shaped by our experiences. To preach toward an experience is not about the encounter alone, but also about outcomes. The veracity of preaching is tested by its capacity to spur public witness towards God’s outcomes and futures in the present times. Language that sustains these encounters narrows the gap between the mundane and sacred, is grounded in theological boldness and humility, and replaces abstract ideas with accountability to the vibrancy of lived experiences. Preaching and its languages must be clear about their hope and ethic. Preaching toward truth creates an opening for a community to discern what their public witness of faith entails; the story of faith is retold for the possibility of contemporary encounters. Lisa L. Thompson, a native of Cedar Grove, NC, is Associate Professor and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chancellor Faculty Fellow of Black Homiletics and Liturgics at the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion of Vanderbilt University. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy and a Master of Arts in Religion from Vanderbilt University, and prioritizes discussing the ways religion can be used for the destruction or uplift of our life together. Her most recent publication is entitled Ingenuity: Preaching as an Outsider (Fall 2018). She was awarded the Louisville Institute First Book Grant for Minority Scholars for her forthcoming book entitled Preaching the Headlines. As an ordained Baptist minister, she holds a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and has served in university and parish settings. Prior to pursuing the study of theology and religion full-time, she majored in both psychology and communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and worked in case management. She continues to consult, speak, and lead workshops on self-leadership and cultural change in the public and private sectors.
The conference starts at Friday August 12th with registration between 15-16:45. We close the conference with a worship service that ends at Wednesday August 17th, 12.30 (noon).
Paper presentations 2022
SH’s next conference will take place in Budapest, Hungary, from 12-17 August 2022: Preaching toward Truth.
• Presenters whose papers were accepted in 2020 will present their papers in 2022; no further review process is needed. However, if presenters would like to update their abstracts, please feel free to do so and send us your new version. • If you haven’t submitted a proposal for a paper but wish to do so, the call for papers closes at January 15th. Please submit your paper proposal (150-300 words) to the secretary of SH: Theo Pleizier, firstname.lastname@example.org. • We accept papers on homiletical themes and prioritize papers that connect to the topic of the conference. Consult the topic statement of the conference at our website.
Excursion "Religious Walk" "Religious walk" in Budapest with a guide. Visit the symbolic places/buildings and know the history of the Jewish, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinistic denominations in Budapest and Hungary. Length of walk 2,5 km.
Excursion "House of Terror" "House of terror" - visit a memorial exhibition over the nazi and the soviet dictatures of 20th century Hungary with a guide. Travel: public transport.
Excursion "Jewish Life" Synagogue, Jewish memorial place and the Jewish district with a guide.
Excursion "Walk & Relax" Margareth Island - the green heart of the city in the Danube river. Walk & relax.
You can register for conference and excursions following this link: Registration form
Address of conference site: Károlyi-Csekonics Palace 1088 Budapest, Reviczky street 6.
Online conference 2020
Societas Homiletica online conference 10-12 August 2020: “Words in a Time of Crisis: Preaching during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
August 10: Keynote lecture by Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Professor of Pastoral Theology Emerita, Princeton Theological Seminary “Trauma-Informed Spiritual Care: Lifelines for a Healing Journey” Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Ph.D., an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, USA, is a Spiritual Director at Princeton Theological Seminary, and Professor of Pastoral Theology Emerita. Originally trained as a pastoral counselor, Deborah taught courses in pastoral theology and pastoral care at Princeton Seminary for 25 years. Among her major publications are: Bearing the Unbearable: Trauma, Gospel and Pastoral Care (2015). Transforming Church Conflict: Compassionate Leadership in Action (2011), Pray Without Ceasing: Revitalizing Pastoral Care (2006), Theology and Pastoral Counseling: A New Interdisciplinary Approach (1995) August 11: Keynote lecture by Ian Nell, Professor in Practical Theology and Missiology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa "Pandemic homiletics? A South African exploration of preaching during the time of the Covid-19 crisis" Abstract The COVID-19 pandemic confronted the world and South Africans with the challenges of health care and “Zoomification”. From the 29th of March it was, because of the restriction and ban on gatherings, expected from ministers and faith leaders in South Africa to use online technology to preach their sermons. Many preachers had to rethink the format and content of their preaching. The question arose as to what sermons may look like during these times, and specifically the content and God-images of the sermons? This article examines the sermon content of a purposive sample of ministers from the combined Stellenbosch circuit of the Dutch Reformed Church and Uniting Reformed Churches in South Africa. Twenty sermons were analyzed, making use of grounded theory in order to identify the core themes of their preaching and the God-images used amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With the sermons in hand, the researcher asked three questions to these sermons: Which texts did the preachers choose? What themes emerged from the sermons? With which God- images did the preachers work? Using Atlas.ti, the sermons were coded, topics were identified and God-images were discerned.
International panel on Preaching Trauma Participants: Luiz Coelho, Ph.D. in Liturgics, PhD in Urban and Regional Planning, Anglican priest in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Rohan Gideon, Rev. Ph.D, professor at United Theological College, Bengaluru, India.
Lluis Oviedo, Professor of Theological Anthropology at the Antonianum University, Rome, Italy, invited professor in Theological Institute of Murcia, Spain, for questions of religion, society and science.
Gary V. Simpson, Rev. Dr., Concord Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York, Associate Professor of Homiletics at Drew University, NJ, USA.
Preacher at closing worship: Anne Gidion, Pastorin, Rektorin at Ratzeburg Pastoralkolleg, Germany. Conference statement: Most of us became aware of the coronavirus just before the season of Lent this year. As it swept through the world, communities and nations were suddenly locked down amid an unprecedented situation of uncertainty and fear. COVID-19 causes thousands of casualties and infects hundreds of thousands of people. Millions have lost their jobs and the poorest and most vulnerable among us (including persons who are homeless, refugees, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions), are most susceptible to hardship and suffering. Further exacerbating this situation is our uncertainty as to its treatment, impact, and world-wide duration. Many will be infected; everyone will be affected.
Preachers have suddenly found themselves in terribly difficult and complicated situations. People are seeking comfort, hope, and meaning. They may also be raising difficult questions about life and faith. But preachers may not have the answers to their questions and they have also lost many of their traditional means of reaching out to visit, celebrate services, and preach in the physical presence of their congregations.
COVID-19 is a global problem but it also presents at least two, closely related homiletical challenges not only for preachers but for those who teach and study preaching as homileticians: (1) There are questions of content. What can and should preachers say at a time like this, even as conditions continue to develop and change over time? How can sermons bring hope without losing their connection to the reality of suffering among congregants, communities, nations, and the wider world? Those who teach and study preaching are also challenged to reassess their methods and the questions they raise in the classroom and academy. How can preachers comfort people without using obscure or irrelevant words from seemingly antiquated religious traditions? Is lament a possible language for sermons? Should we offer answers and reassurance or should sermons raise open-ended questions? When do we provide each or any of these? Which Biblical passages offer healing words to wounded people, and which hermeneutical strategies are appropriate? What kinds of changes may we consider making in our classrooms, pedagogies, interactions with students, and in the direction of our research agendas? (2) There are questions of form: As physical gatherings of congregations and classrooms are not possible in most parts of the world, digital media have been and continue to be used for preaching and worship. Many of these endeavors involve great creativity on the part of pastoral leaders, laity, and preachers around the world who have utilized new formats and preaching forms. Which are most meaningful and effective and under what circumstances? How do we assess whether the forms we are implementing are indeed helpful in our preaching? What are the pedagogical and educational implications of adapting to online methods of teaching homiletics?
During this online, synchronous conference, we will engage in analyses of Preaching during the COVID-19 Pandemic as we explore the content and form of our preaching and teaching, sharing academic insights and studies from different parts of the world and various Christian denominations. We invite you to join us and other international colleagues for this two-day conference.
All participants are asked to register ahead of time and in lieu of a registration fee you are encouraged to make a donation in support of our programs.