Karl Barth Conference – Day 3 (final)

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This was the last day (actually 1/2 day) of the 2010 Karl Barth conference at Princeton Theological Seminary. This morning we heard Dr. Darrell Guder address us in a lecture entitled, “Gathering, Upbuilding, Sending: Barth’s Formation of the Missional Church.” His lecture focused on three paragraphs in the Church Dogmatics: §62, “The Holy Spirit and the Gathering of the Christian”; §67, “The Holy Spirit and the Upbuilding of the Christian Community,” and §72, “The Holy Spirit and the Sending of the Christian Community.” Dr. Guder reminded us that each of these three sections are predicated upon and supported by the doctrines inseparable doctrines of justification, sanctification, and calling respectively. Though much was covered, at least two important points were made.

First, Dr. Guder (as did Dr. Eberhard Busch  earlier) reminded us that Barth’s ecclesiology is an ecclesiology of “double movement” and that the Church needs both to “inhale” and “exhale” in the power of the Holy Spirit. But ultimately, Barth’s ecclesiology is characterized by the fact that the “outward missional movement of the Church is its true notae ecclesiae.

Second, Dr. Guder reminded us that Barth’s delineation of the 12 forms of “service” [Guder prefers that the word Dienst translated “ministry” in the current translation of CD IV be rendered “service”] in CD IV.3.2 was not meant to be a delimiting or restrictive list. Rather, Barth intended that the 12 forms of service break open the view the view of the Church that was restricted to the categories of “Word and Sacrament.”

Following a short break, Dr. Bruce McCormack gave a short presentation on the need for funds for the ongoing work of the Karl Barth Foundation supporting the work of the Karl Barth Archives in Basel, Switzerland.

Finally, the entire panel of presenters from the week were given an opportunity to summarize issues they felt the conference had helped to clarify or raise. There was a common recognition that there is need to break down the dichotomization between Church (as representing  “ecclesiological stability”) and Mission (as representing “ecclesiological mobility”). There was also some significant discussion on the challenges of “colonialist” critique of mission–a concept which itself (as per John Flett) has arisen out of the church/mission problematic.

Overall, the conference was an excellent one, full of high level theology, discussion, collegiality, and spiritual challenge. Definitely a highlight of the year for me!

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