Call for Papers

There are mainly two ways to deal with the complexity of religious education (RE) nowadays. One consists in the continuous problematizing and complaining about the lack of traditional religious commitment and the disturbing impact of religious diversity in the world. The other starts with a positive appraisal of new spiritual developments in church and society and the longing for more inclusive educational patterns to deal with this diversity in the congregation and the classroom. It goes without saying that a sound and realistic understanding of the contexts in which RE operates should be the starting point for every kind of RE work. But the virtue of hope cannot be dismissed in the very center and at the ultimate horizon of that work.

This “pedagogy of hope” (Paulo Freire) can be interestingly connected to a “theology of hope” (Jürgen Moltmann). The concern of the educator for the human flourishing of the learner (child, adolescent or adult) is always rooted in, shaped by or directed to an “ultimate concern” (Paul Tillich): making learners sensitive for the acceptance of being ultimately accepted, whatever their story is, whatever their backgrounds and longings, their fortunes and misfortunes are. How can the educator become such a hope generator (Roebben 2013, 12-14)?

When deep, complex pluralism reigns, the educator needs to be concentrated and flexible at the same time. This is a paradox, coined by the American philosopher of education David T. Hansen as “tenacious humility”: the educator concentrates on the learner, steps aside but needs to offer him/herself through the content at the same time, so that the learner can flourish (Hansen 2001, 157-191). People need a “cosmopolitan” education: the educator needs to be present and learn together with learners in “reflective openness to the world and reflective loyalty to the local” (Hansen 2009, 137). It goes without saying that this old pedagogical paradox is now accelerated by the same cosmopolis, surrounding us and our future generations. And it goes without saying that the aims of education and the normativity of the educational act need to be discussed again in that very process.

Three professional roles can be ascribed to the educator: on the micro-level of the learner he/she is fostering identity; on the meso-level of the group or the classroom he/she is enhancing and celebrating diversity; and on the macro-level of the congregation or the school he/she is building community. He/she accompanies learners on the road to self-clarification, he/she makes the group or the classroom safe for diversity and he/she contributes with his/her teaching profession to a “culture of recognition” (Jäggle et al. 2013) – in the congregation, in private and public schools, in theological education institutions (Gregory Jones and Paulsell 2002) or in a variety of ways in the public sphere (Moore 2004). In these three tasks the professional educator or teacher can develop his/her personal vocation and role identity.

Call for papers

In 2016 the REA conference will discuss this theme thoroughly. The scenery of downtown Pittsburgh will be a constant reminder of the post-industrial and post-secular context in which RE with children, young people and adults can flourish – in all its complexity and variety. For me the location is very similar to my own working place in Germany, at the University of Dortmund, situated in the vibrant multicultural and post-industrial Ruhr-Region. So here is the invitation to you, reflective practitioner, researcher or scholar in RE: come and join us in this interesting learning space! The call for papers submission process will be open through the end of April, but we invite you now to consider questions such as:

  • Which kind of leadership is needed in religious learning communities in a globalized world?
  • What is the professional role of the educator/teacher on the above mentioned micro-, meso- and macro-levels of RE?
  • How does he/she relate to normative conceptions of education in general and RE in particular?
  • What can we learn from other disciplines, such as sociology and psychology of religion, educational sciences, learning theories, etc., on the role of the educator/teacher?
  • How should the relationship between learning and teaching be reconsidered?
  • How can the educator/teacher find a spiritual ground for his/her vocation?
  • What could be the contribution of scholarship in RE to general educational research circles?

In responding to these issues, the 2016 REA conference will be in tune with one of the four strategic aims of REA: “through interpreting the nature, purposes, and value of the field of RE to the wider society and those preparing to become professors, researchers, or other leaders in RE”.

References

D.T. HANSEN, Exploring the Moral Heart of Teaching. Toward a Teacher’s Creed. New York/London: Teachers College at Columbia University, 2001.

D.T. HANSEN, Dewey and Cosmopolitanism. In: Education and Culture 25 (2009) 126-140.

L. GREGORY JONES & S. PAULSELL (eds.), The Scope of Our Art. The Vocation of the Theological Educator, Grand Rapids (MI)/Cambridge (UK): Eerdmans, 2002.

M. JÄGGLE et. al. (eds.), Kultur der Anerkennung. Würde – Gerechtigkeit – Partizipation für Schulkultur, Schulentwicklung und Religion. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren, 2013.

M.E.M. MOORE, Teaching as a Sacramental Act, Cleveland (OH): Pilgrim Press, 2004.

B. ROEBBEN, Seeking Sense in the City. European Perspectives on Religious Education, Berlin: Lit-Verlag, 2013 (second enlarged edition).

Questions

Bert Roebben, REA Annual Meeting 2016 Program Chair, hubertus [dot] roebben [at] tu-dortmund [dot] de