Changing the Church: The Legacy of Gerard Mannion

September 23, 2020

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Dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

The global church faces a period marked by social and political unrest, with developments such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing movement for racial justice, and the rise of populism transforming the role of religion in public life. Broader trends including globalization are changing not only the demography of the universal church but also belief and practice in Christian life. Also changing is confidence in organized religion. In the United States, for example, trust in religious institutions is at an all-time low in no small part on account of scandals like the clergy sexual abuse crisis. One way the church can find renewed purpose in contemporary life is through creative theology and inclusive dialogue, as demonstrated by the work of the late Gerard Mannion, Amaturo Chair in Catholic Studies at Georgetown University and senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

Mannion, considered one of the “foremost contemporary theologians” of the Catholic Church, worked at the cutting edge of issues relating to church and society, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and ecclesial identity. In commemoration of the first anniversary of his death, the Berkley Center hosted an online event on “The Theological Legacy of Gerard Mannion” to consider the contributions Mannion made to the church, the academy, and the world. The discussion brought together many of his colleagues including theologians Mark Chapman and Vladimir Latinovic, who spoke about their forthcoming book Changing the Church: Transformations of Christian Belief, Practice, and Life (2020), a festschrift in memory of Gerard Mannion. Complementing the discussion, the Berkley Forum invites scholars and practitioners to provide ecumenical, historical, and theological perspectives on changing the church. 

This week the Berkley Forum asks: What needs to be changed in the universal church and in particular Christian denominations? What are some of the challenges and possibilities of changing the global church? What lessons from ecclesiastical history can be instructive for changing the church in contemporary times? How has change shaped the historical and contemporary experience of Christian life? How might ecumenical and interreligious dialogue contribute to solving pressing issues of the day such as clergy sexual abuse and environmental health?

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