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Palestinian Contextuals Theology

The Conference of Theology and the Local Church in the Holy Land, 1987- Present (Better known as the Palestinian Contextual Theology Conference)

by mPeNDayu

A number of Christian clergymen and academicians interested in theology deemed it necessary to hold theology conferences for Christian Palestinians with the aim of crystallizing a Palestinian contextualized theology which can answer the many questions put by the believers and the children of this homeland. A committee from the editorial board of Al-Liqa’ quarterly review was formed to discuss this topic. It agreed to begin holding such conferences beginning the summer of 1987.

Thus the specificities characterizing the local church in the Holy Land and the social and religious situation in which we live encouraged a group of clergymen and seculars from the different denominations to meet and to think together in an ecumenical and responsible spirit to understand the message of the local church, the meaning of its existence and the aspect of its testimony. This group worked together to formulate “The Basic Document” which comprised the meaning of contextualized theology which was put for discussion at the First Theology Conference in Summer of 1987. In it this group defined the meaning and the concept of contextualized theology in the following words:

“If the general Christian theology helps us to understand the Christian creed in an orthodox way, it cannot answer all the questions stirring in the hearts of believers in every time and place. This is a natural matter due to the variety of circumstances and situations in which the believing groups live whether these circumstances are temporal or spatial. Here the role of contextualized theology comes. It requires the general theological thought which is rich in potentials in the light of the current circumstances in which the believers live, so that believers can find in this heritage what helps them in understanding their faith, formulating it, and living it in a specific historical period with all the calls, challenges, questions, hopes, difficulties and aspirations which are in it. On the one hand, this theology does not want it to be a parrotic repetition of the past without taking into consideration the current circumstances. On the other hand, it does not want to be an innovative theology which develops in isolation from the general current of the Christian thought throughout the ages, or to be in contradiction with it. Contextualized theology is an extension of the general Christian thought at a certain historical period in which a specific Christian group lives and which has its own circumstances, so that this thought becomes a help for this group to live according to the requirements of the present. The local church lives in the circumstances of the time and the place and it derives its specificities from them. Theology comes in this cultural and civilization space to pick up these specificities in all their variety and actuality. It crystallizes them, fathoms their depth and sheds the light of the Lord’s word on them in order to discover among their folds the vocation of God for this church here and in this place. It ultimately helps the church to discover its historical self and its actual message at this stage in its earthly march.”

Thus the theology conference began its first session in the summer of 1987 and held the nineteenth session in December 2011 entitled “An Arab Christian Vision for a Different Arab and Palestinian Future”

The conference on “Palestinian Contextual Theology” has contributed much in focusing on the role of the local church and raising the awareness of believers, in addition to strengthening the relations between Christians and Muslims in the light of theological positions which the locals explained and called for. On the other hand, the contextualized theology conference had a big role in strengthening the relations between Al-Liqa’ and a number of Western institutions and churches. This helped us to explain our national cause and our theological position concerning it and indicating the faulty theological positions called for by a large number of the thinkers and theologians of the West. The theology conference also contributed in strengthening the ecumenical relations between the many Christian denominations in the Holy Land because all shared in the writing of a contextualized theology or they served in the preparatory committee of the conference or participated with us in the proceedings of the conference or because of the many meetings which the theology conference had held.

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