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International Theology Conference Studies Modern Challenges to Family

Annual International Theology Conference addresses the notion of family in the three faith traditions; as value, as religious metaphor, as resource and as challenge.

Shalom Hartman Institute’s annual International Theology Conference, opening January 20, addresses the notion of family in the three faith traditions – as value, as religious metaphor, as resource and as challenge.

The annual four-day conference brings together leading Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians for a week of tripartite dialogue and inter-religious joint study.

In Shalom Hartman Institute’s continuing exploration of challenges significant to the three religious communities, albeit often in different ways, this year’s conference will focus on family, which is one of modernity’s primary challenges to traditional modes of religious thought and practice.

The conference will study how Christianity, Islam and Judaism traditionally envisage the ideal relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, and children among themselves, and how, in turn, they serve each faith tradition as theological metaphors.

Family relations challenged

We wish to explore how these envisaged family relations are now challenged by the new realities of family planning, the status of women in modern society, the growing divorce rates, and emergence of alternative family structures. We shall inquire how various communities have elected to respond, and will examine moral and theological consequences of these responses.

We do not presume there is one approach to family that has, can or must work for every religious community. Rather, each much work out its own.

In the heritage of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s theological work, however, we propose to do this work in the presence of one another. From both our similarities and our differences we can draw strength and insight for the task.

The conference will, therefore, be organized around small-group study sessions involving participants from all three traditions. Arriving at a clearer understanding of family in each tradition will, we believe, help us build the mutual respect and support on which a deeply religious pluralism is grounded.

Public forum: Family Under Fire

The conference is by invitation only. A public forum under the auspices of the conference is set for Monday, January 21, at 8 p.m. at Shalom Hartman Institute. The forum topic is: “Family Under Fire: Contemporary Challenges to Traditional Form.” Participants in the forum are Shaikha Halima Krausen, Initiative for Islamic Studies, Hamburg, Germany, Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Shalom Hartman Institute, Prof. Jesper Svartvik, Lund University, Sweden, and Prof. Karla Suomala, Luther College, Iowa.

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