who are the public theologians?

I've been preparing a summary of this article for my theology and society class:
E. Harold Breitenburg, Jr. (2003) “To Tell the Truth: Will the Real Public Theology Please Stand Up?” in Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, 23, 2 (2003) pp.55-96.

Breitenburg notes three main uses of the term 'public theology':
1. To apply to a wide range of theologians who have a public presence, including: Martin Luther King Jr, Reinhold Niebuhr, Dorothy Day, Karl Barth, John Howard Yoder etc.
2. To do with theological issues that apply to the faith community and wider community (such as justice).
3. To refer to the use of non-religious, more accessible sources and language that are accessible to wider group than a specific faith community. And the process of explaining the relevance of a theological belief for a social issue (e.g. creation and the need to care for the environment), and perhaps thus motivate action by faith community and wider community (e.g. the biblical idea of jubilee and the Jubilee 2000 movement.)

Turning to the UK, I was interested to discover that there are at least four centres for public theology: Manchester, Kings College, London,
Edinburgh and Exeter.

I confess that I can't drum up much enthusiasm for debates about what public theology is and whether the church should be doing it, or not (as theologians such as Stanley Hauerwas - STETS students alert! - argue). But the 'who?' question has caught my eye. The majority of examples of public theologians in the article (used here to refer to theologians who have a public presence) are white men, generally from the Protestant tradition.

In my view, the situation in England is different to the North American context the article describes. Academic theologians seem to have a greater public presence in the USA than they do in the UK. Those who are asked to speak about God on TV or radio, or in the House of Lords, tend to be members of the Anglican hierarchy (sometimes the Roman Catholic or other faith leaders get a look in too) such as Rowan Williams. In religious columns or programming, such as BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day or The Times religious column, mainstream Christian religious leaders continue to dominate (although a glance at Thought for the Day contributors shows a wider range of faith traditions, and 15 female contributers - if out of a total of around 70).

How do we select and legitimate these public theologians? And which voices are missing?

Mark Lawson recently suggested in The Guardian that Robert Beckford "may be the future of religious broadcasting on television." Does that make Beckford a public theologian, with the accompanying legitimacy or does he remain something like a media theologian, less likely to be called on to speak about God and God's ways?

Why does it matter who gets to speak about God to the wider society? Let me give you an example from Argentina. The Roman Catholic church has a significant public presence here. Church appointments and statements are reported on daily. The Argentine Constitution (although upholding freedom of religious expression) sets down the state's responsibility to sustain Roman Catholic worship, which leads to state wages for bishops and state maintenance of church buildings. Unsurprisingly, other denominations and faith groups argue for parity in treatment.

The lack of public presence by non-Catholic groups (as well as liberal Catholics and Catholic women's groups) is best illustrated by the debates on abortion (still illegal in almost all cases; see also this interview of an Argentine feminist.). When representatives of other Christian perspectives on abortion speak out, their authority is undermined.

Public discussion of God needs to represent the diversity of God's people, within and beyond the church. Those who have a public voice need to take on the responsibility of bringing others into the conversation, even if that requires them to shut up for a while.

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