Miroslav Volf will draw from evangelical scholarship, 'Exclusion and Embrace'; Richard Rodriguez will explore 'notion of race in America'
First advisory to media representatives (credentialing procedure noted below)
[ENS, New York, July 30, 2004] - Two skilled commentators on intersections of faith and cultural contexts -- Miroslav Volf and Richard Rodriguez -- have accepted Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold's invitation to address the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops when it next convenes, September 23-28 in Spokane, Washington.
The call to building authentic respect for 'other' -- especially amid complexity -- will continue reconciliation themes underscored by the Presiding Bishop throughout his ministry, and notably one year ago today when the national church's General Convention opened in Minneapolis.
Volf -- who is formed by his years of study and teaching in evangelical Christian seminaries first in his native Croatia (during wartime in the former Yugoslavia) and thereafter in the United States -- is director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, based in New Haven, Connecticut, where he is also Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School. Acclaimed for his perspective on ethnic cleansing and other conflicts that fueled war in his homeland, Volf describes with delight and depth his spiritual journey, and in particular his decision in recent years to join the Episcopal Church. Central tenets of his theological viewpoints are offered in his prize-winning 1996 book "Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation."
Rodriguez, a frequent PBS commentator who appears regularly on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, is an author and essayist who will speak to the bishops from his specific expertise in assessing current and emerging points of connection between religion and other cultural dynamics. A Roman Catholic and a working editor at Pacific News Service in San Francisco, Rodriguez has delivered several major talks for Episcopal Church gatherings ranging from national conferences and diocesan convention settings to parish and cathedral forums. Some of his views, such as his emphasis on academic achievement over affirmative action, spark debate among readers, and Latinos specifically. The newest title in his autobiographical triology is the 2002 book "Brown: the Last Discovery of America."
Volf will address the bishops at 9:30 a.m. and again at 2:45 p.m. on Friday, September 24, while Rodriguez will speak at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 25. All plenary sessions of the House of Bishops proceedings (with the exception of private conversations on Monday) are open to visitors, and a specific welcome is extended to media representatives credentialed in advance with the Episcopal News Service (see procedures below). ENS will also soon post an additional overview article on the upcoming meeting.
Following are quotations from Volf and Rodriguez and comments on their respective books, which may be ordered from the Episcopal Book/Resource Center, 815 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017; 800.334.7626; www.episcopalbookstore.org
-- From introductory remarks to Volf's "Exclusion and Embrace" (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996): "Life at the beginning of the twenty-first century presents us with a disturbing reality. 'Otherness,' the simple fact of being different in some way, has come to be defined as in and of itself evil. Miroslav Volf contends that if the healing word of the gospel is to be heard today, Christian theology must find ways of speaking that address the hatred of the other. Reaching back to the New Testament metaphor of salvation as reconciliation, Volf proposes the idea of 'embrace' as a theological response to the problem of 'exclusion' Increasingly we see that exclusion has become the primary sin, skewing our perceptions of reality and causing us to react out of fear and anger to all those who are not within our ever-narrowing circle. In light of this, Christians must learn that salvation comes, not only as we are reconciuled to God, and not only as we learn to live with one another, but as we take the dangerous and costly step of opening ourselves to the other, of enfolding him or her in the same embrace in which we have been enfolded by God."
-- From Volf's preface to "Exclusion and Embrace" published while he was associate professor and later professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California: "After I finished my lecture Professor Jurgen Moltmann stood up and asked one of his typical questions, both concrete and penetrating: 'But can you embrace a "cetnik"?' It was the winter of 1993. For months now the notorious Serbian fighters called 'cetnik' had been sowing desolation in my native country, herding people into concentration camps, raping women, burning down churches, and destroying cities. I had just argued that we ought to embrace our enemies as God has embraced us in Christ. Can I embrace a 'cetnik'--the ultimate other, so to speak, the evil other? What would justify the embrace? Where would I draw the strength for it? What would it do to my identity as a human being and as a Croat? It took me a while to answer, though I immediately knew what I wanted to say. 'No, I cannot--but as a follower of Christ I think I should be able to.' In a sense this book is the product of the struggle between the truth of my argument and the force of Moltmann's objection."
-- In his preface to "Brown" (New York: Penguin Books, 2002,) Rodriguez
observes: "I write about race in America in hopes of undermining the notion of race in America.
"Brown bleeds through the straight line, unstaunchable--the line separating black from white, for example. Brown confuses. Brown forms at the border of contradiction -- the ability of language to express two or several things at once, the ability of bodies to experience two or several things at once.
"It is that brown faculty I uphold by attempting to write brownly.... You will often find brown in this book as the cement between leaves of paradox....
"Two decades ago, I wrote 'Hunger of Memory' (New York: Bantam Books, 1982), the autobiography of a scholarship boy. Ten years later, in 'Days of Obligation' (New York: Penguin, 1992 ), I wrote about the influence of Mexican ethnicity on my American life. This volume ['Brown'] completes a trilogy on American public life and my private life. 'Brown' returns me to years I have earlier described. I believe it is possible to describe a single life thrice, if from three isolations: Class, Ethnicity, Race."
-- Commenting on Rodriguez's "Brown," The New York Times Book Review noted: "The recurrent strands of [Rodriguez's] thought -- family, religion, education, race, sex, California, America, Mexico -- gain new resonance each time and stand, in the end, for the complexity of a whole greater than the sum of its parts."
Regarding media credentials to cover the House of Bishops meeting...
Advance credentials are required for representatives of the general media and/or church press seeking to cover the House of Bishops proceedings. Credential application form may be obtained on-line at: www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_26928_ENG_HTM.htm. Media inquires may be directed by e-mail or telephone to Robert Williams, director of the Episcopal News Service, (firstname.lastname@example.org; 800.334.7626, ext. 5385).