Preaching in an Age of Disaffiliation: Respecting Dissent while Keeping the Faith
The Kavanagh Lecture
From the viewpoint of mainline Christian traditions in the West, the current age can be characterized in multiple ways. Given the well documented exit of many from traditional religious institutions, and the growing unaffiliation of the young who never made such institutions their spiritual homes, the early 21st century is alternately portrayed as time of deconversion, the age of the “nones,” the ascendancy of the spiritual over the religious, and the wholesale abandonment of theism. Preaching in the midst of such religious dubiety seems not only daunting but maybe even foolhardy.
One path forward in this time of such liquid believing may not be the abandonment of preaching, but the abandonment of brittle binaries and stolid frameworks that at once normatize believers inappropriately and simultaneously ignore the polyphony of belief that can actually be revelatory and life-giving.
This lecture will suggest that the Catholic-Christian tradition of the author provides a wealth of resources to address what might be better understood as an age of polydoxy. This more appreciative approach assumes that a central goal of Christian preaching is not so much the conversion of unbelievers or the repentance of sinners, but the building of bridges between individuals and communities no matter where they place themselves on the believing spectrum. Weaving together threads from the Christian tradition, Wittgenstein’s language theory, sociology and reimaged theologies of evangelization, this exercise will attempt to map something of today’s religious ambiguity, and invite the preacher as a public theologian to both dwell in such ambiguity as well as find it as a source of hope and light.
Edward Foley is the Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality and ordinary Professor of Liturgy and Music at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, where he was the founding Director of the Ecumenical Doctor of Ministry Program. A member of the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order since 1966 he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1975. He earned an M.Div. (1975) from St. Francis School of Pastoral Ministry in Milwaukee, an M.M. in choral conducting (1975) from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, an M.A. in liturgical research (1980), an M.A. in Liturgy (in course, 1983), and the Ph.D. in Theology (1987) from the University of Notre Dame. He is also certified as an online instructor (2010).
A specialist in worship and the arts, Fr. Foley identifies himself as a practical theologian. An award winning author, he currently has 23 books in print, including A Commentary on the Order of Mass: A New English Translation (2011) Religion, Diversity and Conflict (2010), A Commentary on the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2007), for which he served as general editor, Worship Music: A Concise Dictionary (2000), Preaching Basics (1998), Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals co-authored with Herbert Anderson (1997), Ritual Music (1995), Developmental Disabilities and Sacramental Access (1994), and the well known From Age to Age (1991), which was recently completely revised and expanded has been published by the Liturgical Press (2008). His most recent works are Theological Reflection across Faith Traditions: The Turn to Reflective Believing, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2015 and a edited work on Music and Spirituality from MPDI in Basel, Switzerland (2015). His 24th book is at press, A Handbook for Catholic Preaching, for which he serves as general editor.
Fr. Foley has also authored over 300 chapters in books, scholarly and pastoral articles, and reviews in such collections as The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart and in journals such as The Journal of Practical Theology, Liturgisches Jahrbuch, La Maison-Dieu, Revue Bénédictine, Speculum and Worship. He sits on various editorial and advisory boards. Recently he produced a 4 DVD series on the history of Eucharistic theology. He also is a regular contributor to Give us This Day from Liturgical Press. His current research projects serving as general editor for A Handbook for Catholic Preaching (Liturgical Press), co-editing a work on theological education, and a work on public theology.
Fr. Foley is Past President of the North American Academy of Liturgy, a founder and originating member of the executive committee of the Catholic Academy of Liturgy, and former member of the executive committee of the International Academy of Practical Theology. A well known speaker and teacher, he has lectured in over 60 dioceses throughout the United States, in Canada, England, Ireland, India, Europe, Korea, the Philippines and Australia. His works are translated into nine languages. He was granted the mandatum as a teacher of Roman Catholic theology from Francis Cardinal George. Among his various honors, he was the recipient of the Jubilate Deo award from the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (2003), a recipient of a Lilly Faculty Fellowship in 2012, and in 2013 received the Berakah Award from the North American Academy of Liturgy. He preaches and presides at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago.