The Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS) will kick off its annual meeting this week in Atlanta, gathering scholars from around the country from October 5-8. The historic gathering is now in its 34th year and is returning to the city for the first time since 2009.
The event gathers a diverse group of scholars from across North America and Africa to present papers, share fellowship, and promote theological education.
“We listen to our emerging scholars and discuss themes such as authentically Black, radically Black, truly Catholic and authentically Catholic,” the organization said in last year’s call for papers.
As in previous years, the meeting’s private sessions will include presentations from the organization’s more than two dozen members, followed by “scholarly discussion of Black thought, Black religious experience or Black cultural experience.”
The BCTS board, which organizes the symposium, includes convener Dr. Kimberly Lymore of Catholic Theological Union; Drs. timone davis and Nathaniel “Nat” Samuel of Loyola University Chicago as associate convener and secretary, respectively; treasurer Dr. Kim Harris of Loyola Marymount University; and archivist Dr. Katrina Sanders of the University of Iowa. Fr Maurice Nutt, CSsR, is the immediate past convener.
This year’s public lecture will be delivered by Dr. Joseph S. Flipper, the Mary Ann Spearin Chair of Catholic Theology at the University of Dayton. He is one of, if not the only among African-American Catholics heading a theology department in the United States. His works include the 2015 text “Between Apocalypse and Eschaton: History and Eternity in Henri de Lubac.”
“The common thread in my research is ecclesiology, or understanding the Church, and how that is shifting through different cultural contexts,” Flipper said upon his appointment to the role last year.
Flipper’s BCTS lecture, scheduled for Thursday, October 5, at 7pm ET, is titled “The Fight for the Local Church” and will cover the efforts of the 20th-century Black Catholic Movement to establish a new era for African Americans in the Church. Specifically, Flipper will explore the movement’s major triumphs as well as its eventual disappointments.
“While it succeeded in developing Black Catholic theology and liturgical inculturation, the Movement's most significant project—the creation of an African American ordinariate, an ecclesial jurisdiction independent of the US Catholic bishops—failed to come to fruition,” an event description reads.
“This lecture examines how the leaders of the Black Catholic Movement, drawing from the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), engaged in a struggle to create their own self-determining ecclesial structures.”
The lecture will be delivered on the campus of Emory University at the Aquinas Center, part of the Candler School of Theology. Local BCTS hosts for the event include Emory grads Dr. Nicole S. Symmonds, now an assistant professor of ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary, and Byron D. Wratee of Boston College.
Registration for Flipper’s lecture is free and can be completed on the Aquinas Center website. His remarks will be followed by a dessert reception for all attendees.
The symposium—which initially ran for two years after its founding in 1978 by Fr Thaddeus Posey, OFM, with the help of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus—has met annually (with two exceptions) since being revived in 1991 by Sr Jamie T. Phelps, OP.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.
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