I just returned from a symposium on ecclesial theology in Chicago, IL (Oak Park, to be exact) hosted by The Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology (SAET). The annual symposium of the SAET pulls together a diverse body of evangelical pastor-theologians from across the country, with fellows (“members”) representing the Lutheran, Pentecostal, Episcopal, Baptist, Messianic Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Independent Bible church traditions. Each three-day symposium gathers for discussion and collaboration on theological issues related to the life of the church. Mentoring fellows include Doug Sweeney (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and Scott Hafemann (Gordon-Conwell, soon to be University of St. Andrews), and often involves visiting scholars/pastor-theologians: this year it was Kevin Vanhoozer (Wheaton College/Graduate School). I have been a fellow of the SAET for two years because we believe that theology is not merely done for the church but in and by the church. For the SAET the difference is crucial. Here is the mission of the SAET:

Operating within the historic evangelical tradition, the SAET believes the contemporary bifurcation between the pastoral calling and theological formation has resulted in the loss of a distinctly ecclesial voice in orthodox theology. The SAET seeks to resurrect this voice. In an age that has rightly emphasized the relationship between social location and theological formation, our vision is to bring together a unique kind of pastor-theologian—not simply those particular pastors who desire to pursue a theologically informed parish ministry, but even more, pastors who feel called to function as writing theologians to the broader ecclesial community. Armed with the conviction that pastors can—indeed must—once again serve as the church’s most important theologians, it is the aim of the SAET to provide a context of theological engagement for those pastors who desire to make ongoing contributions to the wider theological/scholarly community for the renewal of orthodox theology, for the renewal of the church.”

I will speak about what is distinctive about ecclesial theology – and pastor-theologians – in later posts. For now, I want to give you resources for ecclesial theology in general, and the SAET in particular.

First, read this article defining ecclesial theology by Gerald Hiestand, “Ecclesial Theology and Academic Theology: Why We Need More of the Former” at Reformation21.org.

Second, go to the website for The Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology and explore its purpose (check out the video), fellows, and blog.