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Kathryn Johnson to speak on confession and forgiveness as a key to global reconciliation

by Louisville Seminary | Mar 25, 2010
By Toya Richards

Confession of sins and confession of faith will be the focus of an upcoming lecture presented by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Professor Dr. Kathryn L. Johnson during the Seminary’s 2010 annual Festival of Theology and Reunion, April 25-28.

Johnson’s presentation is one of three lectures planned during the event, which will explore the theme “The Global Church: Implications for Mission and Ministry” and also include lecturers Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak, a major player in the Christian struggle against apartheid in his homeland of South Africa, and Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and Visiting Professor of Ecumenical and Global ministries at LPTS.

In conjunction with the Festival a number of other activities are planned, including worship services and discussions with the speakers, and Alum Association activities, such as The Distinguished Alum Awards luncheon, a golf scramble, and student theater performance.

Johnson, the Paul Tudor Jones Professor of Church History and Professor of Historical Theology at Louisville Seminary, is currently on a three-year leave to serve as Assistant General Secretary for the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Geneva, Switzerland.

“I have gotten to see so many different contexts” and have a broader understanding of the world Church, Johnson said of her role with LWF. Her duties include coordinating LWF’s relationships with other Christians around the world.

Johnson said her lecture will address the fact that confession of faith sometimes involves recognition of sinfulness, and that one particular legacy that touches many is the willingness to use violence in order to conform belief and practice.

Lutherans, for example, have historically justified their persecution of the Mennonite community, and now today Lutherans are officially asking for forgiveness, she said.

At the same time, without repudiating the persecution, Mennonites have maintained their martyrdom in a strong way, Johnson said. “For them [the persecution] has been community defining,” and now they also must change in order not to remain victims, she said.

The overall issue “has been a heavy burden for both of our communities,” Johnson added.

Johnson’s lecture will help support the Festival’s aim in exploring what Mainline churches in North America can learn from the global Church, particularly in the global south, as it is aggressively learning how to thrive with unity and diversity.

She said the first thing that needs to take place is “to confess our sins. It is important first to look at that wrong and to seek forgiveness.”

Then, ask for God’s help. It is a call to “rely on what we claim to trust, which is the grace of God,” Johnson said.

“It’s also a call to trust in a different future,” Johnson added. There must be trust that by God’s creative action, “a spirit of reconciliation is at work.”

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The annual Festival of Theology is open to the public, and the endowed Greenhoe and Caldwell Lectureships enable the Seminary to bring to Louisville, Ky., nationally recognized theologians, authors, scholars, teachers, practitioners, and preachers, and to offer the event for a minimal general fee of $20 per person. All lectures and preaching will take place in the Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel on the Seminary campus, with discussion sessions held in nearby classrooms.

The Festival is being held in conjunction with the Louisville Seminary Alum Reunion, during which the Alum Association Board of Directors conducts its business. Some events associated with the Reunion include reservation fees. For a detailed schedule of events or to learn more about the speakers and preachers, visit the Festival webpage.

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