A Brief History of INSeCT
The 2017 General Council Meeting was held in Bangalore, India, from July 19 to 23, and had the following goals: Based on input from different regions of the world …
- … to reflect together on how the Catholic Church and society take the role of women seriously, and attend to questions of gender in a serious manner;
- … to reflect on how the 50th anniversary of Vatican II was acknowledged in the theological community in each region of the world in conversation with the local Indian Catholic Community at Dharmaram College;
- … to revisit, evaluate, and clarify the Vision, Mission, and Goals of INSeCT in light of its more than 20 years of existence (1996–2017) and look to the future of INSeCT.
In total 23 persons participated at the Council meeting, representing 15 (of 22) ordinary corporate and 2 (of 7) affiliated member societies of INSeCT.
Representatives of two theological societies which still are not members of INSeCT (European Society of Women in Theological Research and Association of Indonesian Catholic Theologians) were invited as guests.
Finally, the General Council decided on the topic of the new Global Research Project (“A Kairos for Catholic Theology: Serving the Church, Serving the World”) and unanimously elected the new Steering Committee 2017–2020: Gerard Mannion (CTSA), President, Nontando Hadebe (CTSSA), Maeve Louise Heaney (ACTA), Gunter Prüller-Jagenteufel (ESCT), Paulo Fernando Carneiro de Andrade (SOTER).
The Steering Committee for 2014–2017 was, for the first time, composed of five members representing the five regions Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia-Pacific. This was in accordance with a decision taken at the 2014 General Council Meeting in Belo Horizonte. The committee who served this cycle of office comprised of the following personnel: Martin M. Lintner (Italy/Austria), President, Nancy Pinead-Madrid (USA), Vice-president, Érico João Hammes (Brasil), Vice-president, Gaston Ogui (Benin), James McEvoy (Australia), who in July 2016 due to personal reasons has resigned and was replaced by Kochurani Abraham (India).
The Steering Committee met two on two occasions for its Annual Meeting – in Rome/Italy July 27-31, 2015, and in Bangalore/India. July 27-31, 2016. In addition to this, the committee held several Skype-meetings throughout the three-year period.
In selecting Bangalore as the venue for the 2016 Annual Committee Meeting and for the 2017 Full General Council Meeting, the Executive wanted to be faithful to the commitment of the previous Executive to reach out more actively to Catholic theologians in the context of the developing world, particularly in the southern hemisphere.
Priorities for the Executive 2014–2017 included the questions of how to promote the networking further among the member-societies and equally of how to make INSeCT more visible, in general.
At its annual meeting in July 2015, the INSeCT Steering Committee discussed and further developed the Network’s mission and goals, on the basis of what had been elaborated by previous Steering Committees. The 2015 meeting clarified the Network’s focus, with unanimous agreement being reached on the proposals. At the same meeting, it was also decided that each Board member would be responsible for regularly liaising with the various presidents of the member-societies throughout his/her respective region.
The Committee also initiated a range of additional concrete projects so as to further realize and put into practice the mission and goals of INSeCT and to promote the sense of belonging to our Network among its global member societies. These included:
- redesigning and regularly updating INSeCT’s Webpage and posting all available information on activities of the single societies;
- creating a INSeCT Facebook page;
- publishing an annual newsletter from the president;
- implementing the General Council decision take in 2011 to launch a research project to coincide with the three-year INSeCT cycle;
- inviting member-societies to nominate a contact person for INSeCT’s Research Project and to make the INSeCT research program theme part of their annual conference/symposium;
- establishing the regular contact between regional Board members and the presidents of member-societies societies in their respective region;
- further follow-up with presidents of each member-society and publishing a regional newsletter once a year in order to exchange information and promote the sense of belonging to our Network;
- conducting an annual inquiry, requesting information from member-societies on their serving and incoming officers, number of members, activities, conferences, annual conference themes, etc.
The Steering Committee promoted activley the Global Research Project “A question of gender justice: the role of women in decision-making in different areas of church and society”. Many member societies have responded positively with a large variety of activities (see https://insecttheology.wordpress.com/global-research-projects/).
The theme of the 2014 meeting in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, was “Theology and the Changing Context of Mission.” Fr. Friedrich Bechina, Under Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, joined participants as they reflect International Catholic Education, in particular the role of theologians and the task of theology in the service of ecclesial renewal. This is of great concern to us given the spirit of reform with which Pope Francis has infused the Church and the radical transformation in the service of justice and love to which he is calling society. The Executive Secretary of CELAM’s Justice and Solidarity Department, Father Peter Hughes SSC, spoke on an exciting new paradigm for mission emerging in the context of challenging the impact of extractive industries in the Amazon region. He and others reported on the co-operative initiatives of the US, Canadian and CELAM bishops through the work of the Comisión Interamericana for Human Rights. Delegates also took part in the program of the annual convention of SOTER at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, reflected on the challenges facing theology in their various regional contexts.
At this meeting, the members elected a new, and more broadly representative Executive, now including representation also from the regions of Africa and Asia-Pacific.
The Executive met during the annual convention of SOTER in July 2013. Eamon Conway and Catherine Clifford addressed the members of SOTER on the continuing importance of the Second Vatican Council for theology and the church today. The Executive Committee secured the support of the leadership of SOTER and the Archbishop of Belo Horizonte for the meeting of the seventh Network Council, and Fourth International Colloqium, July 17-20, 2014.
A priority for this new Executive was to reach out more actively to Catholic theologians in the context of the developing world, particularly in the southern hemisphere. With this in mind, they met in July of 2012 in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast, where they visited the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University of West Africa, the Jesuit Institute for Theology, the Dominican Institute for a Theology of Sustainable Development, and several other centres of theological and missional formation. A decision was also taken to explore the possibility of organizing the next meeting of the Network Council in Brazil, with the support of SOTER.
A Third International Colloquium was held on June 14-16, 2011, thanks again to the support of the Centre for Global Catholicism at De Paul University, Chicago. Reflections focussed on the topic of the “Nature and Role of Theology in Church, Society and in the Academy.” Dr. Bryan Froehle spoke to participants regarding the changing context of global Catholicism. Participants invited the member societies to devote their resources to the promotion of theological reflection on “The Nature, Function, and Location of Theology, with Particular Attention to Overcoming the Abuse of Power in Church and Society,” in response to the widening crisis of sexual abuse and other signs of decline across cultures and their impact on the life of the church. The sixth meeting of the Network Council voted to welcome three new members: the Indian Theological Association; the Unión de Instituciones Teológicas Católicas en México; and the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines (DaKaTeo). In addition, the Circle of African Concerned Women Theologians was welcomed as an Extraordinary Member with voice and voting rights. The Network Council voted to elect Eamonn Conway (ESCT), President, and Valmor De Silva (SOTER), Vice-President. As well, Catherine Clifford (CTSA) accepted to serve a second mandate as a member of the Executive, serving this term as Vice-President in order to provide some continuity.
In 2008, a second international colloquium was organized in connection with the fifth Network Council meeting in Chicago, June19-21, graciously hosted by the Centre for Global Catholicism at De Paul University. Discussions focussed on the theme “The Theological Challenge of Intercultural Relations in an Age of Globalization.” Robert Schreiter, who contributed greatly to the reflections of the twenty-six participants gathered from six continents on theology, contextualization, globalization, and catholicity. The colloquium met as some of the first signs of the global economic crisis were beginning to emerge. It considered the uncertain future of religion and its diminished scope of influence. Participants noted the need to promote the development of theological responses to these issues, recognizing that their complexity calls for reflection from all the theological disciplines and for approaches which integrate resources from other fields of knowledge. The Council elected three new members to the Executive: Catherine E. Clifford (CTSA) President; Jan Jans (ESCT), Vice-President; and Afonso Soares (SOTER), Vice President.
In 2009 and 2010 the Executive met in conjunction with the meetings of the ESCT and CTSA in Limerick, Ireland and Cincinnati, Ohio, respectively. A new web site was developed and efforts were made to broaden the base of membership. As well, it was recognized that, as the Executive no longer had an organic link to the University of Tübingen, Germany, new options must be considered for the institutional home base of the Network.
A group of 25 Catholic theologians representing societies and associations of Catholic theology from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, and North America gathered in St. Louis, Missouri, USA on June 7-9, 2005, for a colloquium on “Catholic Theology Worldwide: Regional Challenges and New Developments.” Two issues were identified. The most widespread collective conviction was that Catholic theologians need to promote greater theological dialogue and collaboration with people in their local and daily reality, especially with women, children, youth, and those living in poverty, with bishops, with theologians across cultures, and with adherents of other religions and members of the wider society. The second conclusion was that there is an urgent need for more nuanced contextual analyses of the signs of the times in relation to globalization, intercultural relations, migration, fundamentalism and relativism, secularization and de-traditionalization, and ecology and respect for the earth. The Network Council voted to renew the mandate of the members of the Executive: Bradford Hinze (CTSA), President; Paulo Fernando Carneiro de Andrade (SOTER), Vice-President; and Thomas Fliethmann (ESCT), Vice-President.
The Executive met at San Antonio, TX, in the context of the CTSA annual convention in June of 2006, and of the biannual meeting of the ESCT in Leuven in 2007.
On 6-7 June 2003 the Steering Committee met in conjunction with the Catholic Theological Society of America Convention being held 5-8 June held in Cincinnati, Ohio. Two agenda items concerned the two new projects initiated the previous year: the first project has been named Catholic Theology Worldwide: Regional Reports and the second called African Catholic Theology. Deliberations about these projects continued. A new agenda item concerned a preliminary discussion of the Network Council meeting scheduled for the summer of 2005.
On 7-8 June 2002 the third Network Council Meeting took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA during the convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America. The Network Council agreed to initiate two new major projects, which were proposed by outgoing president Hünermann. One proposal was that the INSeCT website could provide a forum for regional reports on the state of Catholic theology worldwide. A second proposal concerned how the INSeCT website could help foster the dissemination of the work of Catholic theologians in Africa by offering the opportunity to post brief essays or summaries of books, no more than fifteen pages. New officers were also elected: Bradford Hinze (CTSA) was elected president and Paulo Fernando Carneiro de Andrade (SOTER) and Thomas Fliethmann (ET) were elected vice presidents.
The Steering Committee met in Graz, Austria, 26-27 August 2001. Two main items of business were addressed. There was much discussion of the written report submitted by the webmaster, Oliver Dyma, with special attention given to the increasing audience from around the world to the INSeCT website. The second item concerned the preparation for the meeting of the next Network Council assembly, scheduled to take place in June of 2002, in which new officers were to be elected.
A Steering Committee meeting was scheduled to occur at the meeting of the CTSA in 2000 held in San Jose, California, but was cancelled. In lieu of this meeting, at the initiative of Vice President Anne Patrick, a luncheon for INSeCT members in attendance at the CTSA convention was held with representatives from ACHTUS (Orlando Espin); ACTA (Robert Gascoigne), BCTS (M. Shawn Copeland), CTSA (Anne Patrick), and the ET (Thomas Fliethmann).
The second Network Council convened on 7 August 1999 at Leuven, Belgium in conjunction with the 8th General Assembly of the triennial meeting of the Conference of Catholic Theological Institutions, which was held August 5-10. The Council welcomed five new societies as ordinary members. The five new societies represented were: Societe Canadienne de Theologie, Sociedad Uruguaya de Teologia (SUT), Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS, USA), Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians in the United States (ACHTUS, USA), and Australian Catholic Theological Association (ACTA). That brought the total number of ordinary members to 11, with several other organizations in either the category of extraordinary member or “groups in contact” with INSeCT. At this meeting Peter Hünermann was elected for a second term as president, and Marcio Fabri dos Anjos and Anne E. Patrick for a second term as vice-presidents.
The next meeting of the Steering Committee took place during the 3rd annual Congress of ET that met in Nijmegen, Netherlands, 22-26 August 1998. The main agenda item for this meeting was to discuss ways to utilize the INSeCT homepage on the web. Various avenues were explored: describe the work of INSeCT to a broader public; provide a bulletin board for theological news to be posted; establish links for web theological research in various regions and explore ways that the INSeCT website can be added to other theological resources websites; invite summaries of conventions for posting in the “News” section; send a routine bi-monthly invitation to societies to send any further news they may want to share. The process began at this meeting to pursue tax-exempt status for INSeCT with the German government, which was finalized in the following year.
On 5-8 June 1997 the first formal convening of the Steering Committee took place in conjunction with the CTSA convention, which was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. In attendance at that meeting were Steering Committee members Hünermann, Fabri dos Anjos, and Patrick, as well as Orlando Espín, representing the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians in the United States (ACHTUS), Raymond F. Collins, COCTI representative, and Shawn Copeland and Jamie Phelps from the Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS). President Hünermann reported that numerous societies wished to become affiliated with INSeCT: the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences Theological Advisory Commission; Societé Canadienne de Théologie, in addition to ET, CTSA, SOTER, ACHTUS, BCTS. The major achievement during 1997 was to launch the website for INSeCT, which was to be the main vehicle of communication for INSeCT. The web was set up on a server at the University of Tübingen and managed by webmaster Oliver Dyma.
In January 1996 Peter Hünermann, from the University of Tübingen, invited representatives of Catholic Theological Societies around the world to gather to discuss the possibilities for fostering greater communication among Catholic theologians around the world in order to advance the work of Catholic theology. In response to this invitation, a gathering of theologians took place in conjunction with the assembly of the Conference of Catholic Theological Institutions (COCTI), a group composed of deans of Catholic theological schools, at Sherbrooke University, Québec, Canada, held 1-6 August 1996.
On 4 August 1996 the International Network of Societies of Catholic Theology (INSeCT) was founded and statutes were drafted and agreed upon by Hünermann, Mário Fabri dos Anjos (Sociedade de Teologia e Ciências de Religio, SOTER, Sao Paul, Brazil), Paul G. Crowley, S.J. (Catholic Theological Society of America, CTSA), Carlos Maria Galli (Sociedad Argentina de Teologia, SAT), Meinrad Hegba (Association Oecumenique des Theologiens Africaines, AOTA), Christian Johansson (Sociedad Chilena de Teologia), Anne E. Patrick SNJM (Catholic Theological Society of America, CTSA), Nico Schreurs (Europäische Gesellschaft für katholische Theologie, ET), Ignacio Mader Vargas, SDS (Associacion de teologos koinonia, Bogata, Columbia). This assembly de facto constituted the first Network Council, with representatives from member societies. Elected as the founding officers for three year terms at this meeting were Peter Hünermann (president) and Mário Fabri dos Anjos and Anne E. Patrick (vice-presidents).
In the words of the original statutes: “the Goal of the Network is to foster academic theology and theological research in various continents through: communication among the members societies, particularly concerning information about projects and work in progress, the result of academic research, and theological congresses, conventions and meetings; encouragement of research within theological disciplines and stimulation of interdisciplinary work in the interest of academic theology; an ecumenical orientation and dialogue with other religions and world views. This goal will be pursued through ongoing communication through electronic means, occasional meetings of the members societies, and other means of academic collaboration.”
In order to reach these goals, INSeCT invites the participation of societies of Catholic theology around the world (identified as ordinary corporate members with voting privileges) and academic societies with a particular interest in Catholic theology (extraordinary members do not have voice or a vote in the deliberations of the Network unless otherwise determined by a majority of the Network Council). The Network is composed of a Steering Committee, with a president and two vice-presidents, which meet annually, and the Network Council, constituted by delegates representing each society that is an ordinary corporate member, which meets every three years.