local theology: an introduction

March 17, 2009

I’ve been living with the term local theology for the last few years, trying to get my mind around what it might mean and look like. I did a search yesterday on my blog, surprised to find I’ve never written a post about it. As some of these thoughts are taking more shape, I’m bringing them here so that you can help shape them too. This post will serve as an intro to an open-ended series on Local Theology.

I was introduced to this term in a class at Mars Hill Grad School. One of our texts was Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art, by Leona Tisdale Tubbs. I’ve since discovered that the concept of local theology is not unique to Tubbs, as I’ve found two other books on the subject — Constructing Local Theologies, by Robert J. Schreiter, and Doing Local Theology: A Guide for Artisans of a New Humanity, by Clemens Sedmak — neither of which I have read…yet!

This seems like an important idea for what it means to be the church, and one that needs to be explored further. I would imagine that many of us would liken local theology to the idea of being contextual in our churches. I think that is true, but I also want to create a little definition between the two. I would suggest that local theology is a prelude to contextualization. Local theology begins as we listen to the culture of our surroundings and compare it with the narrative of Scripture. Out of this listening, we begin to contextualize our expression of the local church to our community.

As I’m diving into this idea further, I’d appreciate your thoughts too, regardless of whether you consider yourself a theologian. Have you heard this term before? What is your response to it?

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