Opening the Field of Practical Theology: An Introduction

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9780742561267: Opening the Field of Practical Theology: An Introduction

Opening the Field of Practical Theology introduces students to practical theology through an examination of fifteen different approaches—ranging from feminist to liberationist, Roman Catholic to evangelical, Asian American to Latino/a.

After an introduction to the field of practical theology and its broad range of practice today, the book features chapters written by leading experts in the discipline. Each chapter has an identical structure to facilitate comparison, covering historical context, key features and figures, norms and sources of authority, theory-practice, contexts, interdisciplinary considerations, areas of current and future research, and suggested readings.

Opening the Field of Practical Theology is an ideal introduction to the field, highlighting the diverse ways practical theology is engaged today.

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About the Author:

Kathleen A. Cahalan is professor of theology at Saint John’s School of Theology and a past president of the Association of Practical Theology. She is the author of several books, including Introducing the Practice of Ministry.

Gordon S. Mikoski is associate professor of Christian Education and director of the Master’s Studies Program at Princeton Theological Seminary. He serves as editor for Theology Today and is a past president of the Association of Practical Theology and an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Review:

This valuable volume provides an introduction, 15 contextual essays, and a conclusion by experts in practical theology. The book succeeds in 'opening the field,' recognizing the discipline's provisionality and permeability as open-ended and conversational in nature. To aid comparisons, each chapter is structured with the same eight key features. These begin with historical context and proceed through themes such as norms and source of authority, views of the theory-practice relationship, interdisciplinary conversation partners, and areas of current and future research. . . .The editors identify 11 focal concerns that are characteristic of practical theology and that forge an overall unity for the field. Yet the ways practical theologians put these together result in numerous trajectories or approaches. As Stephen Bevans says, 'In practical theology one begins from an experience or a practice.' This perspective leads to the distinctive identities of the chapters, which cover practical theology as it pertains to African Americans, Evangelicals, feminists/womanists, Roman Catholics, and US Latinos/Latinas. This overview approach should be very helpful for readers at all levels. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. (CHOICE)

With the publication of Opening the Field of Practical Theology: An Introduction, Kathleen A. Cahalan and Gordon S. Mikoski have deepened and expanded the tent with a superb collection of essays. The book deepens out understanding by inviting fourteen different authors to examine common features of practical theology from diverse perspectives in an accessible and systematic way. . . .The structure is genius because it makes it possible to read the book in a number of different ways. . . .The endnotes add to the aim of this excellent new resource: they open the field of practical theology. (International Journal of Practical Theology)

Opening the Field of Practical Theology offers practical theology students and teachers abundant access points into studying, teaching, and engaging diverse practices. This book will be required in doctoral studies in practical theology, will support life-long reflection on ministerial practices and vocational development, and will empower collaboration among diverse practical theologians. . . .Opening the Field of Practical Theology invites readers to enter practical theology’s convergences (named in the conclusion as valuing self-reflection, context, and interdisciplinarity) and divergences (named in the conclusion as differing interpretations of human experiences, historical contexts, and normative sources). The editors also encourage readers to play with the order of the chapters, underlying commitments, organization provided by the common template, and additional convergences and divergences. . . .[T]he volume affirms practical theology’s robust role in formative theological study, carrying on a long-standing conversation among scholars that is itself open to new voices and perspectives. Opening the Fieldof Practical Theology provides an invaluable contribution to a field of study that has opened multiple significant future trajectories. (Theology Today)

Particularly noteworthy is the clear treatment given by each contributor to perhaps the most heavily-contested aspect of practical theology: the nature and status of sources of authority. Here the comparisons made possible between Catholic, Protestant, and evangelical positions, as well as the insights from a number of liberationist perspectives, will allow students to come to some necessary clarity about a key methodological question, clarity that is grounded in the voices of respected representatives of particular traditions. (Anglican and Episcopal History)

Opening the Field of Practical Theology maps the complex terrain of this field as astutely as anything in print. Its respectful attention to diversity of ethnic and religious contexts and appropriate methods for them is to be applauded. Happily the shared template across the contributions makes it feel like an integrated volume and not simply a collection of essays. Best of all, the authors come across as living theologians whose own stories and contexts matter. This volume not only talks about practical theology, but smartly models it. Bravo! (Edward Foley, capuchin, Catholic Theological Union)

This outstanding book demonstrates the breadth in the emerging field of Practical Theology in the U.S. Different Christian communities, related to different ethnic groups and different cultural contexts, demand for differentiated elaborations of a Practical Theology that should be both theologically normative and culturally informed. The authors paint a vivid picture of Practical Theology today. (Wilhelm Gräb, Humboldt-University Berlin)

Whether you are just starting out in the field of practical theology, or undertaking advanced research, this book has something to offer you. It combines a comprehensive introduction with cutting-edge insights and deserves to be a staple text for many years to come. (Elaine Graham, University of Chester, United Kingdom)

Cahalan and Mikoski have provided a straightforward approach to a complex and seemingly amorphous subject. The common structure of each chapter provides a clear and eminently useful way to engage and understand the nuances within and between various understandings of and approaches to practical theology. Using rubrics that help make explicit what is often only implicit, the authors invite the reader into the dynamic interchange between lived experience and divine activities through a variety of contextual, theoretical, historical and theological lenses. (Barbara McClure, Brite Divinity School)

A wonderful bird’s eye view of the scholarly expanse constituting practical theology today. Kudos to the insightful editors who designed a set of common categories and the stellar scholars who amplified them in overview chapters designed to help readers understand disciplinary developments. Readers will gain an invaluable sense of what counts for practical theology across a range of different approaches. (Bonnie Miller-Mclemore, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture, Vanderbilt University)

This new textbook offers a welcome and fresh approach to teaching and learning practical theology. Its attentiveness to the varieties of practical theological method and its use of a common template across the chapters will help students read comparatively and, thus, better comprehend the complexity of the field. (Kathleen Greider, Edna and Lowell Craig Professor of Practical Theology, Spiritual Care, and Counseling, Claremont School of Theology)

This book offers a privileged participation in practical theological conversation at its very best. Each contribution is similarly organized and contains invaluable notes and citations, allowing readers to encounter the practical theological conversation in its depth and diversity. The authors bring a freshness that interprets contemporary practical theology even while advancing it. Ideal for both students and scholars, this book will be a critical building block for the next generation of practical theology and required reading at all levels of study and scholarly work. (Bryan T. Froehle, St. Thomas University)

Opening the Field of Practical Theology generously invites its readers to explore and to join in the rich and varied conversations which are shaping contemporary practical theology. Written by experts who know and love their approaches to the subject, ministry students, graduate students, and scholars will be informed by this accessible introduction to a variegated field. (Jeffery L. Tribble, Columbia Theological Seminary)

Dancing between common emphases in practical theology and broad diversities, this book opens a rich conversation about practical theological complexities. The extraordinary group of authors introduces a multitude of voices, values, concerns, contexts, histories and methods in practical theology. Even more important, they pose unsettling questions as they uncover the dangers of essentializing and categorizing, the realities of hybridity and plurality, and the practical theology frontiers that have yet to be opened. This book is critical for the future of practical theology. It will open readers and it will open the potential for new work on the frontiers of practical knowing. (Mary Elizabeth Moore, Boston University, Boston Univeristy School of Theology)

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