Standing in the Breach: A Relational Homiletic for Conflicted Times
Moiso, Aimee C.
Preachers who seek to address conflict or controversial issues from the pulpit often encounter homiletic models that either encourage taking a stand (the “prophetic”) or keeping the peace (the “pastoral”), both of which prioritize transmission of a message over the relational effects of that message, and neither of which directly addresses the dynamics of conflict. This dissertation argues for a “relational” homiletic model in which the nature and quality of relationships are central to preaching, particularly in situations of conflict. Beginning with a definition of conflict as “differences that in proximity produce tension,” the dissertation draws insights from the field of conflict transformation, which emphasizes the unavoidability of conflict, the importance of prioritizing human interconnectedness in conflict, and the constructive potential of conflict for social change. Conflict transformation is then put into conversation with Christian theologians Edward Farley, Wendy Farley, and Miroslav Volf to develop a “theology for conflict” to undergird a relational homiletic. This theology for conflict affirms difference and resulting tension as elements of creation; the tragic reality of the human condition and the differentiation of tragedy from sin and evil; the interdependence of human beings in relationships of compassionate obligation; and the conviction that relationality is both an expression and means of redemption. In a relational homiletic, the fundamental reality of human interrelatedness becomes the orienting principle, a normative ethical and theological framework, and a way of conceiving practice and method for preachers. The entire homiletic process is then focused on the kind of relationships we want to be indicative of Christian community, and how preaching might develop those relationships across the whole of Christian life, including situations of conflict and controversy.
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