Theme: “Forty Years of Indian Theological Association: Milestones & Signposts”

Dates: 26 to 29 April 2017

Venue: Montfort Spirituality Centre, Bengaluru

(Report and Minutes of the 40th Annual Meet and Conference: 2017

The Ruby Jubilee celebration of the Indian Theological Association was aptly capped by its Annual Meet cum Conference, held at Montfort Spirituality Centre, Bengaluru from 26th to 29th April 2017 on the theme, “40 Years of Indian Theological Association: Milestones & Signposts. The inaugural function began with a prayer, followed by warm words of welcome, given by Fr.Jacob Parappally. Bro.P.Matthew, Director of the Centre gave the logistics of the place with a hearty welcome to one and all. Dr.Shalini Mulackal, President highlighted how ITA for the past forty years has been engaged in theological search, learning and response in the midst of the changing socio, economic, political situations and the pluri-religious context of India. Emphasizing the context of today with the undeterred onslaught on the Dalits, Tribals & religious minorities, the phenomenal rise of saffronization and corporate-political nexus, she invited us to continue our theological search and response so that the life in abundance promised by Jesus would become a reality to all especially to the poor and marginalized. The 2016 ITA volume titled ‘Toward a Theology of Minorities in Indian Scenario Today’ was released. Dr. Roy Lazar, the Secretary proposed the vote of thanks.

In the first plenary session Dr.Kuncheria Pathil in his paper on ‘Journey of Indian Theological Association: Walking down the Memory Lane’ brought home to us how ITA was born in the post-Vatican II scenario of Indian Churches in their search for becoming authentic local churches. Paying tributes to the founding fathers under the initiative of Fr.Constantine Manalel, Dr. Pathil underscored how the ITA carefully chose the appropriate themes for its annual conferences in consonance with the context and needs of the nation and the churches. ITA in its theologizing addressed the issues of religious fundamentalism, threats to Indian secularism, violation of human rights, discrimination against women, Dalits and Tribals, public corruption, ecological concerns, and minority issues. He presented how ITA has contributed to the four important ecclesiological orientations namely, a kenotic church, a church of the poor, a prophetic church and church in dialogue.

Dr. Shalini Mulackal in her paper on ‘Theological Method of ITA’ gave a critical presentation of the theological methodologies used in ITA for the past forty years. She identified three major trajectories in Indian theologizing, namely spiritual-contemplative approach, intellectual-theological approach and socio-political approach. Indian theology of liberation has led to contextual theologizing which is experience-based, praxis oriented, dialogical and interdisciplinary. She also challenged that ITA has to go a long way in making theologizing really Indian by involving Indian languages and categories and recommit itself with greater creative theologizing.

Dr. Roy Lazar presented the results of the survey conducted on ‘Reception and Impact of ITA: A Review of Forty Years’ Journey. The survey highlighted how ITA has contributed to the development of ‘Indian Contextualized Theology’ and has provided theological perspectives to pertinent problems/ issues of India. It has been also involved in publishing its reflections through statements and books. Looking into the future task of ITA, the survey suggested the following: infusing ‘God-experience ‘ in theologizing, continuing to develop Indian Christian Theology and Indian theological methods, regional seminars, digitalizing the publications, exchange with scholars of other religions, dialogue with ecclesial authorities and so on.

‘The Contribution of Indian Theology to the Universal Church’, a paper presented by Dr. Jacob Parappally dealt with the foundational principles of the Indic vision of Reality, the epistemological principle of Indian Christian theology and the Advaitic experience of Reality. The Indic vision of the inter-connectedness of the entire reality of God, humans and the world through advaitic intuition deepens the understanding of the mystery of relationship between God and humans, transcendence and immanence, history and trans-history. It was suggested that the Indian theology be recognized as an essential dimension of universal Christian Theology.

Dr.Vincent Kundukulam in his paper on ‘The Continuing Challenges to Inculturation’ pointed out the inadequacy of the paradigm inculturation, reluctance to incarnate the Gospel, endangering the Christian identity, inseparability of the gospel message from the gospel culture and the centralized control. He offered some possible avenues as developing inculturated theology, transforming inculturation as a counter-cultural project and liturgy into a prophetical celebration and the promotion of relational identity.

Errol A. D’Lima presenting in his paper the task(s) of ITA in the future, he threw light on the Christian identity and its functioning in today’s changing India. Laying emphasis on theologizing with a perspective that is both Christian and inter-faith, he invited theological critiques on the Church documents issued during Pope Francis’ papacy and recommended that the pope’s goal of an inclusive society calling for a new self-understanding of the Church as the People of God could be a task of ITA. Suggesting some new modes of accountability in the Church, he also proposed some structural changes for better national participation in the ITA.

Following the paper presentations cum interactions, two group discussions were held, one on ‘Challenges for Theology Today’ and the other on ‘Future of Indian Theology and ITA’. The reports of the group discussions were presented and deliberated upon in a general session. The Drafting Committee presented the 2017 ITA Statement on ‘Forty Years of Indian Theological Association: Milestones and Signposts, which went for an in-depth discussion with suggestions, additions and modifications. Incorporating all that was suggested, the drafting committee would present the final draft to the Executive Committee which would finalize and release it.

In the General Body Meeting of the 40th Annual Meet of ITA held on 28th evening, the senior ITA members conducted the proceedings of the election of the new office bearers. Fr.Vincent Kundukulam as president, Ms. Kochurani Abraham as vice-president, Fr. Raj Irudaya as secretary and Fr. Joy Pulickan as treasurer were elected. The new members of the Executive Committee are Fr.Jacob Parappally, Fr.Alangaram, Fr. Jerome Sylvester and Sr. D.J.Margaret. During the General Body meeting held on 29th the baton of leading and serving ITA was passed on by the outgoing office bearers to the new ones. Fr.Vincent, the new president profusely thanked the outgoing office bearers for their dedicated service and also the members of ITA for reposing confidence in the new team. He assured the members of the committed service of the new team and invited the collaboration of the members for taking the ITA forward in its theological service. MOU with ATC and agreement with NBCLC were discussed. It was suggested that the ITA members who have not been attending the Meet continuously for five years could be contacted. In case they do not respond, their names could be removed from the current mailing list but be kept in the original register.

The dates, venue and the theme of the ITA-2018 were discussed and the following were suggested:

Theme: Challenges of Religious Nationalism in India Today: A Theological Response

Dates: 26 to 29, April 2018

Venue: Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (DVK), Bangalore

During the evaluation of the Meet the hospitality of Montfort Spirituality Centre, the well-organized time table, position papers, meaningful liturgy, active interaction and discussion of the participants, the organizing team were highly appreciated. Suggestions to have more time for discussion after the presentation of the papers, to reduce the length of the Statement, to have the print-out copies of the draft of the Statement for discussion and sending the papers earlier for reading were also made. Fr.Roy Lazar, outgoing secretary thanked profusely all who participated, collaborated and helped to make the 40th Annual Meet and Conference a fruitful event. The Meet came to a happy close with a prayer of thanksgiving.

Raj Irudaya, S.J.