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Memorial tribute by Amela Couture, Oslo, April 2017.

Memorial tribute by Amela Couture, Oslo, April 2017.

Memorial tribute by Amela Couture in honor of James W. Fowler

James W. Fowler III is known to many of us as one of the originators and promotors of practical theology as an academic discipline and the International Academy of Practical Theology as an organization (even though he was not able to attend the Princeton meeting, didn’t make the picture of the “original eight,” so is not counted as a “founding father” as such.) He was famous for his classic work Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Development and the Quest for Meaning, a book that most people with any interests in religious education have read. For many of us in this room, including me, he was a colleague, or a mentor, or a friend, or all three.

Jim was born October 12, 1940 in Reidsville, North Carolina, the son of a Methodist minister and Quaker mother. As a child he loved the North Carolina mountains. But he was a country boy with a big intellect–he took his initial degrees from Duke University and Drew Theological Seminary, and his PhD from Harvard University in religion and society in 1971. In the early 1970s he published his work on adapting Lawence Kohlberg’s moral development theory to faith development, the work that launched him into national and then international fame. Though he taught at Harvard and Boston College, he spent most of his career at Emory University. In 1987 was awarded the distinguished chair, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Theology and Human Development. In the 1990s he helped to develop and then directed Emory’s Center for Ethics. He received the Oskar Pfister Award from the American Psychiatric Association and the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science. During all of this time, he found the North Carolina mountains a place of renewal and retreat, where he eventually retired. Sadly, in his mid sixties he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and he died at age seventy-five on October 16, 2015. He and his wife, Lurline, were married 53 years and had two daughters and four grandchildren.

When I taught with Jim at Emory, I was richly rewarded not only by his scholarship and intellect, but by his character–his openness, his willingness to have a friendly and sympathetic conversation, and the sparkle in his eye. When I attended my first IAPT meeting in Bern, and the discussion of organizing the next meeting in Korea arose, I naively volunteered, and Jim, knowing I was already in over my head, offered to help. We worked together, along with the President, Hans van der Ven, to develop the program on globalization and difference. The kind of relationships that Jim established with many people in IAPT—myself included—was the kind that makes this organization so special. Jim’s partook of the every two year ritual of “catching up”—intellectually and personally—and engaging in meaningful conversation, rather than small talk. Many of us will remember our connection with Jim as we think of the crinkle of his eyes when he smiled, his kind and genuine warmth, his coyboyish walk, and the genuine bond he felt with many of us.

For my fortieth birthday party, Jim wrote me a poem around the central metaphor of canoeing, which I did a lot of in those days. So in return, Jim, I’m offering you and your friends this poem by North Carolina Kathryn Stripling Byer from Mountain Time–about faith.

Mountain Time (excerpt)
Kathryn Stripling Beyer,
Black Shawl, 1998

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Memorial tribute by William Storrar, Oslo, April 2017.

Memorial tribute by William Storrar, Oslo, April 2017.

Memorial tribute by William Storrar in honor of Duncan Forrester

Duncan Forrester came both early and late to practical theology.
As the son of the professor of practical theology at St Andrews University in his native Scotland, he grew up in a family immersed in the ministry of the Church of Scotland and the concerns of the ecumenical movement. His own university studies in politics and divinity took him abroad to do postgraduate work in political thought at the University of Chicago, before serving as a professor of politics at a Christian College in India. He then returned to the UK as Chaplain at the University of Sussex, where he also continued teaching in political science.

It was in mid-career that he came to work in our field, when he was appointed to the Chair of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh in 1978. He joined a strong department in pastoral theology that had developed a distinctive approach to hospital and practice based pastoral education and applied ethics under his predecessor, Professor James Blackie, and senior colleague, Alastair V. Campbell. Duncan’s distinctive contribution to the field was evident from his inaugural lecture. There he set out a larger vision for practical theology to include the practice of justice in an unequal society and mission in a changing culture, both practices rooted in his concern for worship and ethics.

As generations of grateful students appreciated about this gifted teacher and caring supervisor, Duncan had been profoundly influenced by his encounter with the human face of poverty in India and his conversations with social scientists in a secular university. The distinctive research methods of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues (CTPI), which he founded within the Department of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology at Edinburgh University in 1984, were in turn shaped by these transformative experiences in Duncan’s earlier life as an educational missionary and university chaplain.
Duncan believed that practical theologians should never talk about poverty behind the backs of the poor. And he thought that practical theology had much to learn from dialogue with social policy experts who did not share his faith. When CTPI did research on poverty or on penal policy, for example, it always included the expert views of people from poor communities, and prisoners in the penal system, as well as social scientists. This way of doing practical theology is his lasting gift to our field. Yet Duncan’s commitment to including marginalized voices and expertise did not diminish the importance of making his own distinctive theological contribution, as his major writings on justice, equality and the public relevance of theology testify.

Duncan Forrester may have come late to the professional field of practical theology, but he came early to the global issues that rightly concern practical theologians around the world today, especially issues of injustice and inequality. His distinctive way of addressing them is his enduring legacy in the International Academy of Practical Theology, of which he was a proud and committed member.

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