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Critical Theories and Liturgical Studies


Kim Belcher
130 Malloy Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
[email protected]

Mission Statement

A small seminar of people who read and react to one another's scholarship, focusing on the intersections of liturgical studies with recent discourses such as but not limited to post-modernism, post-structuralism and critical theory.

2020 Academy Meeting Agenda

Friday, January 4
8:30-9:15 Welcome back, catching up, and introductions.

9:25-10:15 "Religion as Practice, Ethnography as Theology, and Dialogue between Sociology of Religion and Liturgical Studies," Sarah Johnson.

2:15-2:55 “Sin and Liturgy in Political Theology,” Jason Smith.

3:05-3:45 “Liturgy and Lament: Postcolonial Reflections from the Midst of a Global Refugee Crisis,” Kristine Suna-Koro.

4:30-5:10 "Born in a Wreck: Baptism, Original Sin, and Godparenting in The Violent Bear It Away," Martin Connell.

5:20-6:00 “The Illusory Association of Piety to Patterns of Worship,” Gerald Liu. 

Saturday, January 5
8:30-10:15 Joint session on Liturgy and Pain with Liturgical Hermeneutics.

11-11:40 “Liturgies of livability or liturgical violence: What kind of space are we creating for non-binary individuals?” Stephanie Budwey.

11:50-12:30 “Symbolizing Sin and Sanctity: A Holy, Sinful Church?” Layla Karst.

2-2:45 Summative discussion of sin and pain, with possibilities for follow up in future years.

2:55-3:45 Evaluation of 2020 seminar and planning for 2021.

2019 Academy Meeting Agenda

Theme: Liturgical Inclusion/Exclusion and Multiple Liturgical Belonging: Explorations and Emerging Perspectives

Friday, January 4
9:45 – 10:15 Introductions, welcome of the visitors, updates, logistics

10:15 – 11:10 Kimberly Belcher

"When all heaven breaks loose: Eschatology and exceptions to liturgical norms"
Liturgical norms about participating in worship are often broken, such as in crisis situations or when Christians are near death. We normally consider these pastoral exceptions, but using cases in which Protestant or Orthodox Christians have been permitted to receive Roman Catholic communion, I will argue that they are eschatological exceptions.Liberty from the norms we ordinarily follow provides an experience of the parousia for Christians looking at the end of the world as they know it. In this sense, liturgical rules are made to be broken: that is, they construct a normal that allows us to recognize when all heaven is breaking loose. How can eschatology guide a broader application of these exceptions to the rules?
Respondent: Jason Smith

11:25 – 12:15 Layla Karst

“Practices that Count: Inclusion, Exclusion, and the Writing of
           Liturgical Practice.”

Respondent: TBD

12:15-1:45     Lunch (on your own) with Sidebars

  • Black Scholars Sidebar, with Gennifer Brooks convening
  • Local Planning Committee for Atlanta 2020, with Vice-President Bruce Morrill
  • Queering Liturgy, with Scott Haldeman convening
  • Under-represented Scholars in the Discipline

1:45-3:15      Seminars

1:45 – 2:20 Stephanie A. Budwey

“God is the creator of all life and the energy of this world”: German intersex Christians’ reflection on the image of God and being created in God’s image, Theology & Sexuality”
Intersex individuals are often told they are not human beings because they do not neatly fit into the categories of “female” and “male.” Many are made to feel like monsters. Christianity enforces this model of sexual dimorphism with the notion that to be a human being means to be created clearly “female” or clearly “male” in the image of God. This paper draws on interviews with German intersex Christians to explore their diverse images of God and what it means to be created in God’s image with the goal of creating new “conditions of possibility” that represent the full range of human sex/gender.

2:30 – 3:15 Stephanie A. Budway
“Religion and Intersex: Perspectives from Science, Law, Culture, and

Focus on the inclusion of intersex individuals in worship book project
Respondent: TBD

3:15-4:15       Break/Networking

4:15 – 5:05 Kristine Suna-Koro

“Liturgy, Language, and Diaspora: Some Reflections on Inclusion as
            Integration by a Migratory Liturgical Magpie”

Drawing from the worship experience of the diasporic Latvian-American Lutheran church in the U.S. in conversation with postcolonial theories of minor transnationalism (Francoise Lionnet and Shu-Mei Shih), this paper argues for the need to complicate the seemingly clear-cut dichotomies of inclusion/exclusion and majority/minority. Inclusion as well as exclusion functions on multiple levels. Focusing on the tricky dynamics of linguistic inclusion/exclusion in worship, the paper proposes that integration demands attention to majoritarian/minoritarian tensions and a scrutiny of the terms of deep, sustainable, and long-term liturgical welcome. Practices of integration reach beyond the gestures and rhetoric of inclusivity which are sometimes used to promote church growth or its mere survival, and frequently will entail considerable adjustments within the communities of worship.
Respondent: TBD

5:20 – 6:15 Rebecca Spurrier
Worship as Intervention? Breaking Silence on World Suicide
                       Prevention Day

This paper examines and queries multiple forms of belonging that contributed to the planning of a seminary chapel service on World Suicide Prevention Day. Drawing on the constructive thought of critical disability studies, the paper analyzes the complexities of liturgies designed to break silences in order to include those silenced within the church and the inherent risks such liturgies take in excluding those whose human differences are intended to be the focus of such services.  
Respondent: TBD

Free Evening

Saturday, January 5
8:45 – 9:40 Gabriel Pivarnik


Respondent: TBD

9:55 – 10:50 Joint Session with Comparative Liturgical Theology Seminar I

James Farwell

“Not Two with Christ: Reflections on Comparative Liturgical Theology
            from Dual Liturgical Practice”

Respondent: TBD

11:00-Noon Plenary: Tink Tinker “Romancing the Liturgy: Culture vs. Deep
                       Culture in American Indian Appropriation”

Noon-1:30    Lunch (on your own) with Sidebars

Saturday, January 5th, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

  • Diversity Statement Working Committee, with Secretary Anne Yardley convening
  • Visitors’ Sidebar, with Past-President Jennifer Lord convening

1:30 – 2:15 Joint Session with Comparative Liturgical Theology Seminar
            Paper II

James Farwell


Respondent: TBD

2:25 – 3:00 Planning for NAAL 2020 meeting & evaluation of the 2019 seminar


2018 Agenda

Theme: Rituals and categories of resistance and recovery
Our common text for study and critical/constructive engagement in relation to members’ and visitors’ current research is Andrew Prevot's, Thinking Prayer: Theology and Spirituality Amid the Crises of Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2015). Our seminar agenda also includes presentations of “work in progress” as is our seminar tradition.

Friday, January 5
10:30 AM – 11:00 AM Introductions

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Focused Discussion of Andrew Prevot, Thinking Prayer: Theology and Spirituality Amid the Crises of Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2015). Session moderated by David F. Turnbloom

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM Rebecca Spurrier, Naming: Aesthetics of Healing and Claiming
Respondent Layla Karst

4:00 PM – 5:30 PM Sarah K. Johnson, Ritual Responses to Gun Violence in American Schools
Mass shootings are frequent enough in the United States that a distinct ritual repertoire has emerged in association with these events. Ritual responses to gun violence hold together two types of ritual action: (1) practices intended to provide compassionate care and stability for the community, mirroring memorials that emerge in association with accidental deaths; and (2) practices intended to challenge and destabilize the structures that allowed the event to occur, echoing actions associated with protest. This paper explores the relationship between compassionate care and political protest in the ritual responses to two mass shootings in schools, the first at Columbine High School in 1999 and the second at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. In addition to ritual theory, it may engage theory related to collective memory, cognitive approaches to culture, and school violence.

Saturday, January 6
9:30 AM – 11:00 AM Jason M. Smith, Eucharist as the Gift of Political Language
The paper is a comparison of the theologies of Louis-Marie Chauvet and John Milbank. The target of comparison might best be characterized as the different ways that both of them see the Eucharist as both an ontological and political scandal. More importantly, the target of the comparison is the way in which either of them think that the Eucharist is a political scandal *because it is an ontological scandal* and vice versa. For both Milbank and Chauvet, but in utterly divergent ways, securing the legitimacy of this relationship between the ontological and the political has everything to do with the categories of 'gift' and 'language.' I then go on to analyze both of their theological systems for the ways in which gift and language explain the ontological scandal of Eucharistic presence and link such a scandal directly to the political scandal of eucharistic ethics. What I find lacking in both of them and what I hope will be the foundation of my constructive contribution, is a tendency to denigrate or ignore entirely the apophatic tradition. Hence, my argument shall culminate in something like an apophatic political theology of the Eucharist in which I show that the gift of political language that the Eucharist is must be grounded in apophaticism--both a discipline on what human language may say about God in Godself but also a discipline on what language may say about human subjects made in the image of God.
Respondent Gerald Liu

11:00 AM – 12 PM Roundtable Discussion on Common Texts for Annual Meetings & Work in progress: Sharing of current research projects and publications

1:30 PM – 3 PM Evaluation of the seminar; Planning for NAAL 2019 in Denver