The XIII International Bonhoeffer Congress was held from 19-23 January 2020 at the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch.
International Graduate students' colloquium
A graduate students' colloquium was held (prior to the XIII International Bonhoeffer Congress) at Volmoed Conference and Retreat Centre near Hermanus from Friday 17th of January till Sunday 19th of February 2020.
Masters' students, doctoral students and post-doc researchers working on Bonhoeffer shared during the colloquium their research and experience with the group and this led to lively discussions. We are grateful for the presence at the colloquium of leading Bonhoeffer scholars such as Clifford Green, Reggie Williams, Barry Harvey, John de Gruchy, Michael DeJonge, Jennifer McBride, Jens Zimmermann, and Keith Clemens who not only responded to the students' presentations but also shared insights and stories from their own involvement in Bonhoeffer studies over the years. The colloquium was attended by about 40 people.
The XIII International Bonhoeffer Congress, Stellenbosch 19-23 January 2020
The 13th International Bonhoeffer Congress took place from 19-23 January 2020 and was hosted by the Faculty of Theology and the Beyers Naudé Center for Public Theology at Stellenbosch University, in partnership with the Department of Religion and Theology at the University of the Western Cape.
The theme of our conference was “How the coming generation is to go on living?" – a theme drawn from Bonhoeffer's remarkable text “After Ten Years," in which we read: “The ultimate responsible question is not how I extricate myself heroically from a situation but [how] a coming generation is to go on living? Only from such a historically responsible question will fruitful solutions arise."
It was the hope of the conference that participants would grapple with the way in which this remark of Bonhoeffer shows a concern to take responsibility not only for our own personal and communal life in all its complexity and richness but also for the kind of values and society that future generations will inherit from us. We believe that the pertinence of Bonhoeffer's question is felt anew in our day as we experience threats on a global level to socio-political, economic and inter-religious stability and solidarity. Also within the South African context there have been major sea changes since the first truly democratic elections were held in 1994. And the reality of climate change and ecological devastation implies that the question of how future generations are going to go on living is linked to the fact that we live on a planet in jeopardy.
It is against this background that the congress convened. The congress started with a church service at the Stellenbosch United Church, with Archbishop Thabo Makgoba as preacher. A special word of thanks to the Ecumenical Board of the Faculty of Theology, and in particular the local congregations for their role in the planning of the service and for sponsoring the refreshments afterwards.
Keynote speakers at the congress included Wolfgang Huber, Nadia Marais, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Teddy Sakupapa, and Reggie Williams. In the final session John de Gruchy moderated a panel of mostly younger scholars addressing the conference theme.
Two of the keynote sessions (on the Wednesday of the congress) took place at the University of the Western Cape, followed by an excursion to Cape Town and included visits to the St George's Cathedral and the District Six Museum and Homecoming Centre (where we also had our conference dinner).
There were 170 registered participants at the congress, of which 70 presented seminar papers. About 100 of the conference participants were from abroad.
On the Monday night a book launch was held of three Bonhoeffer publications with strong South African links, namely John de Gruchy's Bonhoeffer's Questions: A Life-changing Conversation (Lexington Books, 2019); Nico Koopman and Robert Vosloo, Reading Bonhoeffer in South Africa after the Transition to Democracy (Peter Lang Verlag, 2020) and Andreas Pangritz, The Polyphony of Life: Bonhoeffer's theology of music (edited by John de Gruchy and John Morris, and translated by Robert Steiner (Cascade Books, 2019).
We are also grateful for a spirited performance by the Stellenbosch Libertas Choir on the Monday evening of the conference.