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The 19th annual Dietrich Bonhoeffer Lectures in Public Ethics will be held at Union theological Seminary, New York, on April 7-8, 2017.  As this year is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, the Bonhoeffer Lectures will be Union’s major celebration of that event.  The 2017 theme of the Bonhoeffer Lectures is: “Re-Forming the Church of the Future: Bonhoeffer, Luther, Public Ethics.”

The lectures are co-sponsored by Union’s Bonhoeffer Chair of Theology and Ethics and the German Bonhoeffer Chair Foundation, and always include theologians and church leaders from Germany as well as leading Bonhoeffer scholars from North America. 


Information on Registration, Guest Housing, and Meal Accommodations is available here!


The following are arranged in alphabetical order.

Dr. Victoria Barnett, Director of the U.S. Holocaust Museum’s Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust, and General Editor of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English Edition.

Dr Allan Boesak, leading South African anti-apartheid theologian, former President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and currently Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Global Justice and Reconciliation Studies at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis.

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Church of Germany and a former Bonhoeffer Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary.

Dr Karen Bloomquist, former Director of Studies, Lutheran World Federation, and Dean, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary;  Editor and contributor, Radicalizing Reformation: North American Perspectives.

Professor Michael DeJonge, University of South Florida, author of Bonhoeffer’s Theological Formation. Berlin, Barth and Protestant Theology,and of Bonhoeffer’s Reception of Luther, Oxford, 2017.

Professor Carlos Eire, Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies, Yale University, and author of Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650.

Professor Dr. Wolfgang Huber, former Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Church of Germany, and Chair of the German Bonhoeffer Werke Editorial Board.

Professor Brigitte Kahl, Professor of New Testament, Union Theological Seminary, and author, Galatians Re-Imagined; Reading with the Eyes of the Vanquished.

Professor Hartmut Lehmann, historian; founding director, German Historical Institute, Washington DC; visiting professor at many US universities; author, Martin Luther in the American Imagination, 1988.

Professor Jennifer McBride, Professor of Theology and Ethics, McCormick Theological Seminary, author of The Church for the World. A Theology of Public Witness.

Professor Larry Rasmussen, Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Union Seminary, author of Earth Honoring Faith. Religious Ethics in a New Key.

Professor Esther Reed, theological ethics, University of Exeter, United Kingdom; author of several books on international law, work, human rights, and civil liberties and national security.

The Honorable Kevin Rudd, President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, New York; former Prime Minister of Australia.

Professor Josiah Young, Professor of Systematic Theology, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC, and author, No Difference in the Fare. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Problem of Racism.


General Description

The goal for the lectures is both scholarly and practical.  They aim to present analyses of ethical issues and the theology informing the social ethics of churches, especially those deriving from the Lutheran Reformation.  They also aim to address how churches as civic institutions might best engage critical public issues of our time.  Crucial issues are: War, Racism, Economic Injustice & Poverty, Climate Change, Refugees and Migration. Further, what does such a mobilization goal involve for state and national church leadership, for theological education and ministry training, and for laity education? And, as an example of Christian citizen mobilization, what lessons are to be learned by the leading role of Black churches in the American Civil Rights Movement and in South Africa? Underlying all this is the fundamental theological question: based on their theology, and primary commitment to the Gospel, what do churches owe society and government?

The two-day program of lectures and panels will look back into history and forward into the future. Day 1 will look both to Bonhoeffer’s time in National Socialist Germany, and also to the history of Lutheran churches elsewhere, especially North America, giving special attention to the conflicting ways the Lutheran Reformation played out.   Speakers will be asked to show how their insights from history might inform the churches of the future.

Day 2 will look primarily to the future, examining Bonhoeffer’s contributions to future theology and church life, and considering promising creative movements in Christian community life. This day’s events also draw on the Radicalizing Reformation project of the last several years and Bonhoeffer scholars who have been working in the area of the main theme.

Sunday, April 9, is both Palm Sunday and the 72nd anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Conference participants may worship as guests of Abyssinian Baptist Church, Harlem.


About the Bonhoeffer Lectures in Public Ethics

The Bonhoeffer Lectures in Public Ethics were inaugurated in the 1980’s in partnership with the Bonhoeffer Chair in Theology and Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, New York.   An additional component of the partnership is the Bonhoeffer Exchange Scholar Program which facilitates exchange for research and teaching between German and American scholars.

The Bonhoeffer Lectures alternate between German and North American universities, except in years when the International Bonhoeffer Congress convenes.  In the first two decades the North American lectures were held at Union.  In the new millennium Union Seminary and the Bonhoeffer Society (English Language Section) decided to share the lectures so that they could involve more people and circulate more widely.  In 2004 the lectures were held at Wesley Seminary in Washington, DC, followed by Augsburg College, Minneapolis, in 2009, and Regent College, Vancouver, in 2014.  In 2011 the Bonhoeffer Lectures at returned to Union, under the theme “Bonhoeffer for the Coming Generations,” and also celebrated  the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English Edition which published its final volumes in the three following years.  The Bonhoeffer Lectures return to Union this year as a major part of the seminary’s  commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation with the theme “Re-Forming the Church of the Future. Bonhoeffer, Luther, Public Ethics.”


Funding Needs

With an impressive lineup of Bonhoeffer scholars and leaders in church and public life from North America, United Kingdom, Europe, and South Africa, Union Seminary wishes to make the lectures available to as many people as possible. Running on a very tight budget, the Seminary would like scholarship funds to assist more students and others on low incomes attend these lectures.  If you can make a tax-deductible donation to Union Theological Seminary for this good purpose please contact Clifford Green at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Tentative Schedule

FRIDAY APRIL 7 The Lutheran Reformation in Public Life: Europe & America


8:30                      Daily registration open (pre-registration in advance)

9:00                      Welcome

9:15-10:15           Hartmut Lehmann:  “Fatal Coincidences 1933: Nazism's Triumph and Luther's  450th Birthday”

10:15-11:15         Victoria Barnett:  “Looking for Luther: 1933-1939”

11:15-11:45         Coffee Break

11:45-12:15         Karen Bloomquist:  “Radicalizing Reformation in Post 11/9 America”

12:30-1:45           Lunch

2:00-3:00             Carlos Eire: “The Protestant Reformation Legacy through Catholic Eyes”         

3:00-3:30             Coffee Break                                                    

3:30-4:00             Brigitte Kahl:  “Justification, Ethics, and the ‘other.’  Paul, Luther, and Bonhoeffer in Trialogue”

4:00-4:30             Michael DeJonge:   “Luther’s Legacy in Bonhoeffer’s Political Theology"

4:30-5:00             Panel:  Bloomquist, DeJonge , Kahl:  

5:15-7:00             Social hour (cash bar) and Dinner on campus

7:15-8:30             Keynote Lecture: Heinrich Bedford-Strohm: “Reformation and Freedom. Ecumenical Impulses for Church and World”

8:30-9:40             Come Before Winter a film by Gary Blount, Producer, Kevin Ekvall, Director, Hellmut Schlingensiepen, Writer. 



SATURDAY APRIL 8          Re-Forming the Church of the Future

8:30-9:00             Daily registration open

9:00-9:30             Kevin Rudd: “Government and Church in a Pluralistic Democracy”

9:30-10:00           Wolfgang Huber: “Worldly Service: Reformation and a New Spirit of Sustainability”

10:00-10:30         Panel: Rudd, Huber

10:30-11:00         Coffee break

11:00-12:30         Josiah Young, Allan Boesak:  Theologies of Black Churches Resisting Racism. Commentary, discussion and questions with Gary Dorrien ?

12:30-2:00           Lunch

2:00-2:40              Larry Rasmussen, “Eco-Reformation.  What’s Happening and Why”

2:40-3:20              Jennifer McBride “Reformation through Repentance:  The Church’s Public Witness.”

3:20-3:50              Coffee Break    

3:50-4:30              Esther Reed, Exeter University:  ”Bonhoeffer and the Re-Forming Church in a Post(?)-Globalizing Era”

4:30-5:00              Concluding Panel: Esther Reed, Jennifer McBride, Larry Rasmussen

                               Conclusion  of Lectures

                               Social Hour.  Cash Bar.  Dinner on your own.

7:30-8:45             Come Before Winter a film by Gary Blount, Producer, Kevin Ekvall, Director, Hellmut Schlingensiepen, Writer.



SUNDAY APRIL 9   Palm Sunday.  The 72nd Anniversary of the Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

Worship at Abyssinian Baptist Church.  

Your Bonhoeffer Center Account

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