NEWS: Religion and Academic Freedom

It should be no surprise that the culture war would appear within Pentecostalism. Hot-button topics such as gay marriage and creationism frequent denominational discussions and, as expected, end in a relatively conservative consensus. But one would not expect an academic organization (even if religious in origin) to wield power in the interest of silencing academic freedom and maintaining a particular theological status quo. Arlene M. Sánchez Walsh, associate professor of Latina/o Church Studies & Church History at Azusa Pacific University, has considered the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) in relation to the culture war, open discussion, and academic freedom. After being elected as president of the organization she resigned a year later due to the society’s attitude toward speakers who held differing views on GLBT issues. Furthermore, one academic meeting was nearly jeopardized due to Emergent pastor Tony Jones’ affirmation of gay marriage. She writes: “It is truly scandalous that disagreements over academic freedom disintegrated into what amounted to schoolyard name –calling […]” Walsh values her pentecostal heritage and believes the tradition to be worthy of continued scholarly research, arguing: “I have done my best to convey that I believe studying Pentecostalism is worth fighting for, that intellectual rigor is worth fighting for, but in the case of the SPS, institutions that do not value academic freedom and serious critical inquiry I can do without.” The result is a new study group, joined by historian Anthea Butler, in an effort to broaden the academic conversation about pentecostalism, “with malice towards none and charity for all.” GloPent-Americas (Global Pentecostalisms in the Americas) will begin in November 2010 and will welcome honest discussions about race, gender, and sexuality—topics which, according to Walsh, could never be discussed in the “SBS echo chamber.” She calls for an environment where academics who can maintain their faith and feel safe to pursue truth in the midst of cultural ambiguity: “Being honest with yourself and your intellectual pursuits means being free to disagree, to become angry, to cast doubt—on everything. For some, living outside those boundaries is simply too costly; for many of my SPS colleagues, what is at stake is their livelihoods, and in this academic hiring climate, no one would be foolish enough to risk losing their jobs.” Read the full article here.

Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity in South Africa and Zimbabwe: A Review By Gladys Ganiel , Trinity College Dublin (Vol. 5, March 2010)
Religion Compass

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Media Studies By Anita Chi-Kwan Lee From The International Encyclopedia of Communication

academic freedom From The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy

Beyond the Totalitarian: Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion in Recent Hegel Scholarship By Thomas A. Lewis, Brown University (Vol. 3, May 2008) Religion Compass

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