Jeremy Bergen will be presenting the Benjamin Eby Lecture on November 3, 2016 at 7:30pm in the Conrad Grebel University College Chapel.
Christians Killing Christians: Martyrdom and the Disunity of the Church
In the 1880s, dozens of Anglican and Roman Catholic members of the royal court of Buganda (now Uganda) were executed by their king. Now honoured as the Uganda Martyrs, their memory has been invoked as one that advances Christian unity. The king regarded them not as Anglicans or Catholics but simply as Christians. Since Christian martyrdom may be understood as conforming to Jesus in a way that transcends denominational divisions between Christians, the honouring of particular martyrs has been proposed by Pope John Paul II and others as a potential practice of Christian unity. Mennonites have even offered the legacy of Anabaptist martyr Dirk Willems as a sign of reconciliation with Catholics. Yet, the fact that many individuals who are regarded as Christian martyrs, such as the Anabaptist martyrs, were killed by other Christians, points to disunity. Moreover, some of the complex ways that martyr memories function may promote further enmity, division, or violence.
This lecture will examine whether and how narratives of Christian martyrs may advance Christian unity and further the work of reconciliation more broadly.
Dr. Jeremy Bergen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at Conrad Grebel University College. His research interests include church apologies for historical wrongs, martyrdom, ecclesiology, ecumenism, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and contemporary Mennonite theology. He is author of Ecclesial Repentance: The Churches Confront Their Sinful Pasts, and currently president of the Canadian Theological Society.