On Tuesday March 6th 2018 people from across the Toronto School of Theology and beyond gathered for the launch of Kyle Gingerich Hiebert’s new book, The Architectonics of Hope: Violence, Apocalyptic, and the Transformation of Political Theology. Hosted at the newly arrived Sheptytsky Institute at St. Michael’s College, the event celebrated and launched the book by staging an ecumenical symposium that brought together leading voices from four Christian traditions: Eastern, Catholic, Anglican, and Mennonite. Reflecting the four traditions that Kyle brings together in The Architectonics of Hope, each respondent offered critical and appreciative assessments of the book.
The first commentator was Dr. Brian Butcher, who teaches at St. Michael’s College at the Toronto School of Theology and authored a recent book called Liturgical Theology After Schmemann (Fordham, 2018). Butcher gave an Eastern Christian appraisal of Kyle’s work, both critiquing the sectarian impulse in Mennonite theology and challenging Kyle’s reading of Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart. The second scholar who contributed to the symposium was Dr. Norm Klassen, who teaches in the English department at St. Jerome’s University College, and who recently published a book on Chaucer called The Fellowship of the Beatific Vision (Cascade, 2016). Klassen’s appreciative Catholic response deeply affirmed the importance of the political theology that Kyle pursues, especially its challenge to technological rationality and globalization, and included a challenge to consider the figure of Mary, mother of Jesus, as a resource for political theology. Dr. Joe Mangina, professor of systematic theology at Wycliffe College and author of two major works on Karl Barth and a commentary on Revelation (Brazos, 2010), then responded by affirming the metaphysical vision of Kyle’s work. An Anglican voice, Mangina affirmed the apocalyptic peace that Kyle’s book develops, but also challenged the genealogical method of the Architectonics of Hope. The fourth contributor to the symposium was Dr. P. Travis Kroeker, professor in the religious studies department at McMaster University and most recently author of Messianic Political Theology and Diaspora Ethics (Cascade, 2017). Speaking to the Mennonite sources in Kyle’s book, Kroeker reflected on John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse and his inadequate account of human desire. Looking instead to Dostoevsky as a more radically messianic voice, Kroeker made connections with the work of Mikhail Bakhtin – a literary critic who Kyle engages with late in his book.
The event made clear that not only as director of the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre, but through his academic work on the political implications of Christian theology, Kyle Gingerich Hiebert continues the legacy of A. James Reimer, the foremost Canadian Mennonite political theologian. It is refreshing, as an affiliate of TMTC, to see new work in political theology from a distinctly Mennonite, yet distinctly ecumenical voice. Eastern, Catholic, Anglican, and Mennonite, the symposium aligned with the central sources for Kyle’s work in The Architectonics of Hope. The atmosphere of the event was warm and inviting, and our host the Very Rev. Dr. Peter Galadza praised the ecumenical spirit of the event. Spontaneously, at the conclusion of the panel, Dr. Galadza and Dr. Butcher led in a liturgical song of appreciation dedicated to Kyle’s work – a song which was carried also by the many participants in attendance.
Max Kennel, TMTC Associate and doctoral student in Religious Studies at McMaster University.