Bevans, Stephen B(ennett) 1944-
BEVANS, Stephen B(ennett) 1944-
PERSONAL: Born July 14, 1944, in Baltimore, MD; son of Bert Bennett (a patternmaker) and Bernadette (an administrative assistant; maiden name, O'Grady) Bevans. Education: Divine Word College, B.A.; Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, S.T.L., M.A.; University of Notre Dame, Ph.D. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Catholic Theological Union, 5401 South Cornell Ave., Chicago, IL 60615. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, IL, 1986—, Louis J. Luzbetak SVD Professor of Mission and Culture, 1998—. Also spent nine years teaching theology at a diocesan seminary in the Philippines.
MEMBER: International Association for Mission Studies, American Society of Missiology, Catholic Theological Society of America.
Models of Contextual Theology, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1992, revised and expanded edition, 2002.
(Editor, with Karl Mueller, Theo Sundermeier, and Richard Bliese) Dictionary of Mission: Theology, History, Perspectives, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1997.
(Editor, with Roger Schroeder) Word Remembered, Word Proclaimed: Selected Papers from Symposia Celebrating the SVD Centennial in North America, Steyler Verlag (Nettetal, Germany), 1997.
(Editor, with James A. Scherer) New Directions in Mission and Evangelization, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 3 volumes, 1999.
(With Roger Schroeder) Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2004.
Editor, Mission Studies, 1997-2004; contributing editor, International Bulletin of Missionary Research.
SIDELIGHTS: In his writings Roman Catholic theologian and missiologist Reverend Stephen B. Bevans examines questions surrounding ecumenical mission and the meaning of mission work in modern times. Works such as Models of Contextual Theology, Dictionary of Mission: Theology, History, Perspectives, and New Directions in Mission and Evangelization restructure mission in the modern world and reframe traditional theology within modern cultures. In the twentieth century Christian theology—traditionally a bastion of conservatism speaking for the rich and privileged of the world, according to Bevans—was transformed into a vehicle for radical political and religious expression among the poor of the world, especially Third-World populations. "Many contextual theologies have emerged from the perspectives of uprooted and oppressed people," explained Ecumenical Review contributor Cyris H. Moon in his assessment of Models of Contextual Theology. "Examples include liberation theology in Latin America, black theology in the United States and Africa, minjung theology (Korea), third-eye theology (Taiwan), Dalit theology (India), people's power theology (Philippines) Pancha Sila theology (Indonesia) and so on." According to Theological Studies contributor Carl F. Starkloff, Bevan demonstrates in Models of Contextual Theology a need for a theology based on four principles: "the spirit and message of the gospel, the Christian tradition, the culture of the theologian, and social change in that culture."
Bevans continues to examine the relationship between mission and evangelization in his editorship of New Directions in Mission and Evangelization. The theologian and his co-editor, James A. Scherer, "have brought together some of the best writing on inculturation/contextualization that has appeared in the 1990s," stated Lawrence Nemer in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. The three-volume work focuses on the question of how to reconcile cultural differences in Christian belief and practice with the universalism stressed in the Roman Catholic church. Similarly, Bevans's agenda in the Dictionary of Mission demonstrates a concern with a revised definition of mission—one that is not driven by Western cultural imperatives. This new definition, wrote contributor William J. Nottingham in the International Review of Mission, "reflects what Christian mission has become: a genuinely worldwide and ecumenical phenomenon," bringing Catholic and Protestant theologians together "in the spirit of Vatican II."
At the same time, however, Bevans bucks trends in modern theology that complain that contextual theology undermines the true calling of the Catholic Church. F. Dale Bruner, writing in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, quoted Pope John Paul II in the papal letter Redemptoris missio as saying, "It is not right to give an incomplete picture of missionary activity, as if it consisted principally in helping the poor, contribution to the liberation of the oppressed, promoting development or defending human rights. The missionary Church is certainly involved on these fronts but her primary task lies elsewhere: the poor are hungry for God, not just for bread and freedom. Missionary activity must first of all bear witness to and proclaim salvation in Christ." In Bevans's work, the theologian strives to create an ecumenical theology that provides dignity to all peoples and their diverse cultures while honoring the need to follow the teachings of Jesus.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ecumenical Review, July, 1995, Cyris H. Moon, review of Models of Contextual Theology, p. 395.
International Bulletin of Missionary Research, July, 1998, F. Dale Bruner, "The Son of God Inside Out: A Response to Stephen B. Bevans, S.V.D.," p. 106; January, 2001, Lawrence Nemer, review of New Directions in Mission and Evangelization: Volume 3: Faith and Culture, p. 42.
International Review of Mission, October, 1998, William J. Nottingham, review of Dictionary of Mission: Theology, History, Perspectives, p. 571.
Journal of Theological Studies, April, 1994, Keith Ward, review of John Oman and His Doctrine of God, p. 424.
Theological Studies, March, 1993, Donald K. McKim, review of John Oman and His Doctrine of God, p. 198; September, 1994, Carl F. Starkloff, review of Models of Contextual Theology, p. 591.