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SummerFall 1999
Volume 4 Number 2

A Gathering of Barthians

By George Hunsinger

More than three hundred people packed Trinity Episcopal Church in Princeton, a PTS "overflow venue" during this year of Miller Chapel renovation, for the opening of the international conference that kicked off the Seminary’s new Center for Barth Studies inbarth photo 1.jpg (26314 bytes) June. When the site shifted back to the Mackay Campus Center Auditorium, there was standing room only.

"For the Sake of the World: Karl Barth and the Future of Ecclesial Theology" attracted participants from across the United States, a sizeable contingent from Canada, and visitors from as far away as Korea, continental Europe, and Great Britain. Forty percent were pastors, ten percent laypeople, and the rest students and professors.

The Barth devotees enjoyed a splendid reception at the Center of Theological Inquiry, worshipped with a powerful sermon delivered in dramatic fashion by William Sloane Coffin Jr., and feasted on a banquet surrounded by the sparkling music of Mozart string quartets. Special treats were Wesley Seminary professor John Godsey’s delightful reminiscences of Barth as a teacher and an award of appreciation to publisher William B. Eerdmans Jr. Many participants called it the best conference they had every attended.

The proceedings were sweetened by the announcement that the Center for Barth Studies had just concluded negotiations that will enable it to purchase the library of the late Markus Barth, New Testament scholar and son of Karl Barth. A special division of the Center will be devoted to Markus Barth’s letters, papers, and books.

A rare hand-written, autographed copy of the Preface to the third edition of Barth’s epoch-making Romans has been donated as well and the Center will continue to seek such materials of archival interest.

The final day included a brilliant paper by philosopher Caroline Simon of Hope College comparing Barth and Andre Trocme on Christian love, with a response by Webster, and a paper on Karl Barth’s concept of eternity by George Hunsinger. Brian Leftow of Fordham University responded to the latter paper from afar due to illness in a paper reflecting that Barth had fully Christianized the doctrine of eternity for the first time by relocating it within an explicitly Trinitarian context.

Though Barth disciples who could not attend the conference missed the lively exchange of ideas around tables, lectures halls, and the Seminary quad, they will still be able to read the presentations when they are published by William B. Eerdmans.

Meanwhile, you can always follow Barth to Princeton Seminary and find a warm welcome at the Center for Barth Studies!

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