#53: Vítor Westhelle - Listening Attentively to Prophetic Postcolonial Voices and to our Scandalous God
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Vítor Westhelle and Graham Hill discuss “Listening attentively to prophetic postcolonial voices and to our scandalous God.” The GlobalChurch Project podcast episode 53.
Vítor Westhelle was called to the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in 1993 as associate professor and promoted to professor of systematic theology in 1999. Before joining the seminary’s faculty, Dr. Westhelle was on the faculty of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary and Escola Superior de Teologia, Brazil. He was visiting professor at the University of Natal, South Africa, and the University of Aarhus, Denmark.
Dr. Westhelle began his theological career as a journalist for the national church newspaper in São Leopoldo, RS, Brazil (1975-76) . Ordained in 1988, he served for four years as parish pastor of a 13-point parish in Paróquia Evangélica de Matelândia, PR, Brazil. At that time he also was the Coordinator of the Ecumenical Commission on Land in Paraná where he was an enabler and a companion with those struggling for land and justice. In 1989 Westhelle was invited to be a member of the faculty of Escola Superior de Teologia, São Leopoldo as professor of systematic theology and ethics, where he continued until he joined the Lutheran School of Theology in 1993.
Dr. Westhelle studied Sociology at UNISINOS, Brazil, and earned the B.Th in 1977 from Faculdade de Teologia da IECLB, Brazil. He received the Th.M and Ph.D. degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, in 1984. While his Th.M exams were on “Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and the Theology of Juan Luis Segundo,” and his doctoral dissertation title is “Religion and Representation: A Study of Hegel’s Critical Theories of Vorstellungand their Relevance for Hegelianism and Theology.” Westhelle has studied at the University of Chicago, Chicago Theological Seminary and Jesuit School of Theology, and did post-doctoral work at the University of Tübingen in 1995.
A prolific writer and editor, with more than 130 scholarly publications, Westhelle is author or co-editor of nine books. He has written widely on the theology of Luther, and on the themes of Liberation, Creation, the Apocalyptic and Eschatology. The cross-theme, in particular, theologia crucis, defines who Westhelle is as a theologian. For him the theology of the cross is not a doctrine but that which you live by, a usus passionis. It is the cross-ing that arrests his attention and through his writings he tries to find categories to name and cross differences without suppressing them but rather lifting them up: liminality, chora, stasis, hybridity, adjacency, eschata, margin, borderline, chiaroscuro, etc. He strives to convey that the gospel is the transgression of “legal” domains, semantic fields with their protocols, or régimes of truth, while being neither and both the abolition and the completion of the law. He is adept in bringing together theology and literature. Another area of interest on which Westhelle has written and lectured is location or spaces, which for him are wrappings of the divine.
Westhelle is a highly-sought speaker throughout academic circles and the Church. From 1990-97 he was an advisor to the Executive Council of the Lutheran World Federation and a member of the Program Committee for Theology and Studies of the Lutheran World Federation. Until 2001, he was a member of the Core Group of the LWF/DTS project on “Communion, Community, and Society”. Westhelle has served as a member of the Continuation Committee of the International Congress for Luther Research. He currently serves on the editorial council of Dialog, Lutheran Quarterly, International Editorial Council of Margens: Revista Brasiliera de Estudos sobre Pós-modernidade, Estudos Teológicos (EST-Brazil), Cuadernos de Teología (ISEDET-Argentina), Numen: Revista de Estudos e Pesquisa da Religião (UFJDF, Brazil), Bulletin of Contextual Theology, South Africa, Bibliografia Bíblica Latino-Americana (São Paulo, Brazil).
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