Some cities that would otherwise have remained unknown are universally remembered as a result of important events that occurred there. And some individuals or groups have sought to immortalize their cause by identifying it with some already famous city. An example of the first would be Nicea, and of the latter, perhaps the Club of Rome. Within the past twenty months, two cities in the eastern United States have lent their names to theological conferences whose fame (or notoriety) may be with us for some time.
During January 24–26, 1975, eighteen thinkers with theological concerns met at Hartford, Connecticut, and drafted a surprising document known as “An Appeal for Theological Affirmation,” or more simply “The Hartford Appeal.” Surprising, I say, particularly in format, which is essentially a modern Syllabus of Errors that raises the charge of heresy (one might have thought this word was dead!) against the liberal theological establishment. Such a document could not fail to call forth efforts at reply. One came earlier this year from a panel of twenty-one members of the Boston Industrial Mission Task Force, who acted in consultation with some two hundred church leaders.
Both gatherings were widely interdenominational and thoroughly ecumenical. The Hartford consultation was spearheaded by Peter L. Berger, an eminent sociologist at Rutgers University, and Richard John Neuhaus, a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor in Brooklyn. The Boston Affirmations issued also from a diverse interdisciplinary and interfaith group. Its authors had the advantage of having a statement to which to react, plus a year’s time in which to think about it. The caliber of participants on both sides guaranteed that the documents would be carefully structured. ...1
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