Monthly Archives: June 2008

UU and Liberal events at the 2008 American Academy of Religion annual conference in Chicago

The 2008 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion will be held from November 1-3 in Chicago. There are many events that will be of interest to Unitarian-Universalists specifically, and to others who study liberal religion generally.

Also, this year Collegium will be held in Chicago on October 30-November 1. Collegium is an annual conference of (mostly) Unitarian-Universalist scholars and theologians working on liberal religion. With it so close to AAR, people may well wish to take advantage of the opportunity to attend sessions at both Collegium and AAR. For more details, see

Here is a list of AAR sessions that folks may want to keep their eyes on:

North American Paul Tillich Society
Friday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

Theme: Contemporary Theology Responds to Tillich

Matthew Aaron Tennant, University of Oxford
Tillich and the Wild Things: Evil and Transformative Soteriology

Todd Bates, University of Central Florida
Tillich and the Ontology of the “Homo Sacer” – Bare Life and Sovereign Power

Jon Paul Sydnor, Emmanuel College
Paul Tillich Theology of Religions for Comparative Theology

Jim Champion, Inver Hills Community College
Ernst Becker and Paul Tillich: Cultural Meaning and the Encounter with Death

North American Paul Tillich Society
Friday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm
CHT-Conference Room 4K

Theme: Tillich as Catalyst of Personal Transformation

Echol Nix, Furman University

Tillich as Apologetic Preacher: Theology in the Form of Sermons

Courtney Wilder, Midland Lutheran College
Reading Martin Luther King, Jr. as a Tillichian: “The Courage to Be” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”

Nathaniel Holmes, Jr., St. Thomas University
Paul Tillich and the Gospel of Prosperity

North American Paul Tillich Society
Friday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm
CHT-Conference Room 4F

Theme: Explorations and Expositions of Themes in Tillich

Christian Danz, Protestant Faculty of the University of Vienna
Symbols Are “The Language of Religion”: The Conditions of Tillich’s Theory of Symbol in his Early Writings

Guy Hammond, Virginia Tech
Unconditionality without Sovereignty: Tillich, Caputo and the Minimalist Theologies of Postmodernity

Jan-Olav Henriksen, Norwegian School of Theology
Tillich and Eros in Light of Marion’s Erotic Phenomena

Feminist Liberation Theologies Network
Friday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm
CHT-Boulevard B

The Network’s annual gathering, to be held both at the AAR and SBL, will focus on “The Politics of Naming/Branding.” We will look at how that dynamic, with particular reference to feminism and liberation, operates in the academy, in publishing, and in public policy. All are welcome.

RSVP: Mary E. Hunt, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), 301 589-2509; Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School, 617 495-5751

The Intersection of Modernity and Theology in Nineteenth-Century Europe
Friday – 4:30 pm-6:00 pm

Harvey Hill, Berry College, Presiding

Kenneth Parker, St. Louis University
The Development of Dollinger’s Modern Historiography

Joseph Rivera, St. Louis University
Sacrifice and Atonement: William Robertson Smith’s Influence on Atonement Theology, 1890-1920

Eric Moser, St. Louis University
J.R. Illingworth and a Modern Assimilation of Evolutionary Theory

C.J.T. Talar, University of St. Thomas, Houston

The Niebuhr Society
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

Theme: Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr

Douglas Ottati, Davidson College
Realism and Responsibility: The Legacy of H. Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr

K. Healan Gaston, Harvard University
Debating Democracy: The Niebuhr Brothers on Secularism and the Responsibilities of the Theologian

Reports on Current Research:
John Burk, University of Edinburgh
Gary MacDonald, Southern Methodist University

Business Meeting:
Robin Lovin, Southern Methodist University, Presiding

North American Paul Tillich Society
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
PH-LaSalle 2

Theme: Evangelical Responses to Tillich

David Barbee, University of Pennsylvania
What Would Paul Tillich Do? A Tillichian Contribution to Evangelical Ethics

Carlos Bovell, Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto
Can an Evangelical Say That God Does Not Exist?

Christopher A. Stephenson, Marquette University
Symbol, Sacrament, and Spirit(s): Paul Tillich in Pentecostal Theology

Robison B. James, University of Richmond and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond
Three Ways Tillich Can Help Evangelicals Be Biblical

Liberation Theologies Consultation
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

CHT-International Ballroom North

Thia Cooper, Gustavus Adolphus College, Presiding

Theme: Liberation Theologies for the Twenty-First Century

What does liberation theology mean in and for the twenty-first century? This panel of liberationists will engage their particular contexts (economics, politics, sex, gender, ethnicity, race, environment, etc.) with the themes of cross-over dialogue — between contexts and between disciplines; and reflection on the implications of liberationist discourse for the transformation of theology as a whole — both methodologically and theologically.

Rosemary R. Ruether, Claremont Graduate University
Benjamin Valentin, Andover Newton Theological School
George E. Tinker, Denver, CO
Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Drew University
Ivan Petrella, University of Miami
Emilie M. Townes, Yale University

Business Meeting:

Thia Cooper, Gustavus Adolphus College

Transformative Scholarship and Pedagogy Consultation
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

PH-Salon 4

Kate Ott, Religious Institute, Presiding

Theme: Keeping the Light: Third Wave Feminist Teaching and Activism

This panel explores women’s experiences as religious scholars committed to feminism in their teaching, scholarship, and activism. It features a variety of women scholars of the next generation who are committed to making connections between the feminisms they teach in the classroom, explore in their scholarship, and practice in communities through social activism. In spite of the life work of many foremothers, the Academy tends to discourage scholarship and teaching that reflects upon feminist principles and does not require connections to communities of struggle. This panel engages scholars interested in wrestling with the disconnect between academic value and the feminist scholarship that embodies feminist activism. This panel is unique in that it signals a shift in waves of feminism and attempts to reach out to the fourth generation of feminist. As such, it models collaborative work necessary among women in religion who engage the work of feminism in scholarship and activism.

Melanie L. Harris, Texas Christian University
Nami Kim, Spelman College
Aana Vigen, Loyola University Chicago
Malinda Berry, Union Theological Seminary, New York

Business Meeting:

Shannon Craigo-Snell, Yale University

Religion and Politics Section and Religions, Social Conflict, and Peace Group
Saturday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm

CHT-Williford B

Barbara A. McGraw, Saint Mary’s College of California, Presiding

Jon Pahl, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Presiding

Theme: Pluralism and Peacemaking

This panel brings together a distinguished lineup of scholars working at the intersections of peacemaking and interfaith religious activism, to present a variety of perspectives on the important role that religion(s) have to play in envisioning a pluralistic and peaceful future. Eboo Patel draws on sociological literature to call for a robust interfaith youth movement. Helene Slessarev-Jamir explores the tradition of prophetic activism as a counter to the hegemonic narrative of the United States as a Christian empire, emphasizing the importance of the American church as a contested space in the struggle over alternate visions of an inclusive global future. Philip P. Arnold provides an in-depth study of one particular example of pluralism and peacemaking, the Roots of Peacemaking: Indigenous Values, Global Crisis held at Onondaga Lake in New York, which has been hosted by Syracuse University in collaboration with the Onondaga Nation, since 2005. Ellen Van Stichel and Julianne Funk Deckard bring together Catholic theology and peacebuilding theory to offer a view of religious and political as mutually enriching and complementary elements for pursuing the common good. Susan B. Thistlethwaite explores the ways in which issues of war, peace, pluralism, and secularism have manifested themselves in the current U.S. presidential election campaign.

Ebrahim Patel, Interfaith Youth Core
The Kids are Alright: Young People, Religious Extremism, and the Interfaith Movement

Helene Slessarev-Jamir, Claremont School of Theology
Prophetic Activism in an Age of Empire

Philip P. Arnold, Syracuse University
Roots of Peacemaking: Indigenizing America at Onondaga Lake

Political and Religious Motivations for Cross-Fertilization: Peace and a Catholic Theological Perspective

Julianne Funk Deckard, Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven
co-presenter with Ellen Van Stichel

Susan B. Thistlethwaite, Chicago Theological Seminary
War and Pluralism

Contemporary Pagan Studies Group
Saturday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm

CHT-Conference Room 4D

Jone Salomonsen, University of Oslo, Presiding

Theme: Polytheism in Practice

In places as diverse as Italy, China, the Ukraine, and the United States, we see groups of people turning away from established religious traditions to polytheism in a search for spiritual meaning. This defies the current linear model of religious progress and may signal a paradigm shift. This session explores polytheism in practice and focuses on places and communities where this development may not have been expected.

Shawn Arthur, Appalachian State University
Chinese Communism Loses the Polytheistic Challenge: The Reality of Religion in Contemporary China

Anna Fedele, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris
Feminist Spirituality and Its Metamorphoses in Traditionally Catholic Countries of Southern Europe

Mariya Lesiv, University of Alberta
Glory to Dazhboh (Sun-god) or to All Native Gods?: Monotheism and Polytheism in Ukrainian Neo-Paganism

Arisika Razak, California Institute of Integral Studies
I Found God in Myself”: Self-defined, Self-referential Articulations of the New Black “Goddess” as She is Found in the Work of Contemporary Black Women

David L. Miller, Syracuse University

Business Meeting:
Wendy Griffin, California State University, Long Beach

Michael York, London, United Kingdom

Religion in Latin America and the Caribbean Group and Latina/o Religion, Culture, and Society Group
Saturday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm

CHT-International Ballroom South

Carmen Marie Nanko-Fernandez, Catholic Theological Union, Presiding

Theme: Medellin at Forty: Rethinking Liberation Theology’s “Church of the Poor” in the Age of Globalization

The gathering of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) at Medellin, Columbia in 1968 has been called the birth site of the theology of liberation. This panel evaluates the impact of Medellin on religious belief and practice in Latin America and explores the legacy of the conference for the continent, looking at how it shaped and defined the current religious landscape. This panel of distinguished theologians and scholars will revisit the origins of the movement, describe its continued relevance, assess its effects on the ground for ordinary people, and outline its various trajectories for the twenty-first century.


Maria Pilar Aquino, University of San Diego
John Burdick, Syracuse University
Gustavo Gutierrez, Lima, Peru
Sylvia Marcos, Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos and Claremont Graduate University
Manuel Vasquez, University of Florida

Platonism and Neoplatonism Group
Saturday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm

PH-Salon 1

Theme: The Role of Myth in Platonic/Pythagorean Traditions

Gregory Shaw, Stonehill College, Presiding

Theme: The Role of Myth in Platonic/Pythagorean Traditions

The Platonism/Neoplatonism Group welcomes all members of the AAR to our exploration of the role of myth in Platonic and Pythagorean traditions. These traditions combine highly discursive exercises, often focused on texts, with the full awareness that the wisdom to which they aspire is transmitted not by rational thought or language but by symbol and myth. The mythic basis underlying these traditions allowed for a wide divergence of doctrinal expressions depending on the cultural and religious context in which they developed. Our papers will explore this mythic dimension, the hidden continuity of Platonism, from Pythagorean questions of metempsychosis, to Renaissance philosophers’ influence on art, to the Platonism underlying American independence and its continued influence through 19th century Transcendentalists. Papers will be available electronically prior to the meeting through contacting the co-chairs (Gregory Shaw; Willemien Otten Time of each presentation is limited to 15 minutes to allow for discussion.

David U.B. Liu, Duke University
Ethical Ontologies in Plato, Plotinus, and Pico

R.D. Hedley, University of Cambridge
Vico, Myth, and the Neoplatonic Inheritance

Louise Hickman, Newman University College, Birmingham
Casting Out Hagar: Platonism, Liberalism, and the Origins of American Independence

Arthur Versluis, Michigan State University
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Platonism

Electronic copies of the papers in this session will be available after October 1 by contacting or

Pragmatism and Empiricism in American Religious Thought Group
Saturday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm


David Lamberth, Harvard University, Presiding

Theme: Roberto Unger: Pragmatism Unbound (Harvard University Press, 2007)

Roberto Unger’s latest book, The Self-Awakened: Pragmatism Unbound, proposes to make explicit the revolutionary implications of pragmatism in contemporary quests for justice. This panel examines not only Unger’s claims about “radicalizing” pragmatism but seeks to explore the implications of his ideas for the study of religion.

Elesha Coffman, Duke University
Faith in Quest of a Philosophy”: Charles Clayton Morrison, the University of Chicago, and The Christian Century

T. L. Gray, Boston University
Exploring the Theological Implications of Unger’s Radicalized Pragmatism

Ronald Kuipers, Institute for Christian Studies
Turning Memory into Prophecy: Roberto Unger and Paul Ricoeur between Past and Future


William David Hart, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Business Meeting:
Eddie S. Glaude, Princeton University

Meadville-Lombard Theological School Reception
Saturday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm

PH-Clark 7

Bonhoeffer: Theology and Social Analysis Group and Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. Consultation
Saturday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm

CHT-Continental A

Willis Jenkins, Yale University, Presiding

Jennifer McBride, University of Virginia, Presiding

Theme: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King: Receiving Their Legacies for Christian Social Thought

This panel considers the legacies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. for Christian social thought, and discusses the promise and perils of interpreting the two together. Recognizing the contested claims on each figure, panelists reflect on whether and how to interpret their legacies together. Perhaps the analogous controversies open lines of mutual interpretation, or at least pedagogically useful tensions. Papers and responses from five scholars of Christian social thought describe angles of mutual interpretation that may precipitate new understandings of both King and Bonhoeffer, and that engage the social issues that construct their enduring American importance.

Josiah U. Young, Wesley Theological Seminary
arry Rasmussen, Union Theological Seminary, New York
Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago
Traci C. West, Drew University
J. Kameron Carter, Duke University

Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group
Saturday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm


Russell Re Manning, University of Cambridge, Presiding

Theme: Tillich and Issues in Phenomenology

This session will explore themes relating to Tillich’s engagement with phenomenology, broadly conceived. Two papers discuss Tillich’s own engagement with phenomenology, particularly Husserl and Otto, considering the themes of meaning and religious experience. Two further papers stage encounters between later thinkers heavily influenced by currents in phenomenological thought; Levinas and Marion, exploring in particular the themes of questioning and symbolic depth. The papers will be followed by a short business meeting.

Chris L. Firestone, Trinity International University
Tillich’s Indebtedness to Kant: Two Recently Translated Review Essays on Rudolf Otto’s Idea of the Holy

Robison B. James, University of Richmond, and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond
How Fichte and Husserl Clarify the American Tillich

Nathan Eric Dickman, University of Iowa
pAnxiety and the Face of the Other: Tillich and Levinas on the Origin of Questioning

David Miller, Union College
Looking at the Truth of Art in Tillich and Marion: Symbolic Depth and the Saturated Phenomenon

Business Meeting:
Rachel Sophia Baard, Villanova University

Open and Relational Theologies Consultation
Saturday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm

PH-Salon 5-6

Lynne Faber Lorenzen, Augsburg College, Presiding

Theme: The Person, Role, and Significance of Jesus Christ

Open and relational theologies often engage questions about the person, role, and significance of Jesus the Christ. This session explores Christology from an open and relational perspective. Among the topics addressed are Jesus’s relation to God, incarnation, miracles and message, role as prophet-priest-king, ministry, and engagement with political forces. Feminist, panentheist, process, and openness resources are used as the presenters explore biblical and theological implications of Christology.

Anna Case-Winters, McCormick Theological Seminary
Reframing Incarnation: A Process-Panentheist Proposal

Daryll Ward, Kettering College
Identity and Temporality: Exploring Perfection and Incarnation

Michael Zbaraschuk, Pacific Lutheran University
Creative, Responsive, Loving/Jesus? Mining Process Theology for Resources for an Open and Relational Christ

Marit Trelstad, Pacific Lutheran University
Atonement through Covenant: A Process Feminist Approach


Tyron Lee Inbody, United Theological Seminary

Business Meeting:

Thomas Oord, Northwest Nazarene University

Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Discussion
Saturday – 7:00 pm-9:30 pm


Theme: Religious Liberalism, Politics, and Empire: Resistance and Complicity

Our annual discussion will explore liberal religious responses to the “imperial” policies of the United States. What resources does our tradition offer for resistance to empire, and in what ways have we been complicit in imperial structures? If we are simultaneously complicit and resistant to empire, how might we move forward? A panel of scholars and pastors will introduce the theme, with plenty of time for open conversation. Confirmed presenters include Jeff Wilson, Paul Rasor, Stephanie Mitchem, and Dan McKanan.

Sponsored by Starr King School for the Ministry, Harvard Divinity School, UUA Panel on Theological Education, and Beacon Press. Participants are encouraged to attend the Meadville Lombard reception just prior to this event.

Society of Christian Philosophers
Saturday – 7:00 pm-9:30 pm

CHT-Conference Room 4E

Andrew Chignell, Cornell University, Presiding

Theme: The Moral and Spiritual Prospects of Vegetarianism

Terence Cuneo, University of Vermont
Conditional Moral Vegetarianism

Matthew Halteman, Calvin College
Compassionate Eating as Care of Creation

Stephen H. Webb, Wabash College
A Christian Case for Compassion for Animals

Shannon Craigo-Snell, Yale University

Pragmatism and Empiricism in American Religious Thought Group
Sunday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

CHT-Conference Room 4G

Michael Hogue, Meadville Lombard Theological School, Presiding

Theme: Problems with Pragmatism

William James Meyer, Maryville College
Pragmatic Perspectives and the Discursive Error in Western Thought

Lawrence Whitney, Boston University
Leftovers and Side Effects: Problems in Pragmatist Cosmology

Joseph Winters, Princeton University
Between Chicago and Frankfurt: Dewey, Adorno, and the Retrieval of the Aesthetic

Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group
Sunday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

CHT-Lake Huron

Rachel Sophia Baard, Villanova University, Presiding

Theme: Paul Tillich and Political Theology

This session will explore themes in contemporary political theology in dialogue with the seminal contribution of Paul Tillich. Themes include sovereignty, the depth of power, and the nature of restorative justice. The thinkers the panel will discuss include Agamben, Adorno, Horkheimer, Thoreau, and Martin Luther King Jr. The session will demonstrate the vibrancy of a certain tradition of liberal-minded, philosophically sophisticated, and culturally sensitive political theology, as well as reaffirming the relevance of Paul Tillich’s distinctive contribution to this subject.

Gregory Walter, St. Olaf College
Critique and Promise in Paul Tillich’s Political Theology: Engaging Giorgio Agamben on Sovereignty and Possibility

Bryan Wagoner, Harvard University
Tillich in Dialogue with Adorno and Horkheimer

J. Heath Atchley, Mount Holyoke College
Sounding the Depth of the Secular: Tillich with Thoreau

Jonathan Rothchild, Loyola Marymount University
Tillich and King on Love and Justice and the Significance for Models of Restorative Justice

Women and Religion Section and Religion and Ecology Group
Sunday – 1:00 pm-2:30 pm


Michelene Pesantubbee, University of Iowa, Presiding

Theme: Feminist Possibilities and Perspectives: Women, Religion, and Ecology

This session examines a few of the many intersections between religion, ecology, and women. One paper explores the complex issue of the religious use of and abstinence from consuming animals as sacrifice and as food. It presents a radical feminist perspective that presents abstinence as a positive affirmation of our connection to other animals. The second paper offers a liberative Christian ethic that is grounded in ecofeminist theology. The third paper discusses the possibility of an ecosocial transformation through a bioregionally-based vision of Mary as a symbol supporting ecofeminist ethics and practice. Ample time will be given for audience discussion of new perspectives in the relationship between religion, ecology, and women.

Beth Blissman, Oberlin College
Exploring the Mother of God in Ecological Context

Marti Kheel, Graduate Theological Union
Feminist Perspectives on Vegetarianism: Beyond the Model of Abstinence

G. Simon R. Watson, University of Toronto
Salvation as Eschatological Hope for All Bodies in the Here and Now: The Possibility of the Ecofeminist Approach

Progressive Religion in the West Wildcard Session
Sunday – 3:00 pm-4:30 pm

CHT-Boulevard B

Thomas Beaudoin, Santa Clara University, Presiding

Theme: Progressive Religion in the West: Sarah McFarland Taylor’s Green Sisters (Harvard University Press, 2007) and Gordon Lynch’s The New Spirituality (I. B. Tauris, 2007)

Whilst there has been considerable academic and public interest in recent years to various forms of “fundamentalism” and the Religious Right in contemporary Western society, far less attention has been given to the significance of the Religious Left. This session will offer an opportunity to discuss two recent books on emerging forms of progressive religion, which adopt different methods of research and levels of analysis. Sarah McFarland Taylor’s Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology (Harvard University Press, 2007) presents an ethnographic account of the impact of environmental concern on the lifestyles, rituals, and beliefs of Catholic female religious orders. By contrast, Gordon Lynch’s The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty First Century (I.B. Tauris, 2007) offers a broader sociological overview of key trends in the ideologies and structures of progressive groups since the 1960’s across a range of religious and spiritual traditions. The session will prompt discussion about the nature of progressive religious beliefs, identities, and practices in the contemporary world.

Gordon Lynch, Birkbeck, University of London
Sarah McFarland Taylor, Northwestern University

Naomi R. Goldenberg, University of Ottawa
Rebecca Kneale Gould, Middlebury College

Afro-American Religious History Group
Sunday – 5:00 pm-6:30 pm

CHT-International Ballroom North

Anthony B. Pinn, Rice University, Presiding

Theme: The Sound of the Genuine: The Papers of Howard Thurman, Volume I

This panel explores the writings and previously unpublished correspondence of Howard Thurman through the lens of volume one of the Howard Thurman papers. Through his own words as well as the detailed analyses of the papers project’s editorial staff, The Sound of the Genuine: June 1918-March 1936 offers new insight into Thurman’s formative educational experiences, including his pivotal pilgrimage to India. This panel seeks to celebrate and critique the initial published offering from the Howard Thurman Papers Project. The goal is to illuminate the new paths in Thurman scholarship leading out of volume one, while anticipating the potential directions of forthcoming volumes. Panelists include Clayborne Carson and Cornel West, with Walter Earl Fluker responding.

Cornel West, Princeton University
Clayborne Carson, Stanford University
Barbara Holmes, Memphis Theological Seminary

Walter E. Fluker, Morehouse College

Religions and Ecology Group
Sunday – 5:00 pm-6:30 pm

CHT-Williford A

Michael Hogue, Meadville Lombard Theological School, Presiding

Theme: Chicago Religious Environmentalisms

Chicago’s religious environment is being changed in significant ways by Chicago’s religious environmentalism. This panel of Chicago religious environmentalists will engage questions and share practices and results about their work within and across diverse populations. Situated in a variety of institutional settings in Chicago, the panelists bring to the discussion an array of experiences working between and among Chicago’s academic, civic, religious, and artistic sectors.

David Rhoads, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago
David Aftandilian, University of Chicago
Robert Saler, Lutheran School

American Journal of Theology and Philosophy
Sunday – 6:30 pm-8:00 pm

PH-Salon 7

Michael S. Hogue, Meadville Lombard Theological School, Presiding

David E. Conner, Wheat Ridge, CO, United Church of Christ
Whitehead the Naturalist

J. Thomas Howe, Iliff School of Theology,

We are anticipating a lively conversation about process thought. Everyone is welcome!

For additional information, contact Jennifer Jesse at

Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Reception
Sunday – 7:00 pm-8:30 pm
PH-Clark 9
Persons connected to the Unitarian Universalist tradition are invited to gather for conversation and to plan next year’s events. Sponsored by Starr King School for the Ministry, Harvard Divinity School, UUA Panel on Theological Education, and Beacon Press.

Center for Process Studies Reception
Sunday – 9:00 pm-11:00 pm


Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York Alumn1/ae and Friends Reception
Sunday – 9:00 pm-11:30 pm

CHT-Continental A

Join us for wine, cheese, and conversation. Friends and members of CPS and anyone interested in process-relational approaches to science and religion, religious studies, theology, biblical hermeneutics, and philosophy of religion are invited. Greet Roland Faber, Philip Clayton, and Marjorie Suchocki. Network, discuss, and schmooze. Informal, fun!

Theology and Religious Reflection Section
Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

CHT-Williford A

Gabriella Lettini, Starr King School for the Ministry, Presiding

Theme: Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire

This session will feature scholars from five disciplines discussing the new book, Saving Paradise. Using ancient texts, art, liturgy, history, and theology, the book examines how Mesopotamian ideas of “paradise in this world” generate dissident religious spaces that resist empire. First millennium Christian churches depict a spatial cosmology of a holy mountain with heaven above and with paradise below on the mountain’s shoulders, the abode of all creation. Grounded in a theology of beauty as the basis of ethics, churches performed liturgical celebrations of baptism and eucharist to sustain life in paradise, avoiding any images of Jesus dead until the tenth century. The book traces how this rich understanding of Christian paradise was destroyed with the advent of Christian holy war and atonement theology and concludes with a theological reflection on the recovery of beauty, ritual, and community as primary theological frameworks for environmental ethics and resistance to empire.

Tat-siong Benny Liew, Pacific School of Religion
Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, Georgetown University
Daniel C. Maguire, Marquette University
Andrea Smith, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary

Rita Nakashima Brock, Faith Voices for the Common Good; The New Press
Rebecca Parker, Starr King School for the Ministry

Comparative Theology Group and World Christianity Group
Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

CHT-Conference Room 4F

John Berthrong, Boston University, Presiding

Theme: Maintaining Multiple Religious Belonging: Dancing with Two Partners

As projects such as comparative theology, interreligious dialogue, and theology of religions develop, multiple religious belonging will seem undesirable to some, a possibility to others, and a necessity to still others. This panel presents the views of scholar-practitioners, all of whom claim Christianity as their substantive religious tradition and either Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Hinduism as their qualifying religion. The panel will explore the challenges and opportunities of multiple religious belonging regarding identity, conflicting religious claims, self-understanding, and efficacy. The respondent, herself exclusively Christian and wary of the claims of multiple religious belonging, will provide necessary critical examination. If scholars are correct that the approach to the religious other allows, if not requires, deep empathy with the other, there will be more scholars claiming multiple religious belonging. In preparation, we should begin discussing the possibilities such a claim offers interreligious projects.

Robert C. Neville, Boston University
Ruben L.F. Habito, Southern Methodist University
Tinu Ruparell, University of Calgary
Bede Bidlack, Boston College

Catherine Cornille, Boston College

Liberal Theologies Consultation
Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

CHT-Conference Room 4E

Ellen Umansky, Fairfield University, Presiding

Theme: Liberalism and Its Analogues in Global Religions

This session explores the concepts and theories used to determine the “liberal” in distinct religious traditions. We look at how “liberal” is identified in the study of particular religions — in the case of this panel, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism — from historical and theological perspectives. We are interested in critical and constructive reflections of terms and concepts used to further the analysis of “liberal” and to compare “liberal” among global religions.

Sandra Yocum Mize, University of Dayton
Catholics Engaging Liberalism: Theological Education as Socio-political Strategy

Jeff Wilson, University of Waterloo
Buddhists and Other Liberals: Rethinking a Key Term in American Religious Historiography

Jeremy Hustwit, California State University, San Bernardino
Nature, Revelation, and Religious Comparison in Liberal Christian Theology

Laura S. Levitt, Temple University
Jews, Liberalism, and the Secular: Postcolonial Engagement

Business Meeting:
Christine Helmer, Northwestern University

Rethinking the Field Consultation
Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

CHT-Lake Michigan

Stephanie Yuhas, Iliff School of Theology and University of Denver, Presiding

Theme: Part 1— Anybody Up There?: An Interview with Anthony Pinn on African-American Humanism; Part 2 — Past, Present, Other: Rethinking the Study of Ancient Religion

Part 1 — Anybody Up There?: An Interview with Anthony Pinn on African-American Humanism The field of African-American Religious Studies is not monolithic; Anthony Pinn’s work is a testament to this fact. In fact, Pinn’s accomplishments amount to a new field: African-American Humanism. Unlike traditional panels, this session will be an interactive discussion with Pinn. We ask the audience to come with questions directed towards our central theme: How does African-American Humanism reshape African-American Religious Studies? Part 2 — Past, Present, Other: Rethinking the Study of Ancient Religion The new relationship between the AAR and the SBL presents difficulties, especially for scholars of the ancient Mediterranean. But the separation is also an opportunity, and the current moment is the perfect occasion to rethink the study of ancient religious traditions. This roundtable discussion will therefore focus on the way we should put the historical material in conversation with the study of contemporary, lived religion.

Roy Whitaker, Claremont Graduate University
Melanie L. Harris, Texas Christian University
Anthony B. Pinn, Rice University
Ian Curran, Emory University
Janelle Peters, University of California, San Diego
Anne Bullock, Emory University
Jyoti Raghu, Columbia University
Robert von Thaden, Mercyhurst College

Business Meeting:
Bradley L. Herling, Marymount Manhattan College

Theology of Martin Luther King Jr.
Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

PH-Salon 8-9

Rosetta E. Ross, Spelman College, Presiding

Theme: Speaking Truth to Power: The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. — Empire and the 2008 Presidential Election

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee as he led protests in support of Black sanitation workers. On the backdrop of his prophetic call to end the war in Vietnam, King recognized the growing interrelatedness of American militarism, imperialism, and poverty in the United States and abroad. King was also becoming acutely aware of the ways in which powerful economic and political forces considered it necessary to suppress resistance movements domestically as a consequence of Empire in world affairs. This session explores the relationship between the assassination of King, surrounding events related to the Vietnam War, and King’s precipitous critique of America as Empire in global perspective. It also addresses the connections related to the thought and the historical situations leading to his assassination and into conversation with contemporary issues concerning the 2008 Presidential Election and the War in Iraq.

Reginald Broadnax, Hood Theological Seminary
How Martin Luther King Jr. Can Speak to the 2008 Presidential Election

Peter Heltzel, New York Theological Seminary
King, Evangelicals, and Obama: The Roots of Prophetic Evangelicalism

Mary R. Sawyer, Iowa State University
Forty Years of Wilderness: American Society Since the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Cassie Trentaz, Chicago Theological Seminary
“…A Threat to Justice Everywhere”: A Look at Personhood and the Sacred/Beloved Communities of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr. in the Age of Global HIV/AIDS

Business Meeting:
Johnny B. Hill, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Nineteenth-Century Theology Group
Monday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm


Russell C. Kleckley, Augsburg College, Presiding

Theme: The Struggle with Darwinism in the Nineteenth Century

This session is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Hardy.

Beth Eddy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Struggle or Mutual Aid: Jane Addams and the Progressive Encounter with Social Darwinism

Cathy N. Gutierrez, Sweet Briar College
Selected, Not Chosen: The Darwinian Theology of John Humphrey Noyes

Biff Rocha, University of Dayton
Father De Concilio’s Position in the Nineteenth Century American Catholic Debate over Darwinian Evolution

Mark A. McIntosh, Loyola University, Chicago

Religion and Humanism Consultation
Monday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm

CHT-Grand Tradition Room

W. David Hall, Centre College, Presiding

Theme: Critiques of Humanism and Neohumanist Responses

The twentieth century was characterized by an increasing suspicion and criticism of humanism in its various forms under the banner of post- or anti-humanism. The names most closely associated with this movement are Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault, but the list of contributors and kindred movements is long. As the new century begins, we witness the reemergence of an interest in humanist sensibilities, typically dubbed neo-humanism, that takes seriously the criticisms of post-humanists and anti-humanists but which seeks to advance a humanist agenda that has been purified by the fire of criticism. This year, the Religion and Humanism consultation seeks to give voice to both the the post-humanist/anti-humanist criticisms and the neo-humanist responses. The panel brings together a group of accomplished and emerging scholars who will speak to a number of perspectives, e.g., Heidegger, Foucault, Emmanuel Levinas, Paul Ricoeur, Edward Said, Michel Serres.

Steven Benko, Meredith College
Levinas and Foucault: Humanism, Anti-Humanism, and Humanism Again

Michael Johnson, University of Chicago
Call, Critique, Conviction: Paul Ricoeur’s Hermeneutical Account of Conscience as a Resource for Theological Humanism

David M. Buyze, University of Toronto
Postcolonial Hybrid Identities and the Cultural/Religious Other

Thomas A. Carlson, University of California, Santa Barbara
Birth of the Human through Burial of the Dead: On Worldhood and the Memory of Place in Recent Humanism and Post-Humanism

John D. Caputo, Syracuse University
On the Wings of Angels: Post-Humanism and Info-Techno-Theology



Filed under Liberal Religious History

The Rise of Universalist Humanism

Today’s Universalist quote of the day offers a glimpse at how classical theistic Universalism began to evolve toward Humanism as it was impacted by (and contributed to) modernist liberal theology.  The faint whiff of Calvinism can still be detected here, but what is interesting is how the rejection of a theology of a judgmental God has clearly led, slowly, to the valorization of humanity–that is to say, absolute depravity fell as a secondary effect of eliminating another key conservative dogma.  It is also clear how the enormous technological and material advancement of the 19th century dealt a profound blow to theologies committed to humanity’s alleged inability to improve or transform, producing a wave of confidence that gave ever more strength to liberal religion until the shock of the first World War.

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Universalist Quote of the Day #94

“It is astonishing how barren the Christian creeds are of any expression of faith in Man–the highest organism in the visible creation. We believe that man is created in the image of God, and is able to know and do his will. Man is not a worm, a slave, a wreck, but a developing being who began low down, and is on his way up. He is not a ruin, but a mine, full of yet undeveloped riches. His career is not one of restoration simply, but of growth. He is a being of sublime capacities–God’s fellow-worker, co-operator and agent, through whom the divine purposes are wrought on earth. God made the world, but he did not finish it–he set man at that task. God furnishes the forces, the arena, and the constant inspiration; man does the work, and in doing it he develops the one thing that God does not create–character. Man’s conquest of himself is exhibited in the development of his language and literature, his laws and government, his morality and humaneness, his organization of society. As Martineau says: ‘The human commonwealth, with its hierarchy of mutual service, its army of tamed passions, its invisible guard of ideal restraints, its traditions of heroism, its hopes of greatness, its sympathy of the moral life of the world, is the highest product of the providence of God, and the most impressive witness to the possibilities of man.’

And exactly in parity with man’s conquest of himself has been his conquest of nature. He has changed the surface of the earth, and built his homes, temples, and highways everywhere; tamed its fruits and animals to his purposes, moulded its matter to his desires, and trained its forces to his will–making great nature both his trusted master and his willing servant. On this subject I need say no more, since there stands today, almost within sound of my voice, an exhibition, gathered from all quarters of the earth, of man’s conquest over nature–a great and shining witness to the splendor of his material achievement. Greater than all that he has done, is the modern man himself, with his growing eagerness to serve humanity, his worship of moral ideals, his visions of the perfected man, his contempt of death, his assurance of a larger career in worlds to come. The new creed of the world, whether written or not–the source of the stir and power of modern life–is faith in man.”

–Rev. James Pullman, “The Contribution of Universalism to the World’s Faith,” The Columbian Congress of the Universalist Church. Boston and Chicago: Universalist Publishing House, 1894: 342-343

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Universalist Quote of the Day #93

“John Murray lived to see the world pass by him, and to know he was powerless to stop it. So it has been and will be with those who resist the changes that inevitably attend man’s theological speculations. A vital and creative faith cannot be circumscribed by any set of theological pronouncements. Whatever Universalism is to be, it will not be what it has been.”

–Rev. Clinton Lee Scott, The Universalist Church in America. Boston: The Universalist Historical Society, 1957: 46.

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Filed under Unitarianism

Universalist Quote of the Day #92

“Even the truth may be held in unrighteousness.”

–Hosea Ballou, A Treatise on Atonement (14th Ed.), Boston: The Universalist Publishing House, 1901: 239.

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Unitarian-Universalist Ghost Stories

And now for something completely different.  Is your church haunted?  Do you ever encounter the apparitions of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, or Adlai Stevenson?

There’s a show on Sci-Fi Channel called Ghost Hunters, and in their first season they investigated a (former) Unitarian church that had been converted into a residential home.  Apparently the owners have seen strange figures and the church bell rings on its own.  Growing up UU, telling ghost stories was a common activity, especially at church lock-ins or on church camp retreats in the summertime.  Every time the heat kicked on and the church pipes started knocking in the sanctuary late at night, the kids would shriek.  Likewise the cemetery behind the church was a place of enticement, excitement, and low-level terror.

This ghost-hunting craze that has been growing in popularity is a modern-day descendant of the Spiritualist movement, which the Universalists were involved in big-time back in the 19th century.  Nowadays investigators use high-tech gadgetry unavailable to earlier ghost hunters: they’ve gone from table-rapping and seances to infra-red cameras and digital recorders.  But a lot of the same impulses seem to survive: the wish for confirmation of an afterlife, the desire for re-connection with lost loved ones, the thrill of the unknown, the amateur scientific search to expand the frontiers of human knowledge, as well as the fame and profit that can be built in such atmospheres.

Your intrepid blog-host is a skeptic who, despite having a massive trove of memorized childhood ghost stories stored up, has never been very impressed by the evidence for supposed spooks.  But perhaps you’ve had other experiences–scary, silly, touching, or just plain weird–that you’d like to share.  Or you’ve just got a doozy of a ghost story that you remember telling around the campfire.

So please feel free to post here ghost stories that you’ve been told or paranormal encounters that you’ve had, or, as often happens in these situations, that your cousin’s wife’s teacher’s aunt’s friend’s roommate’s brother’s daughter SWEARS happened to her at a time and place that no one can quite pin down.  Stories from Unitarian-Universalists are most sought because this is a field of research (UUs and the paranormal) that is virtually untapped from an academic standpoint (despite the presence of the UU Psi Symposium), but fellow travelers are welcome to share as well.


Filed under Unitarian-Universalism

Comment Posting Etiquette and the UUA Presidential Campaign

A new type of spam is starting to show up here: UU political ads.  This blog has long had more conventional spam, such as bots that drop in posts full of links to products and/or malware, as well as trolls with a chip on their shoulder who compose self-righteous arguments and then go out onto the web looking for places to get offended and post them.  Now we’re starting to see comments that are essentially shills for UUA presidential candidates–they seem to react to some issue here, but are in fact merely excuses to post a candidate’s name and add a link to the candidate’s campaign site.

To such spammers: please reconsider your strategies.  Most people can spot a shill when they see one, and it reflects poorly on one’s own candidate, whether or not he/she has actually approved of your practice.  Many people may be willing to allow one or two such messages to go through, sort of as “public service announcements,” but a multiplicity of comments in just a day or two will cause your stock (and your candidate’s by proxy) to plummet in bloggers’ minds.  And it seems like a rather bad idea at this point to tick off the UU blogging community if your aim is to get publicity for someone’s run for the UUA presidency.

To reiterate the spam policies of this blog: comments that only take posts here as excuses to leave screeds on one’s pet issues will likely be deleted.  Such comments do nothing to advance conversations and there are plenty of other places on the web where such trolls and spammers are free to speak their minds.  This is an academic-leaning blog, and just as behavior that highjacks a classroom would not be tolerated, neither will commenting that is disruptive, repetitive, grossly off-topic, basically just an advertisement, or contains excessively personal attacks.  Please keep such behavior confined to your own blogs; if your comments are actually worth seeing, people will go there and read them.

One last note: WordPress continues to do a mixed job on spam-catching.  People previously approved for commenting nonetheless sometimes still show up in the spam folder; the webmaster is not always alerted in timely fashion when comments need to be moderated; occasionally nasty ad-spam gets through onto the blog.  And in the meantime your Transient and Permanent host remains on partial hiatus due to a heavy summer research schedule abroad.  Therefore, please be patient if your comments don’t show up quickly or other problems arise.  The best way to ensure comments will go through is to keep the number of links in a post to a minimum (ideally, none), as this is the biggest red flag for WordPress’s automatic spam filter.


Filed under Unitarian-Universalism