Christian Scholars’ Conference Panels

I am excited about the two panels I will sit on at the Christian Scholars’ Conference at Lipscomb University this June. I was able to organize a session with some brilliant folks. I was invited to join another panel at this conference too. Both panels address a great deal of my own academic work. It should be fun blogging from Nashville this summer. This will be the second time I have attended and delivered papers at this meeting.

This panel will address the “Invitation to the Voiceless Minority”

Edward Carson, The Brooks School History Department, convener

Michelle Mikeska, Houston Christian Bible Department, panelist

Stephanie Eddleman, Harding University English Department, panelist

Michael Brown, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Optometry, and Physician at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, moderator

The panelists will be addressing matters of faculty and student autonomy, academic voice, tenure, promotion, and expressions of faith, which have long been a topic of concern within faith-based institutions. Thus, the question of defining campus leadership in the 21st century lends itself to discussing the role of the voiceless minority – students and faculty members who possess a unique viewpoint due to their race, gender, ideology, or sexual orientation. The success of an institution can be measured by the intellectual freedom and voice permitted on its campus. The failure to invite this voice to the table creates a sense of isolation and works against a democratic construct of inclusiveness, inhibiting the advancement of thought in a safe community for all groups. This interactive session will consist of three scholars who will deliver individual papers relating to the theme of the voiceless minority within faith-based institutions, and concludes with a moderated question and answer period.

Professor Carson’s paper, titled, Racial Reflection and Sexual Identity: The Challenges of Silence in Conservative Institutions, discusses how black integration via political rights shaped twentieth century black studies circa 1970. Such studies, however, never fully materialized among faith-based institutions. Thus, with the advent of the twenty-first century, black faculty members and students have often been silenced by the notion of whiteness, in which one believes the world is colorblind. This is further exasperated by the identity issues in which gays and lesbians wrestle with in faith-based environments. This paper will delve into the various change agents that predominately white faith-based institutions must embrace in order to cultivate a true appreciation of diversity. Research for this paper draws on historical literature and anthropological arguments that analyzes trends in race and sexuality, as well as scriptural arguments.

Professor Eddleman’s paper, titled, Female Voices of Faith: The Untold Stories, explores how personal stories of faith are powerful things, especially at a Christian university. They encourage, instruct, convict, and inspire. But sadly, many beautiful faith stories go unheard simply because, often, there is no venue for Christian women to share their faith stories and learned wisdom with the larger university community. This paper will synthesize and present the responses of both faculty and students to this question: How would your experience at a Christian University be different if you were able to tell your faith story and/or hear the voices of women of faith?

Professor Mikeska’s paper, titled, A Nonviolent Hermeneutic: How to Promote Peace in Confessional Institutions, will discuss nonviolence as a subject rarely preached and commonly dismissed among leading Christian theologians. Jesus’ own critique of violence has either been silenced or viewed as impractical fantasy. The result is that American Christianity is commonly described as an effortless assimilation of national pride, right-wing conservatism, and religious conviction. This paper seeks to redress these assumptions by taking a deeper look into the teachings of Jesus as well as the works of John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas. Ultimately, the aspiration of this study is for nonviolence to be viewed as a legitimate expression of Christian faithfulness in today’s society.

The second panel will address: “How to be an Ally: Hearing and Receiving Voices from the Margins of the Church and the Academy”

Jeffrey R. Baker, Pepperdine University School of Law, convener
Edward Carson, The Brooks School, panelist
Scott Lybrand, Episcopal Charities and Community Services, panelist
Julie A. Mavity Maddalena, Southern Methodist University, Ph.D. Candidate, panelist
Dr. Jeanine Thweatt-Bates, Princeton Theological Seminary, panelist

This panel will identify and explore issues of power, privilege, and participation in the church and the academy among those historically on the margins of these communities. Panelists will consider theological, religious, ethical, political, and educational theories that sustain and challenge structures and organizations that favor dominant, homogenous voices. Toward a vision of inclusion, dignity, and justice, the panelists will critique extant structures and dynamics that silence plural voices and will suggest ideas, strategies, and actions to promote full, rich, meaningful dialog among all people in congregations and schools.

The panelists each have engaged in such efforts from diverse perspectives and experiences and from different points of influence in the church and the academy. The panelists offer scholarly perspectives on theology, ethics, history, education, and culture. The panel will speak with expertise and experience about individual congregations, universities, and communities, including experiences promoting plural voices in contexts of diversity.

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