semhallThis year’s event is organized as a series of forums, allowing active engagement and inviting deeper discussion and interaction. Click each forum session title for a full description.

Forums on Tuesday, October 14

Each forum is offered twice, beginning at 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.; make your attendance selections during the registration process.

Creation, Evolution and Adolescence
Joe Monahan, Pastor, Medford (N.J.) UMC
David Fewell, Biology Teacher, Mountain Lakes (N.J.) High School

Preaching About the Universe
Gerald Liu, Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Worship Arts, Drew Theological School
Michael Sniffen, Adjunct Instructor, Drew Theological School

Science, Faith and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: 2014 and Still Viral
Cheryl Anderson, Professor of Old Testament, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Jae Quinlan, Minister, Unity Fellowship Church, Newark, N.J.

Forums on Wednesday, October 15

Each forum is offered twice, beginning at 9:45 a.m. and 2 p.m.; make your attendance selections during the registration process.

Energy for a Greener Future: Conversations on Theology, Cosmology and Environmental Justice
Laurel Kearns, Associate Professor of the Sociology of Religion and Environmental Studies, Drew Theological School
Jea Sophia Oh, Visiting Professor of Theology, Union Theological Seminary

The Black Church in the Public Square?
Dale Andrews, Distinguished Professor of Homiletics, Social Justice and Practical Theology, Vanderbilt University
Carolyn Johnson, Director, Purdue University Diversity Resource Office

“This Is My Body”: Coming to Voice on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Kate Ott, Assistant Professor of Christian Social Ethics, Drew Theological School
Mariah Britton, CEO & Founder, Moriah Institute

Who Should Decide When I Die?
Abigail Rian Evans, Senior Scholar in Residence at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics and Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University
Sharon Burniston, Chaplain, Overlook Hospital Palliative Care Team

Also on Wednesday, beginning at 8:45 a.m.
Bible Study: By Sight and by Insight
Kenneth Ngwa, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Drew Theological School

Forum Descriptions

Creation, Evolution and Adolescence

How can churches help youth bridge the gap between what they’ve learned in the church about creation and what they’re learning in school about evolution? We need tools to help young people develop their own frameworks for interpreting scripture and understanding the roles of science and faith in society and everyday life. We’ll provide background on the science of evolution and exegetical helps for Genesis 1–3. We’ll discuss implications for environmental stewardship and introduce practical, respectful ways to talk about the subject with students (and parents) who are at different places on the theological spectrum.

Preaching about the Universe

Preaching proclaims the love of God and neighbor. And messages about wide and transformational love become even more theologically profound in dialogue with scientific knowledge that illuminates the sophistication of creation as given by God. Extra dimensions of preaching become accessible when we homiletically engage recent discoveries such as the “God particle” and other scientific breakthroughs that speak to the very nature of how we understand ourselves and the world. This forum invites all of those curious about how to integrate serious science into faithful preaching to explore with us why science belongs in the pulpit, parish and public ministries. We’ll even try our hand at preparing sermons that are scientifically savvy.

Science, Faith and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: 2014 and Still Viral

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has been with us for over three decades; great strides have been made in the sciences, and so medical treatment of the disease is more widely available. However, infections continue to occur even though infections can be prevented. Of these new infections, women are disproportionately affected, globally, and in the United States, the African-American population is disproportionately affected. Throughout these decades, Christian churches have had a variety of responses to the pandemic, but overall, they have not been able to deal effectively with HIV prevention. This forum will cover the nature of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the range of responses churches have, the theological challenges that the disease raises for churches and how the Bible is used and can be used to meet those challenges.

Energy for a Greener Future: Conversations on Theology, Cosmology and Environmental Justice

Greener forms of energy are on many people’s minds today, but why are they important? In this dialogue presentation, we will consider the environmental justice and climate change demands for a different type of energy. What are the possibilities, why is change needed and how do we talk to others about “greening” our lives, towns and churches? But the word “energy” is also used outside of physics. We will draw on theology and East Asian cosmology to explore the topic. In the I-Ching (the Book of Change) the universe is constituted by five basic elements—fire, water, wood, metal, and earth. The earth is full of energy (Tai-chi, 太極) in which there are two flows, yin-yang (陰陽), circulating and recreating via the process of diffusion and convergence. Any organic bodies regulate themselves so as to maintain equilibrium via yin-yang principle. Today’s climate change is a sign of brokenness of this natural harmony. How do we find the “energy” to heal this brokenness?

The Black Church in the Public Square?

This forum will contend with racism in our culture and explore the power of resentment and its potential role in shaping public theology—influencing congregational voice, both internal and external; understanding and navigating the terrain of the perceived ambiguities, contentions and transgressions resulting from faith in tension with science. We will also consider how the theories of white moral injury might be useful in redressing both willful and passive violence of racism. How may moral injury help to understand and redress the dominant white culture’s resistance to moral culpability for cultural, systemic or institutional racism? Does moral injury help us redress the backlash against anti-racism justice-making? This approach wrestles with current concepts of moral injury with PTSD. When challenged with personal, cultural or systemic roles in perpetuating racism, how do grief, rage, outrage, guilt, nihilism, powerlessness or hopelessness in the face of unresolved moral agency affect white conservative and liberal orientations alike? Can black church ministries like prophetic preaching or protest campaigns address racial hegemony over unchecked or perpetuated inherited privilege, with its various enactments of micro aggression, passive violence or outright angry resistance to culpability? How may concepts of moral injury help black church ministries, like biblical hermeneutics, prophetic preaching, ecclesial practices and protest campaigns, address white culture to reform or transform socio-political, cross-cultural or economic conditions of systemic racism beyond episodic crisis intervention?

“This is my Body”: Coming to Voice on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Sexual and reproductive health issues are often seen as taboo topics or limited to controversial issues, when in fact they are integral parts of our everyday lives. In this forum, we will address how Christian communities have struggled with issues of sexuality and our bodies, and dispel the suspicion related to scientific discovery and moral judgments about sexuality. We will share stories of struggle and triumph that have shaped our approach to sexual and reproductive health education in faith-based settings. Participants will be invited to shape questions for the communities in which they work.

Who Should Decide When I Die?

This interactive, interdisciplinary workshop will provide an opportunity to explore the deepest questions that vex the person/patient, clergy, health-care professionals, family and society as a whole; perspectives of medicine, theology, ethics, pastoral and palliative care will be presented. “Who should decide when I die?” may seem like a strange question, but it reflects the dramatic shifts in health care and medical possibilities open to us. As we have newer and better technologies to sustain and prolong life, people may believe their only choice is to acquiesce to unrestrained life sustaining technology or to experience abandonment by the medical profession. With the advent of advanced directives and now of the POLST (Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form, people have the opportunity to choose the type of medical treatment and care they desire for their last days. When people are living in the shadow of death, a collaborative approach among clergy, health-care professionals, faith communities and hospitals, for the care of patients and their families should lead to a better journey at the end of life. Bible Study: By Sight and by Insight Based on a select number of biblical texts about luminaries, the Bible study will examine the importance of (in)sight in navigating the complex world of religion; how faith and doubt travel, take up new spaces and alternate; and the role of biblical interpretation in fostering sight and insight.

Bible Study Description

Bible Study: By Sight and by Insight

Based on a select number of biblical texts about luminaries, the Bible study will examine the importance of (in)sight in navigating the complex world of religion; how faith and doubt travel, take up new spaces and alternate; and the role of biblical interpretation in fostering sight and insight.