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Westar Religious Literacy Seminar (Spring Meeting 2012)


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All in the Family
A Conversation about Marriage, Family, Sexuality 

Featuring John Shelby Spong 

March 21-24, 2012
Salem, Oregon

L. Michael White

Strangers in a Strange Land
The Struggle to Reconcile Religious Liberty and Same-Sex Marriage

Alan Brownstein

Religious liberty and the right of same-sex couples to marry are mutually reinforcing interests. Both go to the core of a person’s identity. Both involve conduct that expresses commitment. Both relationships are the source of duties and responsibilities that people feel compelled to fulfill. So to what extent should states provide accommodations to religious objectors to same-sex marriage? The answer begins with the question: would a comparable accommodation be granted to an individual or institution seeking the right to discriminate on the basis of religion in providing goods, services, or benefits to others.

Alan Brownstein is Professor of Law and Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality at the University of California, Davis. His articles have appeared in the Stanford Law Review,Cornell Law ReviewUCLA Law ReviewConstitutional Commentary, and University of San Francisco Law Review.

Wednesday, March 21

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Shifting the Christian Paradigm from Salvation and Atonement to Life and Wholeness

John Shelby Spong

It is time to do away with such words as “Savior,” “Redeemer,” and “Rescuer” in the Christian vocabulary. These words all assume an anthropology of the past that is no longer operative. There was no perfect creation from which we have fallen into sin that requires divine intervention and rescue. There is rather an evolving pattern of life that issues in new consciousness and an expanded humanity. Can we tell the Christ story in this radically new context? Jack Spong thinks we can and will attempt to do so.

John Shelby Spong was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years. His many books, including most recently Eternal Life: A New Vision (HarperOne 2009), have sold over a million copies worldwide. Spong was among the first church leaders to recognize gay rights as civil rights.

Thursday, March 22


The Bible and the “H-Word”
Lost in Translation


L. Michael White

What the Bible says—or does not say—on the subject of homosexuality is hotly debated. Many Christians consider it to have a clear, uniform position on the subject, others don’t reference it at all. In fact there is no concept of homosexuality, at least as we think of it today, in the biblical world. Michael White will examine the cultural backgrounds and the changing outlook regarding sexuality and sexual activity, in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament, looking closely at the language in key passages and discussing issues of translation (or mistranslation), context, and meaning.

L. Michael White is the R. N. Smith Chair of Christian Origins in Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. His books include Scripting Jesus (HarperOne, 2010) and From Jesus to Christianity (HarperCollins, 2004), both of which won Grand Prizes in the Hamilton Book Awards.

Friday Morning, March 23


Men Who Become Women and Women Who Become Men
The Gender-Bending Jesus Movement

Stephen J. Patterson

One of the earliest statements of faith in the Jesus movement declared that in Christ there is no male and female. What did this really mean and how was it acted out in the earliest communities of the Christ? It turns out that many followers of Jesus took this idea to heart and began to live as if gender would no longer divide and stratify the human race. Long before Christianity became a sexist religion, there were those who thought it should be a sex-less religion.

Stephen J. Patterson is the George H. Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies at Willamette University. He has written extensively on Christian origins and is an authority on the Gospel of Thomas. Among his books are The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus (Polebridge, 1993) and The Fifth Gospel (revised, 2010).

Friday Afternoon, March 23

A Conversation with Jack Spong about Marriage, Family, Sexuality

Friday Evening, March 23


Westar Fellows on the Legacy of John Shelby Spong

Saturday Morning, March 24


“Call no one your father”
Bible Family Values 101

Deborah Krause

By declaring that duty to family cannot outweigh devotion to God or exhorting followers to prioritize commitment to the movement over obligations to family, Jesus challenged established cultural expectations. This workshop will place his sayings in their cultural context, alongside contemporary debates about what constitutes “family,” to explore different ways in which the rhetoric of family is constructed in struggles for socio-economic liberation and inclusive community. We will see that, then as now, choosing family places one squarely at odds with religious and political authority.

Deborah Krause is Professor of New Testament and Dean at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. She has written extensively on gender and identity in the Bible and served recently as an expert witness in the decision to ordain gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons to ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Saturday Afternoon, March 24 Register NOW to get the early bird rate.
All events will be held at the Salem Conference Center. For more information, visit us at Westar Institute.JESUS SEMINARS ON THE ROADWestar is also planning Jesus Seminars on the Road in Spring 2011 in: Brevard NC, East Lansing MI, Goshen IN, Grand Forks ND, Manhasset NY, Oklahoma City OK, Richland WA, Sarasota FL, Sahuarita AZ, Tacoma WA, and Washington, DC.Visit us online to learn about events in your area.
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March 21, 2012
March 24, 2012
Salem Convention Center
Salem OR United States
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