Monday, April 6, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter and Theology in St. Louis

Dr. Peter Slade will be a speaker at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis for its City Ministry Spring Conference. This year’s theme is “Welcome One Another: Racial Identity in Christ.”

An article on the conference in the online magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America explains:
Greg Perry, associate professor of New Testament, and Dean of Students Mike Higgins are organizing the conference, and this year’s theme stems from events less than 17 miles away in Ferguson, Missouri. In the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown and the protests the teen’s death sparked, Higgins and Perry worked to foster conversations between white and black Christians.
Dr. Slade said, "I am  humbled to be invited and excited to attend the conference." He will be giving two lectures, "Holistic Discipleship: John Perkins, African American Missionary to the White Evangelical Church" and "A Theology of Intercultural Congregational Singing."

To find out more about the conference click on this link

Participants in the Mourning March, St. Louis, April 4, 2015. photo: Steve Pavey

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Reflections on Terrorism from Kenya

Dr. Sue Dickson is spending this semester in Kenya. Yesterday she offered her observations and reflections on the terrorist attack on Garissa University on her personal travel blog -- I don't think she will mind me re-posting it here:
Thursday morning, on the way to Kibera, we heard about the terrorist attack in Garissa on the radio. Al Shabaab terrorists from Somalia (perhaps living in Dodo, a Somali refugee camp in Northeastern Kenya) had arrived for morning prayers at the University of Garissa and begun shooting randomly. There are ~800 students at the school (mostly boarders). About 500 ran for their lives when they heard the shots. They were quickly rounded up and accounted for by the authorities but won’t be released to their parents until tomorrow morning. The staff was accounted for and alive. 142 students were killed and 5 security personnel. 79 were wounded—some when they jumped out of second story windows to get away. About 70 students were hostages for about 17 hours until the terrorists were killed. Many have been flown to Nairobi for medical treatment. Two of Grace and Paul’s home-children attend Garissa University. We didn’t know until about 8:00 P.M. that they were safe. Nairobi, all of Kenya, is stunned; angry; devastated. The sadness is visible in people’s faces.
Kenya is no stranger to terrorist attacks. The ‘Westgate Mall Attack’ is Kenya’s 9/11 and there is a memorial in downtown Nairobi where the U.S. embassy used to stand until the attack of 2007. There have been many other attacks—bombs thrown on buses; suicide bombers in public places; random shootings; slit throats. We hear about Boko Haram and Al Qaeda and ISIL in the states but Al Shabaab is the group that Kenyans are facing. They are a Somali group that tried to affiliate with Al Qaeda but were rejected. That’s why the Kenyan Christians I’ve met are passionately angry toward Muslims—without exception. They are convinced that Islam is a violent, aggressive, intolerant religion that must be wiped out. There is no room for a shift in perspective. They live in a different world from mine. Apparently, the terrorists on Thursday asked students what their religion was and then shot them. Talking about inter-religious dialogue, and religious tolerance, and the difference between terrorists and true Muslims here is like shouting into outer space—it only makes you hoarse. Kenyan Christians are afraid. Actually, they have good reason to be afraid. In fact, I suspect lots of Kenyan Muslims are afraid, too. It wasn’t just Christian students who were murdered yesterday… I truly understand the fear and frustration and the reflexive desire for revenge and aggression and self-preservation. If my college students had been shot dead by Al Shabaab my views on tolerance might become something different.
Kenya has a long porous border with Somalia in the northeast. And, although they are building a wall in the most dangerous corner, and have armed guards patrolling the length, that doesn’t stop terrorists. Kenyan politicians are calling for the closing of the Dodo camp and the ousting of all Somalis from Kenya. But, the huge majority of refugees in the camp are the people fleeing Al Shabaab—kicking them out won’t help anything. The government doesn’t know what to do. The citizens don’t know what to do. Faithful pastors I worked with yesterday don’t know what to do. How do we ‘love these enemies’? What does that look like in this context? One pastor said, ‘Let’s let the army wipe them out and we’ll love them later.’ Another suggested that ‘loving one’s enemy doesn’t include loving evil and these people are evil and must be eliminated before they eliminate us’. I hear paranoid, generalized remarks about Muslims (lumping all Muslims with terrorists) with frequency here. Things such as: ‘Money is pouring in from Saudi Arabia to build mosques. You see one in every neighborhood and small town. We have to stop it.” And ‘They want us to respect them, but they don’t respect us. They just want to kill, kill, kill. We need to stop being so tolerant.’ That’s the gist. At first I was stunned. I tried to prod and offer alternative interpretations. But, after yesterday, I’m thinking I may have no right to respond at all. And then, I realized…
Today is Good Friday…
Lord, help us to embody the mercy and forgiveness you embodied on the cross. Help us to love one another as you have loved us. Lord, remember us when you come into your kingdom.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Religion Courses for Fall 2015

REL106 Exploring the Bible - Seven sections (M,W, F, 10,11,12,1; T,Th, 9:25; 10:50; 12:15) - core: Religion
There is a reason it is a best seller -- take this class and find out why for yourself.

REL107 Exploring World Religions - Four sections in a classroom (M,W, F, 1, 2; T,Th,10:50 & 12:15) and two sections online (some seats reserved for RNBSN students)- core: Religion, GPS-Border Crossings.

REL109 Exploring Christian Ethics - Two sections (M,W,F, 9 & 10 - N.B. the 10 o'clock class is an honors section) with Dr. Hovey.
Start thinking about the BIG ISSUES--immigration, homosexuality, justice, war, abortion, love-- in this essential class for sentient beings.

REL230 History of Early Christianity - (M,W, F, 10) with Dr. Aune
How did “orthodox” Christianity overcome various challenges to become the dominant religious tradition in the West? In this course, we answer this question by focusing upon selected literature and significant historical events in the development of Christianity from the 2nd to the 5th century. Classes consist mainly of interactive lectures and serious discussion of primary texts from this period.
Fulfills the Core Historical Reasoning requirement.

305 Advanced New Testament: Gospels - (T, Th, 1:40) with Dr. Aune
Do you want to learn more about the life of Jesus while asking critical questions raised by recent scholarship in Biblical studies? In this course we focus on the four Gospels individually (focusing on the distinctive themes, occasion and purpose of the writings) and then alongside one another as we consider their historical reliability for studying the life of Jesus.
Fulfills the upper level Biblical studies requirement for the Religion major.

208 Exploring Christian Theology - (T,Th, 9:25) with Dr. Hovey
An introduction to central doctrines of the Christian faith that is both respectful of classic theological traditions and open to the new voices and emphases of recent theologies.
A required course for religion majors and one of the best ways for religion minors to fulfill their Christian thought requirement.  

REL234 History of Christian Worship - (T,Th, 10:50) with Dr. Slade.
From Thomas Tallis to Chris Thomlin, Gregorian Chant to Hillsong. Learn about the history of Christian worship from the New Testament church to the present day.  
Fulfills the upper level Christian History requirement for the Religion major and the Christian Thought requirement for the minor.

REL341 World Christianity, Culture and Mission - (T,Th, 3:05) with Dr. Dickson
Just returned from her semester in Kenya working with local church leaders, Dr. Dickson will have a wealth of knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm to share. Don't miss this class.

497 Thesis Seminar - (M, W, 3-4:20) with Dr. Dickson
Write a 30 page thesis in one semester on a (religious) subject of your choice. This is a required class for religion majors BUT it is also a great elective for everyone else.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dr. Rinehart gives 'Last Lecture'

The Religion Department at Ashland University will celebrate its graduating seniors and close out the year with a final lecture by long-time Ashland resident Dr. Don Rinehart on Wednesday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Miller Chapel at the corner of King Road and College Avenue.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is titled “Last Lecture: The Beginning of Wisdom.”

“The Last Lecture series is a way the Religion Department honors great teachers by asking them to give a lecture as if it were their last,” said Dr. Peter Slade, associate professor of religion. “In this case, this really is Dr. Rinehart’s last semester teaching and our last chance to hear him give a lecture at the university.”

Dr. Rinehart started teaching in the Religion Department at AU in the fall semester of 1969. He retired in 2007, but continued teaching sections of the class “Exploring the Bible.” “Many generations of AU students can testify to his wisdom and compassion in the classroom,” Slade said.

“The Religion Department extends an invitation to all present and past students, colleagues and members of the community to celebrate the success of our students and to have one last opportunity to be taught by Dr. Don Rinehart,” Slade said.

In addition, those attending the lecture will have an opportunity to contribute to the Rinehart Lectureship in Practical Theology endowment campaign, which was started when Dr. Rinehart retired.
The Annual Rinehart Lecture in Practical Theology will bring a leading scholar in Practical Theology to Ashland's campus to work with students and give a public lecture.

“This is a way of continuing to honor the legacy of Dr. Rinehart's extraordinary career,” Slade said.
Those who are not able to attend the lecture but would like to contribute, can call the AU Office of Development at 419.289.5620.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dr. Dickson Goes to Africa

Dr. Sue Dickson is on study leave this semester but she is not conducting her research in some dusty library. She will be teaching in Africa. Here is her own description of what she will be doing for the next 12 weeks.
LEAMIS International Ministries, an interdenominational, evangelical Christian ministry formed in 1998 and based in MO, crossed my radar when I was doing research for a project in Short-term Missions Trips. They’re helping to organize this trip. LEAMIS partners with local churches, providing training in areas requested by the churches. Their website says “… Our goal is to help in the transformation of communities through spiritual and development projects that minister to the whole person –spirit, soul, and body. ”
When I spoke to Debra (one of the founders) a couple of months ago, I was impressed. Before the end of our first conversation, we were discussing the possibility of me traveling to East Africa to teach Bible. Within a few days, Bishop Paul and Pastor Grace Mbithi of Nairobi, had invited me to join in their preaching/teaching ministry this spring.
The plan is for me to travel (with an interpreter) to villages throughout their ministry area to lead Bible studies, and workshops for pastors in biblical hermeneutics. When in Nairobi, I’ll be visiting the New Life Restoration Ministries’ school, children’s home, and some of their 70 churches in the Kibera slums outside Nairobi.
Dr. Dickson will be back at AU in the Fall and teaching REL 341 World Christianity, Culture and Mission (T, Th 3:05 - 4:20).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dr. Hovey's New Book

The book The Hermeneutics of Tradition: Explorations and Examinations has just been published by Cascade books. Co-edited by AU religion professor Craig Hovey and the University of Scranton's Cyrus P. Olsen, The Hermeneutics of Tradition "presents the latest scholarship on tradition as a concept and reality in the development of Christian cultures."

Aristotle Papanikolaou, Professor of Theology at the Orthodox Christian Studies Center in New York gives the volume a glowing review:
In an age caught between the two poles, hypertheism and overhumanization, The Hermeneutics of Tradition offers fresh alternatives for negotiating the ambiguities of the texts, rituals, and symbols of the Christian tradition through the tradition. This collection of essays demonstrates that there is no such thing as traditionless existence, which entails being grounded in the certitude and stability of the truth claims and meaning of the Christian tradition while simultaneously being active interpreters toward yet undiscovered answers to old and new questions. A timely book with rich resources for how to think and live the Christian tradition.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Religion Courses for Spring 2015

As you get ready to register for next semester's classes, here is a quick guide to the Religion courses you can take.

REL106 Exploring the Bible - Four sections (M,W, F, 9 & 10; T,Th, 9:25 & 10:50) - core: Religion
There is a reason it is a best seller -- take this class and find out why for yourself.

REL107 Exploring World Religions - Four sections in a class room (M,W,F, 11, 1; T,Th,10:50 & 12:15) and two sections online (seats reserved for RNBSN students)- core: Religion, GPS-Border Crossings.

REL220 Taking Human Life  - Two sections (M,W,F, 9 & 10) -core: Humanities
Dr. Hovey says: Is it ever okay to take human life? If so, under what conditions? Many of the hardest contemporary issues in society and for religious communities are related to these questions, whether suicide, euthanasia, abortion, capital punishment, or warfare. Join us for an exciting yet also serious course examining these ethical issues from philosophical and theological perspectives.

REL232REHON History of Modern Christianity - (T,Th, 9:25 ) - core: Historical Reasoning
Starting in the 17th century, Dr Slade will lead a jaunt through modern history considering how Christianity shaped and was shaped by the modern world. There will be Nazis, Communists, revolutionaries, snake handlers, missionaries, scientists, philosophers, abolitionists, saints, and sinners.
(This is an honors section which means that if you are not an honors student you will need a good GPA and a great reason for taking the course . . .  email your request to take the course to Dr. Swanson before Nov. 14 and he will consider putting you in if there is any space left. If you are unlucky and don't get in, not to worry, there will be another church history class next fall).

REL250 Understanding Islam in Today's World - (T,Th, 1:40) - core: Humanities, GPS-Border Crossings.
This is an event of a class. Team taught by Dr. Aune and Dr Ajwa (recently returned from Mecca), learn about the second largest (and most misunderstood) monotheistic religion in the world.

REL308  Political Theology - (T,Th, 10:50) - core: Humanities
Take this class with Dr. Hovey. If you want to learn more about the class, see What is Political Theology. If you want to know why he is teaching it check out the book he edited.

REL400  Christian Literature - (T,Th, 12:15)
Dr. Aune heads-up this seminar group reading and discussing some of the classic works of Christian Literature including Augustine's Confessions, Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ, Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle, John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship and C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters.
Warning: these books can change lives.

Dr. Sue Dickson will be on senior study leave in the Spring (hence she is not teaching classes). She will be working with an organization called Leadership & Missions (LEMIS) teaching pastors in Kenya for three months.