Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cross Cultural Communication in REL260

Short-Term Missions (STM) is a huge phenomenon in U.S. American Christianity-- and in Christianity worldwide. This week, Dr. Dickson's STM class partnered with the ACCESS Level V international students from China, Saudi Arabia, and India (taught by Marcus Davis) to practice cross-cultural communication skills. 

Discussions were lively-- and educational! "That was painful," one student laughed at the end of an exercise in which he (a confident extrovert) had been asked to represent a person from a soft-spoken, indirect culture. Students were surprised to discover blind-spots in their own cultural perspectives and gained tools and skills for filling in those blind-spots. 

REL260 Short Term Missions is taught by Dr. Dickson every spring. It explores the origins, development, theology, economics, and practices of STM. Students can combine this course with a Spring Break missions trip for Study Away Credit.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Human Trafficking Awareness

Theresa Flores addresses AU students (photo: Matt Erickson)
The Religion Department, in collaboration with Ashland Center for Non-violence and other groups, welcomed more than 200 students, faculty, and guests to the “Stop Human Trafficking” event held Monday evening in upper convo.

Theresa Flores of Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.)  and Jen Albert, survivors of trafficking, told their stories and presented information about trafficking in the U.S.
Attendees heard how trafficking is not a problem only in far off lands—it’s happening right here. The State of Ohio has the 5th highest rate of trafficking in the U.S. and the average age of those trafficked is 13. You can read Theresa's story in the Collegian article.

There are upcoming opportunities to get involved in this important campaign to stop human trafficking: 

  • You can join the AU Human Trafficking Awareness Group (HTAG).Its next meeting is on Tuesday, February 9 in the Rinehart Center for Religious Studies Rm 13 at 3:30 P.M. (for more info contact Dr. Sue Dickson, 419 207-5561)
  • Come to the HTAG's training on Monday, February 1 at 7:00- 8:30 on the AU campus to receive a PowerPoint presentation and a 45-minute script to present to groups: your youth group, your High School, your Jr. High School, your Sunday School—or any other organizations with which you have contact.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Don Rinehart

Please keep the family of Ashland University Professor Emeritus Dr. Don Rinehart, a 1959 graduate of Ashland College, in your thoughts and prayers as Don passed away Sunday at age 78. Calling hours will be held in Myers Convocation Center on the AU campus from 3 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, and then again from 2 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28, prior to a Celebration of Life service that will begin at 4 p.m. in Miller Chapel.

Don represented Ashland University in so many ways and many generations of AU students can testify to his wisdom and compassion in the classroom. He and his wife, Jan, were described by many as the “quintessential AU faculty members.”

Don started teaching in the college’s Religion Department in the fall semester of 1969. He retired in 2007, but continued teaching sections of the class “Exploring the Bible.” In April of 2015, Don presented his final lecture titled “Last Lecture: The Beginning of Wisdom,” in front of a large crowd in Miller Chapel (You can watch the video here).

After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 1959 from Ashland College, Don continued his education at Ashland Theological Seminary, where he earned both his Bachelor of Divinity (1965) and Master of Divinity (1970) degrees. He also held a Master of Education from the University of Arizona and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary.

Beginning his Ashland University teaching career in the religion department in 1969, Don went on to serve as religion department chair from 1975-79 and 1991-95, as Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities from 1980-88, and as a member of the President’s Cabinet from 1980-85.

As a tribute to him, the Rinehart Lectureship in Practical Theology endowment campaign was started when Don retired, and The Annual Rinehart Lecture in Practical Theology brings leading scholars in Practical Theology to Ashland’s campus to work with students and give a public lecture.

Don received numerous awards and honors from Ashland University through the years, including:
  • Receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities at the spring 2007 commencement ceremony. 
  • Serving as the 2012 winter commencement speaker. In his speech, titled “Moving from Success to Significance,” he told graduates they are well on their way to becoming “a person of success.” 
  • Receiving the Alumni Association’s Drushal Humanitarian Award in 1992 and he and Jan received the Alumni Association’s Dr. Glenn L. Clayton Award in 2004. 
  • Receiving the Eagle Forever Award at the Athletic Hall of Fame Brunch in 2012. 
  • Having the Office of Leadership Development and the Center for Community Service name the Dr. Donald Rinehart Honor and Integrity Award in his honor and present it annually to one who serves as a role model to students, faculty and staff. 
  • Earning the Mentor Award from the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee four times, in addition to being nominated for Faculty Member of the Year and Outstanding Mentor by student organizations at the Annual All Campus Leadership and Service Recognition Reception.
Through the years he was very involved in the community and in local churches, having served as moderator of the Ohio Conference and General Conference of Brethren Churches and also as a member of various organizations and groups in the community. He also served as pastor of several area churches and will always be remembered as the pastor who performed a countless number of weddings in the University’s Memorial Chapel.

Don and Jan have three children: Melissa Hoffman, Melinda Ward and Todd Rinehart.

The family suggests that memorial contributions be made to the Donald and Janet Rinehart International Studies Endowment or the Rinehart Center for Religious Studies Endowment, both at Ashland University. To make a memorial contribution, click here or checks can be mailed to Ashland University, c/o Institutional Advancement, 401 College Avenue, Ashland, OH 44805.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Religion Courses for Spring 2016

REL106 Exploring the Bible - Four sections (M,W, F, 10,11; T,Th, 12:15; 1:40) - core: Religion
There is a reason it is a best seller -- take this class and find out why for yourself.

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

REL 220 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.

REL 260 Short Term Missions (T, Th 9:15) - core: either GPS Study Away (with spring Break Mission Trip) or GPS-Border Crossing
This exciting new course with Dr. Sue Dickson explores the development, theology, and practice of international short-term, mission trips. It is designed to work with a Spring Break mission trip -- this year the university has groups going to Nicaragua and Dominican Republic (scholarships are available to help with travel costs). This class will enhance this experience of mission and help students engage this experience on a deeper critical level. If you are not going on a STM this spring, not to worry, you can still take the course!

REL 340 Religion & The Civil Rights Movement in America - One Section (T, Th 10:50) - core: Humanities
Dr. Peter Slade says: From the streets of Montgomery in 1954 to St Louis in 2015, churches and people of faith have been deeply involved in both sides of the civil rights movement in America. Using the tools of history, sociology and theology, this class will explore this recent chapter of American history. In addition to the movement of the 19650s and 60s, we will also look at the church based racial reconciliation initiatives of the 90s and 00s. We will end with an examination of church's involvement in #BlackLivesMatter -- what has been dubbed by the press as the new civil rights movement, and mass incarceration "the New Jim Crow."

REL404  Seminar in Christian Theology: Atonement  One Section - (T-Th 12:15)
Dr. Hovey says: This semester's theme is the Doctrine of the Atonement: the meaning of the death of Christ. Does an innocent man's death appease an angry God? In what sense should Christ's death be considered a sacrifice? Is it a ransom? To whom? We will go in-depth into these and related debates in contemporary theological scholarship. Not to be missed!  This is one of the required theology seminars for Religion majors and both REL 106 and REL 208 are prerequisites.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fall 2015: Speakers and Events

The Religion Department is excited to invite you to hear from this great range of speakers coming to Ashland this fall. All these events are open to students and members of the community.

Peacemaking in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Rev. Berthe Kalombo Nzeba

Tuesday, September 28 12:00 Brown Bag at Eagles' Landing , Hawkins Conard Student Center

Tuesday, September 29, 7:00pm Ridenour Room

Rev. Berthe Kalombo Nzeba, ordained in 1978, is the first female protestant clergy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rev. Nzeba is the Women’s President for the West Kinshasa Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Kinshasa (CPK) and pastor of the CPK Brikin parish in Kinshasa. She is also the General Secretary of the Women and Families Department of the ecumenical, protestant, umbrella group, the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC). For the last ten years, Rev. Nzeba has coordinated national and international Church efforts in support of women and children impacted by the conflict in Eastern Congo. Since 1996, 5.4 million people have lost their lives due to war in the Congo and millions have been displaced by the violence. 30 different militia groups continue to terrorize the local population. Rev. Nzeba oversees efforts in support of survivors of rape and war orphans. She is an active interlocutor in ecumenical platforms for peace and security in the Great Lakes Region.

Resurrecting Church

Friday October 2, 7:00pm, Upper Convo

Tearing Down Walls

Saturday, October 3, 9am, Upper Convo

Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne, will offer the talks "Resurrecting Church" and "Tearing Down the Walls" to encourage us as the Body of Christ to be alive in the world. Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President

The event is free, but registration is required. For more info and registration go to the ATS web site.


Pope Francis, the Environment, and Christian Life

Dr. Jana Bennett

Wednesday, October 14, 7:00pm, Ridenour Room

Following the pope's writing of his recent encyclical "Laudator Si," many have accused the pope of stepping into political and economic questions about which he knows little, But Bennett suggests that a different reading of the encyclical helps us dig deep into Christian tradition, and perhaps think a bit differently about environmental concerns.
Jana Bennett is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton, where she teaches theology and ethics. She is also co-editor of, a blog that discusses liturgy, scripture, and current issues in relation to moral questions. She is currently writing a book on moral theology and Christian contemplation.

Bonhoeffer's Black Jesus

Dr. Reggie Williams 

Wednesday November 4, 7:00pm, Ridenour Room

Dr. Reggie Williams, author of Bonhoeffer's Black Jesus (Baylor University Press) is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary, in Chicago. His research interests are primarily focused on the connection between Christian interpretations of the way of Jesus, and Christian morality. His current research investigates how popular Western-world interpretations of Christianity have been calibrated to a false ideal that corresponds with racialized interpretations of humanity, morality, and Jesus. He will speak about how Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s experience in the Harlem Renaissance influenced Bonhoeffer's theology and ethics.

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.