Friday, April 1, 2016

Faith & Ferguson


The Ashland University's Religion Department is hosting musician and activist Michelle Higgins on April 20-21. She will have a full schedule preaching, teaching and conducting workshops with Ashland students. A number of the events are free and open to the public:


Wednesday, April 20

12:00-1:30
Workshop: Nonviolent de-escalation in the midst of crisis,  Eagle’s Landing, Hawkins-Conard Student Center
7:00-8:30
“Last” Lecture: Your Faith for Justice, Ridenour Room, College of Business
Thursday, April 21

10:50-12:05
Conversation: The New Civil Rights Movement After Ferguson, Ronk Lecture Theater, College of Education
8:00-9:30
Sermon: Praying with your Feet, The Well, Miller Chapel


"It is exciting for us to have Michelle Higgins coming to campus," said Peter Slade, chair of the Religion Department. "Here at Ashland University we are always trying to make connections between our faith and the communities we live in and serve. Michelle will bring her wealth of experience and wisdom and help us understand the responsibilities and opportunities we have as Christians to engage with these issues of justice and race." Michelle will be speaking in Dr. Slade's class Religion and the Civil Rights Movement. "It is important for us to realize that the movement didn't stop with the passage of the Civil Rights Act or the assassination of Dr. King," Slade said. "This is a living history that calls people of faith to action today."

The Director of Worship and Outreach at South City Church  in the Shaw neighborhood of south St. Louis, Michelle is actively engaged in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. She has participated in civil disobedience, leadership development, logistics and administrative support in both sacred and secular spaces.

Michelle is the Director of Faith for Justice, a Christian advocacy group founded in 2014 dedicated to continuing the biblical story of activism. Faith for Justice promotes and leads public justice actions and events that connect faith communities to the movements that seek to dignify and humanize Black lives.

Though working primarily as a local organizer, Michelle’s work is challenging the wider church. She rose to national prominence with her plenary speech at Urbana 2015, the annual InterVarsity Student Missions Conference. The New York Times commented “in her wide-ranging comments about social justice, Ms. Higgins did little to make her speech more palatable.” The Washington Post concurred,Michelle Higgins has been making waves.” The Evangelical publication Christianity Today described her historic speech as "powerful and prophetic testimony.”

Michelle holds an M.Div from Covenant Theological Seminary in Saint Louis and lives in North City with her husband Sean Loftin, and their two children - Moses and Matilda

InterVarsity made this short video introduction to Michelle and her work:


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Classes coming in Fall 2016

As you are putting together your fall schedule, please consider the following upper level religion courses being offered this fall:

REL106 Exploring the Bible - Eight sections (M,W, F: 9, 10,11, 12, 1, 2 ; 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 - Five sections in a classroom (M,W, F: 1, 2, 12; T,Th:10:50, 12:15, 1:40) and two sections online (some seats reserved for RNBSN students)- core: Religion

REL232 History of Modern Christianity (T,Th: 10:50) with Dr. Slade
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 pilgrims, missionaries, Nazis, Communists, revolutionaries, snake handlers, scientists, philosophers, abolitionists, saints, and sinners. This is an important class if you want to think about what it means (and should mean) to be a Christian today.

REL208 Exploring Christian Theology (T,Th: 9:25) with Prof. Karen Liddy
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 to start loving God with your mind at AU.

REL250 Understanding Islam (T, Th: 1:40)  core: Humanities
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. 

REL304 Advanced Old Testament (T,Th: 12:15) with Dr. Dickson
Dig deep into key texts from the law, prophets and writings in the book that never gets old! 

REL497 Religion Thesis Seminar (M,W: 3-4:20) with Dr. Aune
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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lived Theology and Radical Christians

Howard Kester (right), with STFU leaders in 1935
AU religion prof Peter Slade is involved in a two-year collaborative project with 12 other scholars to produce a single volume entitled Can I Get a Witness? Stories of Radical Christians in the U.S., 1900-2014.

Each chapter will be a theological narrative of the life of a scholar, activist, layperson, or religious leader whose lived theology produced and inspired social justice in the United States. "I am writing about Howard Kester," Slade explains. "He was radical Christian working for racial justice and labor rights in the South during the 1920s and 30s. What was not widely known during his lifetime was that he was an undercover investigator of lynchings for the NAACP." Other chapters will include William J. Seymour, Dorothy Day, Ella Baker, William Stringfellow, Yuri Kochiyama, and Richard Twiss. (learn more here)

This project is part of the Project on Lived Theology based at the University of Virginia. Peter Slade has been involved with the project for sixteen years. He is featured in this short documentary explaining the work and vision of the project.

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.