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Candler Centennial Conference to focus on future of theology

Luke Timothy Johnson, Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, and chair of Candler's Centennial Celebration.

Emory's Candler School of Theology will engage the distinctive theological challenges of the next century—challenges to the church, the world and the shape of theological education—during an academic conference March 18–20, 2015. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson is one of a dozen renowned theologians who will gather in Emory's Cannon Chapel to respond to the dilemmas posed to Christian theology by the present age.

The conference is the centerpiece of the spring portion of Candler's 2014-2015 Centennial Celebration. It is presented in collaboration with the McDonald Agape Foundation, complementing the foundation's Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and their Impact on Culture, a position held by a visiting scholar at Candler each year.

"The conference seeks to be prophetic—in the sense of truth-speaking rather than future forecasting—about the pressing theological issues facing the world in the next 100 years, and the resources for engaging them," says Luke Timothy Johnson, Emory's R.W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, and chair of Candler's Centennial Celebration.

Johnson will deliver the keynote address titled, "Theological Challenges of the New Century." Four other Candler faculty from diverse theological disciplines will deliver major addresses that propose ways forward, while invited scholars and activists from outside Candler will offer substantive contributions as panelists.

"As we celebrate Candler's 100 years of contribution to theological education and to the church, it's crucial that we engage in serious conversation about the future," says Johnson, who also is spearheading the conference. "Candler must seek to discern the word that the church and the world need to hear, and speak that word both clearly and compellingly."

Conference Themes and Speakers

The conference will explore four major themes. Each will feature a major presentation and two shorter panel presentations.

Logos: Theological Imagination and Secularization
Ted A. Smith, associate professor of preaching and ethics, Candler

  • Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
  • Christian Wiman, senior lecturer of literature and religion, Yale Divinity School

Person: The Image of God in the Contemporary World
Ellen Ott Marshall, associate professor of Christian ethics and conflict transformation, Candler

  • Steven J. Kraftchick, professor in the practice of New Testament interpretation, Candler
  • M. Shawn Copeland, professor of theology, Boston College

Cosmos: God's Creation and the Care of the Earth
Carol Newsom, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament, Candler

  • The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, president and founder of Interfaith Power and Light and The Regeneration Project
  • Norman Wirzba, professor of theology and ecology, Duke Divinity School

Polity: The Kingdom of God and Global Pluralism
Jehu Hanciles, D.W. and Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christianity, Candler

  • Daniel Jeyaraj, professor of world Christianity, Liverpool Hope University
  • Dana L. Robert, Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and the History of Mission, Boston University

Extending the Conversation

The conference is open to scholars and students of theology at Emory and other institutions throughout the country. The goal is to generate ongoing conversation throughout American theological education on the conference's themes.

The discussion also is expected to be robust within Candler itself. Faculty are incorporating conference themes into their coursework throughout the academic year, and Candler students will find the conference provides further depth and edge to the topics they have been studying.

"Every arena that touches the Candler community—the religious landscape, the church, higher education and theological education—is experiencing considerable change, even turbulence," says Candler Dean Jan Love. "In these dynamic circumstances, where do we see the possibilities for the future? How do we discern what God is calling us to do as educators who care passionately about preparing real people to make a real difference in the real world?"

She adds, "The goal of the conference is to help us—and others involved in the church and theological education—understand and navigate these dynamics. We want to discern more fully the best ways of educating creative and faithful leaders for the church's ministries in the world and chart a faithful course for the future of theological education."  

Conference registration will open this summer. See Candler Centennial Academic Conference: March 18-20, 2015 for more information.

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