Photo by: Melanie Weidner artwork
The title of the forum refers to experiences both within individual bodies and our faith bodies. Ruthann Johansen, president of Bethany, describes the development of the theme: “For people of faith to be created in the image of God calls us to embrace the gifts of our sexuality and our spirituality and to treat our own and one another's lives with reverence. This forum topic will explore the intersections of human sexuality and spirituality openly to increase our understanding of ourselves and one another and to help us live in Christ-like integrity with compassion and justice toward all people.”
The forum is also a response to the call stated in Standing Committee's report from the 2011 Annual Conference in Grand Rapids--“to continue deeper conversations concerning human sexuality outside of the query process”--and to the recommendations of the original 1983 statement “Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective.”
James Forbes will be the keynote speaker, with an address titled “Who for the Joy Set Before Him.” He is senior minister emeritus of Riverside Church in New York City and the Harry Emerson Fosdick Adjunct Professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary. He is also president of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, which draws its mission from Revelation 22:2: “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
Panelists representing the fields of medicine, ecclesiology and sexuality, Christian history, religion and psychiatry, and biblical studies will round out leadership. They include David E. Fuchs, MD; David Hunter, Cottrill-Rolfes Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Kentucky; Gayle Gerber Koontz, professor of theology and ethics at Mennonite Biblical Seminary; Amy Bentley Lamborn, assistant professor of pastoral theology at General Theological Seminary; and Ken Stone, academic dean and professor of Hebrew Bible, culture, and hermeneutics at Chicago Theological Seminary. Each panelist’s presentation will incorporate opportunity for audience discussion.
Parker Thompson, Bethany student and coordinator of the Forum Planning Committee, says, “Guided by the command to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37), we were looking for leaders who could address spirituality and sexuality in the full context of Christian living. In seeing Dr. Forbes preach at a conference in Chicago on urban ministry, I experienced him to be an amazingly embodied preacher with a gift and a passion for seeking healing in this broken world. Each of the panelists is excited about contributing her or his unique expertise to the forum’s holistic approach to spirituality and sexuality.”
As a complementing event, a Pre-Forum Gathering is planned for April 12-13, sponsored by Bethany’s Alumni/ae Coordinating Council. “The gathering will bring alumni/ae and other interested persons together for educational presentations by faculty as well as the opportunity to reconnect and meet new friends,” says council member Greg Davidson Laszakovits. “Rooted in the Presidential Forum’s theme of spirituality and sexuality, this event will take a practical approach toward equipping participants to work with these real-life issues in their ministries and lives.”
Attendees of the Pre-Forum Gathering will hear four sessions presented by faculty from Bethany and Earlham School of Religion: Julie M. Hostetter, director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership; Russell Haitch, associate professor of Christian education and director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults at Bethany; Jim Higginbotham, assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling at ESR; and Dan Ulrich, professor of New Testament studies at Bethany. This event is the second of its kind to be held in conjunction with a Presidential Forum.
Continuing education units are available for both events. Those attending the Pre-Forum Gathering can earn 0.5 units, while forum attendees can earn up to 0.6 units. Participants must attend all sessions on a given day to receive credit.
The 2012 forum is the fourth in a series begun in 2008. “The Presidential Forums were inaugurated to develop substantive topics that thoughtfully and prophetically address issues of faith and ethics and that enable the seminary to provide visionary, educational leadership for the church and society,” states Johansen. In Fall 2010, Bethany received a generous grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to endow the Presidential Forums.
Forum and pre-forum activities will include worship services and a concert by the band Mutual Kumquat. The forum also will feature the artwork of ESR graduate Melanie Weidner, whose painting “Between Us” is serving as the feature piece of the forum.
The Pre-Forum Gathering will begin with dinner and fellowship on Thursday, April 12; the forum will likewise begin with dinner and worship on Friday, April 13. Discounted rates are available for students. For a complete schedule and session descriptions, registration information, and housing options, visit www.bethanyseminary.edu/forum2012. For further questions, contact email@example.com. Registration will be capped at 150 participants.
-- Jenny Williams is director of communications and alumni/ae relations at Bethany Seminary. The artwork titled “Between Us” is reproduced by permission, © 2005 by Melanie Weidner www.listenforjoy.com.