Conference Addresses Tensions That Christians Face in Today’s Culture
The Institute for Theology and Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins is hosting the conference, “Religious Persecution, Privilege, Paranoia—and Hope” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, April 7, on Multnomah’s campus.
The conference will delve into issues revolving around struggles and tensions Christians face in America today as well as issues of religious persecution from a global perspective. During the conference, there will be three plenary sessions, two 50-minute sessions set aside for workshops — each with multiple workshop opportunities — and a lunch provided midday.
To learn more about the conference, we approached Institute Coordinator Derrick Peterson with questions about the topics of the conference, the skills attendees will gain, and the expertise of the conference’s speakers and leaders. His responses are below. Links to the schedule and ticketing information are provided at the bottom of the page.
What are you hoping people will get out of attending the New Wine conference?
A few concrete things we hope attendees will gain include strategies and understanding that lead to cultivating resilience and even flourishing in the midst of challenges to the faith. This involves learning how to be flexible in order to navigate our post-Christendom culture so as to be more missional, and grow in awareness and concern for those of various nations and religions — both here and abroad — who are indeed undergoing persecution. Part of this will also be learning how to discern the difference between the loss of privileges to which we as Christians have become accustomed, and actual persecution. In this way, we at The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins hope we can all be better equipped to count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus.
Why do you think the topics of the conference are important to the experience of being a Christian today?
The topics at our conference are so important precisely because they give a broader perspective on religious persecution in terms of both its history and the current global situation. This will hopefully give us perspective as we reflect upon what our Christian faith means in terms of our theo-political commitments, and how this operates on a practical level as we navigate an increasingly hostile world. Christianity has always been “political” precisely because we announce and esteem Christ as the Lord of creation. How exactly this translates into political action and theory have been matters of great debate since Christ himself. It is a question we must all ask ourselves constantly, to discern whether we are pouring the wine of Christianity into political wineskins unfit to hold it.
This can be particularly difficult for Americans precisely because of the precedents in which Christianity was (and continues to be) tightly intertwined with the idiosyncratic ins-and-outs of American politics. Our theo-political vision for what “political” means in terms of the Christian faith and the church are extremely conditioned by this history, and it deeply affects how we see things in terms of persecution and privilege. But precisely because so many presuppositions regarding both theology and politics are left unstated — especially in online forums like social media — many people appear to be talking right past one another. We have no illusions about solving this problem at our conference, but we hope by bringing to light some of the complexities of the discussion that often go unstated, new and previously unthought possibilities and perspectives might become evident as we strive to continue to build relational bridges through Jesus.
What expertise does Multnomah and its faculty bring to these topics?
Multnomah’s faculty bring a great wealth of interdisciplinary resources to bear on a topic that, of its nature, demands to be seen from a variety of angles. Our director, Dr. Paul Louis Metzger, is currently a senior scholar in residence at the Overseas Ministries Study Center and will open the conference with a recorded presentation alongside many of the missionaries and scholars there. This will set a great tone for the rest of the day. Just as importantly, all of the faculty at Multnomah genuinely care for each other, which leads to deeper interdisciplinary dialogues and bridge-building even amidst abiding disagreements. Drs. Brad Harper and Mike Gurney disagree, for example, on how best to respond to the recent controversies asking whether Christian bakers should be obligated to bake cakes for homosexual couples. While both will bring deeply considered opinions and scholarship to the table, they are also importantly friends, so their panel discussion will be seen against the background of a deep trust.
And, simply put, Multnomah faculty are great scholars. Dr. Daniel Scalberg will be helping us understand some of the history behind how Christianity did — or did not — play into the formation of America, while Dr. Karen Fancher will help us consider faithful witnesses around the globe residing in contexts of high persecution. Dr. Tony Kriz, Dr. Rebekah Josberger, and Professor Unique Page will be closing the conference with a panel session addressing how best to navigate a post-Christendom culture from their disciplinary vantage points. And much more!
Tickets for the conference are available here.
The event schedule and information about all the speakers and workshops can be found here.
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