A search on Google for “John Calvin” with the word liberty yields 1.2 million results. Clearly, the roots of our church are embedded in Calvin’s Institutes and his ideas about freedom. One scholar goes so far as to include Calvin in the pantheon of our nation’s Founders. This series is an opportunity to rediscover our roots, reflect on what the Bible says about how we claim our participation in community, and to examine our own responsibilities as ethical citizens. Class sessions will meet at 9:45 AM in The Atrium, the ground floor of the Oglesby Building.
June 5 • Mark Douglas • The Constantinian Capture of the Church
The conversion of Constantine marked a dramatic change in the history of the early church. From tolerated to persecuted, Christianity took on a mantle of respectability and official status. What are the implications of this history for how we view the role of the church in the public arena today? What are the theological and ethical issues we can draw from this history? Dr. Douglas is professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary.
June 12 • Rod Hunter • The Kingdom of God Versus the Reign of Caesar: How Should Idealistic, Committed Christians Relate to the World of Social Conflict, Power Politics, and the Tough Work of Governing?
Though many at Central assume that it is the Christian’s duty to play a responsible role in politics and government, the hard truth is that this is no simple matter for anyone who takes the world-challenging claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ seriously, and never has been. This presentation, which provides a foundational perspective for this year’s Summer Series on “The Political Presbyterian,” will look at five fundamental ways that Christians of all traditions have tried to answer this perennial Christian problem over the centuries. Rod Hunter is a long-time member of Central and a retired professor of pastoral theology from Emory’s Candler School of Theology.
June 19 • Beth Johnson • The New Testament and Christian Political Involvement
The New Testament deals repeatedly—and often in conflicted ways—with the politics of its day and the various ways Christians ought to interact with the state. The threat and promise of the Roman Empire to the nascent church result in multiple different attitudes toward government that have informed subsequent Christians. Beth Johnson is J. Davison Philips professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.
June 26 • John Senior • Fear in the Heart of Politics
These are anxious times for many Americans, and our politicians would have us fear one another. Political thinkers have long understood that fear is a powerful political emotion, and, in some respects, a useful one. This session examines, from a theological perspective, what fear is, how it disrupts a healthy political life, and what a faithful response to a fearful politics looks like. John Senior is a professor of Ethics and Society at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity and the author of “A Theology of Political Vocation: Christian Life and Public Office.”
July 3 • Gary Rowe • John Calvin, Talk Radio and the Renewal of Liberty
The talk radio format is widely criticized for its overheated presentations on politics. But is that a fair assessment of its impact? Does the format advance or hinder civic engagement? Gary Rowe was a principal program host during the development of the news and talk format at the Group W Westinghouse station in Chicago, WIND-AM, from 1978 to 1981.
July 10 • Chris McCain • Faith and Politics Within the Church: Reflections on the 222nd PC(USA) General Assembly
Every two years, representatives from across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gather as the General Assembly, the church's national governing body, to vote on policies and positions for the denomination. Central member Chris McCain serves as Commissioner to this year’s General Assembly and will lead this session reviewing the key decisions, the impact those decisions may have on the church, and how Presbyterians think about intersection of faith and politics within the church itself. Chris McCain serves as Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Forum for Theological Exploration, which supports young adults considering ministry and emerging scholars of color.
July 17 • Paul Zwier • John Calvin, Politics and the Pulpit
How do we understand what we call Calvinism in today’s church? John Calvin’s ideas about liberty, community and governance define and inform much of what we believe. What are the key features of this history? Paul J. Zwier is one of the nation’s most distinguished professors of advocacy and skills training and is director of Emory University’s Program for International Advocacy and Dispute Resolution and a professor of law.
July 24 • John Senior • A Politics of Gratitude
A theology of gratitude can empower a fearless politics, inviting us to imagine a common life together, one that transcends political divisiveness and aspires to the flourishing of the human community and of all creation. Drawing on Reformed theological sources, this session examines gratitude as a political virtue. John Senior is a professor of Ethics and Society at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity and the author of “A Theology of Political Vocation: Christian Life and Public Office.”
July 31 • William Yoo • The Presbyterian Struggle over Slavery in the Nineteenth Century: Contrasting Interpretations of Race, Culture, and the Bible.
William Yoo began teaching as Assistant Professor of American religious and cultural history at Columbia Theological Seminary in 2014. He is a teaching elder in the PC(U.S.A.) and member of Cherokee Presbytery. He is currently working on two book projects: a historical monograph on the evolution of the American Protestant foreign missionary enterprise in Korea and a documentary sourcebook of Presbyterian history in the United States."
August 7 • Graham Younger • Faith in Public Life - Advancing Faith Voices in the Public Square
In order to maximize the faith community’s unique ability to shape public debates, FPL identifies and creates moments of opportunity, builds and supports broad coalitions, and designs and implements innovative campaigns, bold initiatives and capacity-building tools. Graham is the Georgia Statewide Coordinator for Faith in Public Life. He graduated from Davidson College and the University of Georgia School of Law. Before FPL, Graham worked on a campaign against predatory lending, focusing on faith leaders throughout the Southeast.
August 14 • Brennan Breed • Is the Old Testament a Political Document?
For thousands of years, religious communities have wrestled with the complex and often confusing relationships between politics, the people, and God in the Old Testament. Does the Bible tell us what kind of government is best? Does God seem to have a particular set of policy goals in mind, either in the ancient world or today? We look at scripture with questions of government, political involvement and justice in view. Dr. Breed is a professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.
August 21 • Richard Griffiths • Bonfires to Breaking News
For Presbyterians to be meaningfully engaged, they must be able to trust the information on which they act. CNN VP and Senior Editorial Director Richard T. Griffiths, an elder at Trinity Presbyterian Church, will explain how his faith informs his role at CNN and how working to maintain public trust is his core mission. Griffiths will explain how editorial oversight is managed at CNN and, with real world examples, he’ll put the audience in the hot seat to wrestle difficult journalistic and ethical decisions.
August 28 • Central Members • Worship as a Political Event
Whether recognized or not there are political dimensions to liturgy. The panelists, taking advantage of their diverse educational and occupational backgrounds, will seek to unpack some of what can be meant by the title "Worship as a Political Event." Perhaps you will be surprised. Perhaps you will surprise the panel.John Huss, convener, Rod Hunter, moderator, with panelists Mark Borst, Larken McCord, Emil Runge, Lucy Strong and Paul Zwier.