2009: Behold… A New Thing: Emerging Expressions of Faithfulness

Earl Lectures and Leadership Conference, January 27–29, 2009


There is something new emerging inside, alongside, and even outside the familiar institutions and expressions of Christianity in North America. What will this “new thing” be, and how will it affect the traditional church? The 2009 Earl Lectures, held on the Pacific School of Religion campus January 27-29, 2009, provided an opportunity to experience and reflect critically on new forms of spirituality and worship associated with the emerging church.

The 108th Earl Lectures and Leadership Conference, entitled “Behold…a New Thing: Emerging Expressions of Faithfulness,” was held in the Ecumenical Center of Berkeley, the former University Christian Church, and marked the first time the lectures had been held on Holy Hill since 1949.

The program included three days of public lectures and workshops open to people in ministry and the general public. It was led by three “emerging church” figures, Jay Bakker, Bruce Reyes-Chow, and Karen Ward; and by scholars Gerardo Marti and PSR's Boyung Lee. They guided explorations of popular culture, generational change, and religious innovation in North America. There was also a screening of the new film, The Ordinary Radicals, a feature-length documentary about “a conspiracy of faith in the margins of empire."

2009 Earl Lecturers, Preachers, and Workshop Leaders


Jay Bakker is a 32-year-old pastor who grew up witnessing both the good and bad of the church. His parents are Jim and Tammy Faye, ministers-turned-TV-hosts who helped start both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the 700 Club in the 1970s, and later founded PTL (Praise The Lord) Club. At the height of their popularity, they pastored the largest church in the country–until their lives were changed by one of the biggest scandals in American history. Jay was exposed to the dark underbelly of religion--an experience that would stay with him to this day. After witnessing firsthand the excommunicative treatment his family received from the church, Jay wanted nothing to do with God. And so began a new life filled with substances easily abused and nonstop partying created to mask the pain and suffering caused by this surreal rejection. Eventually, Jay was able to conquer his demons and made a personal decision to find out who God really was. What he discovered floored him–God wasn’t some judgmental, condemning deity sitting on a throne waving an angry fist in the direction of sinners–rather, he was an understanding God offering his gift of love and grace with no strings attached. As a result of this discovery, Jay started a church for those who feel rejected by traditional approaches to Christianity; this church is called Revolution. The idea behind Revolution is to show all people the unconditional love and grace of Jesus without any reservations due to their lifestyles or background, past or future. In the desire to bypass geographical boundaries, all services are recorded and posted on the Revolution Church Web site to create an “online church for people who have given up on church.” In addition to pastoring Revolution, Jay travels the country speaking to churches and organizations, encouraging them to reach out to the lost and hurting. His goal is to return to the grassroots of Christianity founded on inclusion, love and grace. Jay has spoken at numerous festivals and churches as well as appeared both on television (Sundance Channel’s “One Punk Under God,” Larry King Live, 20/20, Good Morning America) and in print (inlcuding Rolling Stone, New York Times, Time).

Jay Emerson Johnson, a theologian and Episcopal priest, earned his PhD in philosophical theology from the Graduate Theological Union. He has worked for PSR's Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry since 2003 and is currently the CLGS senior director. He also teaches courses at PSR and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, both GTU member schools, and recently joined the core doctoral faculty in theology at the GTU. From 2001 to 2007, Johnson served as co-chair of Gay Men’s Issues in Religion group of the American Academy of Religion. He has also served as a parish priest in the Episcopal Dioceses of Chicago and California, and is currently a clergy associate at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Berkeley. Johnson has published articles on theology and sexuality and his first book, Dancing with God: Anglican Christianity and the Practice of Hope, was published in 2005. His current research and writing interests involve the intersections of queer theory and Christian traditions. Johnson is a popular retreat leader and facilitator of adult education programs in the Bay Area and around the country.

Boyung Lee, associate professor of educational ministries at Pacific School of Religion, is the author of the forthcoming "Restoring Community in the Mainline: A Pedagogical Guide to Communal Faith and Ministry." She is a postcolonial feminist religious educator who teaches and studies the interaction of pop culture and theology. 



Richard Lindsay is a PhD student in Art and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union. Since graduating with an MDiv from Yale University in 2004, he has worked in media relations and communications with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Soulforce, and at Pacific School of Religion and the Center ffor Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. In 2008, he co-led a young adult outreach at Presbyterian General Assembly with That All May Freely Serve, a grassroots organization working for full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Richard has preached and led worship at churches and conferences in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, and California.


Gerardo Marti is a sociologist and author of three books: A Mosaic of Believers: Diversity and Innovation in a Multiethnic Church (Indiana University Press, 2005), Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church (Rutgers University Press, 2008), and Worship across the Racial Divide: Notions of Race and the Practice of Religious Music in Multiracial Churches (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). After 15 years as an ordained pastor, he received his PhD at the University of Southern California and became assistant professor of sociology at Davidson College. Dr. Marti is active in several research partnerships and currently holds the Lynette S. Autrey visiting professorship of religious studies at Rice University. As a sociologist of religion, his broad interests include worship and the arts, racial and ethnic diversity, 20- and 30-something religion, theological adaptations, and congregational responses to social change.


Yuri Morita is the Director of the Empowerment Center located in Nishinomiya, Japan. The center offers professional training sessions for the workers/volunteers in the field of prevention/intervention of violence against children and women, diversity, and human rights. It also runs unique performing programs for empowering women and children. Morita has been a strong advocate of nonviolence and empowerment as a professional trainer, therapist, author and story teller. Morita has published over 25 books, two of which received national awards. Recently, she received the 57th Public Health Award for 25 years of leadership and pioneering work in the field of prevention of violence against women and children. Morita holds a master's degree from the Graduate Theological Union.

Nicole Naffaa has served as Pacific School of Religion's Director of Recruitment and Admissions for the last six years. She is ordained clergy in the United Church of Christ, and a pastor in covenant at New Spirit Community Church in Berkeley, where she is involved with worship leadership. Nicole has participated in the music program at New Spirit for six years, and has been singing in choirs since grade school.



Bruce Reyes-Chow, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church(USA) since 1995, founded Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco in 2000. As the main speaker-preacher at MBCC, Reyes-Chow believes that "a good message is one that is relevant, compelling, and creates an emotional and intellectual connection between life and faith." He is firmly convinced that "life is chaotic and that the key to finding security amidst the chaos is not to put life in a rigidly controlled box, but to embrace and claim God's presence in the ambiguity." In 2008, at the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA), Reyes-Chow was elected the youngest moderator in the history of the assembly. He is currently serving a two- year term bringing a message of hope and rejuvenation. This self avowed "pastor-hack-geek-dad-moderator" has created an engaged and relevant ministry for his peers while interpreting it to the wider church.


Keith Stafford, who received his MDiv from PSR in 1978, has been writing, collecting, and sharing songs from a variety of sources that celebrate “the glory of the presence in all” for almost 40 years. In 1984 Keith founded the Gorilla Choir which gathered every week for 20 years and sang at hospitals, fairs, retreats, and "come-unity" rituals of every persuasion. Keith has been singing and leading devotional songs at New Spirit Community Church for more than a year.



Roland Stringfellow earned a bachelor of science degree in education and a master of science degree in counseling from Indiana University. He later earned a master of arts degree in ministry from Grace Theological Seminary and in 1990 became a licensed minister in the Baptist Church. In 2005, Roland was ordained with the Metropolitan Community Church and in 2006 earned his MDiv from PSR with a certificate in religion and sexuality. He has worked as a pastor in Indiana and California. Roland also worked in the field of education in a variety of capacities – teacher, guidance counselor, college advisor, and vice-principal. Currently, Stringfellow is continuing his work in creating dialogues on the topic of LGBT equality with church congregations and in religious institutions in his role as the coordinator of the Coalition of Welcoming Congregations in the Bay Area with PSR's Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Sexuality.


Rebecca Voelkel, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, is the director of Institute for Welcoming Resources and Faith Work for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Before coming to the Task Force, she served as interim national coordinator for the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns, as pastor of Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ; and as Program Staff for the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence. Voelkel is the author of Preventing Sexual Abuse: A Course of Study for Teenagers (Pilgrim Press, 1996), as well as numerous articles and sermons which have appeared in such journals as Spirit Currents, The Journal of Religion and Abuse, Creating Change, and Parenting for Peace and Justice. She is a faith-based community organizing trainer as well as workshop presenter on a wide variety of faith-based justice issues. She is a graduate of Earlham College and Yale Divinity School, and is currently working towards a DMin at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Voelkel is a theologian, pastor, and organizer and has devoted her life’s ministry to following Jesus’ command to minister in partnership with “the least of these,” ones whom society has deemed outcast, unclean, or unworthy. This commitment constantly challenges her to ground her thinking and her acting in real-life situations that make real-life differences. Voelkel is also a runner, hiker, biker, and avid community-builder, spending time with friends and family as often as she can. She and her partner, Maggie, are parents of one year-old Shannon MacKenzie.

Karen Ward is an abbess and founding pastor of Church of the Apostles in Seattle, an emerging monastic, incarnational Christian community of the Episcopal Church USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.