“Behold…a new thing”: The 2009 Earl Lectures at Pacific School of Religion

December 2, 2008

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, to be held on the Pacific School of Religion campus in Berkeley, CA, January 27-29, 2009, will provide 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,” will be held in the Ecumenical Center of Berkeley, the former University Christian Church, at 2401 Scenic Avenue, across the street from Pacific School of Religion (PSR). It will mark the first time the lectures have been held here since 1949.

The program includes three days of public lectures and workshops open to people in ministry and the general public. It will be 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 will guide exploration of popular culture, generational change, and religious innovation in North America. There will also be a screening of the new film, The Ordinary Radicals, a feature-length documentary about “a conspiracy of faith in the margins of empire.”

Jay Bakker has written about his parents (Jim and Tammy Faye) in Son of a Preacher Man: My Search for Grace in the Shadows, and is a pastor of Revolution Church in New York City, “a ministry to a disillusioned subculture.” Bruce Reyes-Chow is pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, an innovative new church of San Francisco Presbytery that was named winner of a 2007 award for outstanding new church development. 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.

Gerardo Marti, assistant professor of sociology at Davidson College in North Carolina, is the author of A Mosaic of Believers: Diversity and Innovation in a Multiethnic Church (2005) and Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church (2008), which has been called “a rare book about American religion amidst changing race relations, advanced capitalism, and evangelicalism.” 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.

The 2009 Earl Lectures are the 108th in a series that began with an endowment gift made in 1901 by Edwin T. Earl for the purpose of bringing eminent scholars to Berkeley to speak on themes important to Christian thought and life. Past Earl Lecturers include Theodore Roosevelt, Paul Tillich, Elie Wiesel, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Gustavo Gutierrez. Since 1921, the Earl Lectures have been accompanied by a Pastoral Conference for clergy and lay people, now called a Leadership Conference.

The Earl Lectures are free and open to the public. Registration for the Leadership Conference workshops is $99 through January 19, $125 after January 19, 2009. To register, people may go to PSR’s Web site, www.psr.edu/earllectures, or call 510/849-8218 or 800/999-0528, ext. 8218.