A two-day summit in April, to refocus in on the theological foundation that forms the United Church of Christ, has lined up several dynamic panelists to lead the dialogue — and has now opened event registration to interested people across the life of the church.
'From the Ground Up: Re-Imagining Theological Formation' hopes to bring together 150 participants April 9-10, in Cleveland, Ohio for a critical conversation around the values and beliefs that form and focus the denomination, and defines who we are…what we think…what we do…in the world.
"We won't be relevant, as people of faith, individually, in our communities of faith, and as the United Church of Christ, unless we build our life, work, and actions on solid theological formation," said the Rev. Alice Hunt, former president of Chicago Theological Seminary, and vice-chair of the UCC Board of Directors. "This summit is designed to jump start our collective work. We are asking UCC people to come prepared to work, and to work together."
A keynote presentation by Bishop Yvette Flunder of City of Refuge UCC in Oakland, Calif., will launch the summit. A preacher, teacher, author and artist, Flunder has served her call to blend proclamation, worship, service and advocacy on behalf of those most marginalized in church and in society through prophetic action and ministry for justice for over thirty years.
"Along with the vibrant, challenging voice and thought leadership of Bishop Flunder, we are bringing together a diverse panel to inspire provocative thinking," said UCC Chief Strategy Officer Cheryl Joseph Williams. "How are we intentional about theological formation as the basis for our discipleship, what is our vision for theological formation, where is it that we have our most profound theologically formative encounters, what is it that God is shaping us into individually and collectively, what do we need to invest of ourselves to get there, and how should the church resource this?"
The three additional panelists, chosen to engage those in attendance in theological formation through a variety of denominational lenses, include a UCC seminary president, a UCC pastor and philanthropist, and a Jewish rabbi.
The Rev. David Greenhaw, President and Professor of Preaching and Worship at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., lectures and publishes on the revitalization of mainline Protestantism around the country.
The Rev. Starsky Wilson, President and CEO of Deaconess Foundation and pastor of Saint John's Church in St. Louis, Mo., has led congregational activism on myriad issues, including youth violence prevention, Medicaid expansion, public school accreditation, voter mobilization, capping payday lending and raising the minimum wage.
Rabbi Susan Talve, the founding rabbi of Central Reform Congregation, the only Jewish congregation located within the city limits of St. Louis, Mo., teaches courses on Jewish life and thought in both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. She has led her congregation in promoting radical inclusivity by developing ongoing relationships with African-American and Muslim congregations, and by fostering civil liberties for the LGBTQ community.
"Bishop Flunder will start us off by creating space for us to lay all our presuppositions on the table," Joseph Williams said. "Rev. David Greenhaw will help us consider the historic, systemic and institutional opportunities for theological formation, Rabbi Susan Talve will bring an interfaith perspective on theological formation as an activist focused on radical inclusivity, justice and the common ground of human dignity, and Rev. Starsky Wilson will speak to the centrality of theological formation for the work of immersive social justice and faith in action."
"Everywhere I travel, people are talking about the Summit for Theological Formation," said the Rev. John Dorhauer, UCC general minister and president. "There is a broad consensus that we should continue to invest in equipping new disciples for the mission they are called to, and that we need to think creatively about the best ways to form them as emerging disciples. I am very excited about this, and hopeful that the gathering will demonstrate clear commitments to our ongoing support for Theological Formation."
Registration for the summit is now open, and the event will be held at the Westin Hotel in downtown Cleveland.
"We invite any who have an interest in and/or passion for shaping the basis of our lives of faith to come to Cleveland," said Joseph Williams."Help us explore all the facets of this topic at From the Ground Up."
Early Bird Registration through February 6 is $135.00. After that date, the registration fee will be $175.00. Register here today.