I just finished the third and final day of the Christians Scholars’ Conference at Lipscomb University. This year the theme was Reconciliation. I attended about 6 different individual sessions and 4 plenary speeches by some major headliners. The sessions were very well-done and aligned with several of my interests.
The plenary speeches came from Randy Lowry (subbing for Abraham Verhese), Miroslov Volf, Fred Gray, and Immaculée Ilibagiza.
Randy Lowry is the president of the university and a professional mediator, and he had some poignant and helpful thoughts, especially since he had to develop the speech on short notice.
Miroslav Volf is a teacher at Yale, and he specializes in the subject of reconciliation. I had heard his name, but I was unfamiliar with his work. After hearing him talk, I definitely want to dive into some more of his books. He added some helpful theoretical dimensions to conflict and reconciliation along with practical considerations for living an authentic Christian life in a world with many competing faiths. I bought his book A Public Faith and was able to get him to sign it.
Since I saw the announcements for this conference nearly 9 months earlier, I had been looking forward to one name in particular, and he did not disappoint. The highlight of the conference was definitely Fred Gray, who touched both the history of churches of Christ and the Civil Rights Movement in profound ways. Mr. Gray, a member of churches of Christ, graduated from the Nashville Christian Institute in 1947 and traveled around with Marshall Keeble on several preaching trips. As a young lawyer, Mr. Gray represented Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as landmark cases on voter rights and segregation. He also represented the Freedom Riders, the 1965 Selma March and the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study. At the conference, Mr. Gray was given an honorary doctorate.
The conference closed with a plenary speech by Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan Holocaust who now advocates for peace and reconciliation in the aftermath of such horrible circumstances. She spoke about the role of her faith in shaping her life and the resistance she felt in extending forgiveness. Her story was so compelling that I had to buy her book, too. So, I now have a signed copy of Left to Tell.
The other major event occurred during the lunch on Thursday. Dr. Ed Harrell was presented with a festschrift, which is a volume of articles collected by students and colleagues in dedication to a scholar. I attended an accompanying session on Harrell and his work. Many colleagues noted that he was unusual in that he was a man with conservative convictions that made his living in the liberal academy.
The other sessions I attended covered a variety of topics including the New Perspective, faith and works, restoration history, race relations, reconciliation, civil discourse and civil religion. The conference left me stimulated and encouraged. As usual, I would love to chase down about 10 trains of thought and read as many books. I’ll add them to my list of things to do, and maybe I will get to them one day.