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Annual Conference Information

Date: June 9-11, 2022. The pre-conference meeting will be on June 8. 

Location: The Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center in Montgomery, AL 

Theme: “Looking Back and Moving Forward: What Shall We Remember? What Shall We Not Forget?“ 

Conference Description and Goals: We are invited to the city of Montgomery, Alabama for the 2022 Annual Study Conference of the Society for Pastoral Theology. In Montgomery, the nation’s former capital of the domestic slave trade, we will encounter the history of racial terror of lynching, legalized racial segregation, and racial hierarchy in America. The place of our society’s gathering is only a few steps away from the Legacy Museum, the site of a former warehouse where tens of thousands of enslaved Black people were imprisoned and trafficked. The United States as a nation has done very little to acknowledge the painful legacy of racial inequality and injustice. Therefore, the past is still present for many individuals and communities of color.

How do pastoral theologians remember the complex legacy of racial horror, inequality, and injustice in our scholarship, teaching, activism, and faith practices? What shall we remember? What shall we not forget? In our engagement with the politics of memory, pastoral theologians historically used a psychoanalytic framework for studying memory and have now moved toward sociocultural and systemic frameworks to examine not only what is being remembered, but also how and why. How can pastoral theologians honor and uplift the untold stories of marginalized and subjugated people with integrity, equity, and compassion? How can pastoral theologians engage critical race theory more thoughtfully to address the history of racial inequality and its relationship to a range of contemporary issues from mass incarceration to police violence? As we move forward, in what ways can pastoral theologians collaborate with theological institutes, faith communities, non-profits, and civic organizations to promote the survival, renewal, and flourishing of those living under the shadow of racial inequality and injustice? How can we draw wisdom and insight from the past in order to illuminate the present and future?

The Keynote Speakers

The Steering Committee is pleased to announce that Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes and Dr. Danjuma Gibson will give the keynotes reflecting on the legacy and future of our field. 

PLENARY I: The Burden of Memory

Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes

Transatlantic slavery, Jim Crow, and lynching. American Indian genocide, land theft, and boarding schools. Japanese American internment. The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked a global call to remembrance of the crimes of White supremacy, not just against the descendants of enslaved Africans, but against nonWhite peoples throughout the Americas. On any given day, social media is alit with calls to remember historical episodes of racial injustice as well as the names of contemporary victims of extrajudicial anti-Black, anti-Brown, and anti-Asian violence. This year’s SPT theme enjoins us to “remember the complex legacy of racial horror, inequality, and injustice in our scholarship, teaching, activism, and faith practices.” But what is the burden of memory? Who bears that burden? And how do we ensure that the burden of memory does not become yet another addition to the weight of racial injustice?

PLENARY II: Soul Care from a Region in My Mind: A Baldwinian Interpretation

Dr. Danjuma Gibson

James Baldwin existed in a world not unlike ours today. He contended with the recalcitrance of white supremacy, wrestled with hopelessness after political and social setbacks, and grappled with the prospect of nuclear annihilation by world powers seeking greater domination. Baldwin’s writings sought to redeem the human project corrupted by these threats. His work evidenced peculiar insight into the human psyche and a deep care for souls ravaged by western hegemony. How could Baldwin’s work inform spiritual care during bleak times and sustain hope in the democratic experiment?

Immersion Experiece

We will visit the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Dr. Cedric Johnson will facilitate our conversation before and after the visit. This will be one of the key experiences of this conference, and the ticket prices are included in the registration fee.

Work in Progress

What are Chaplains Learning? Perspectives from the Supply-Side A Project of Chaplaincy Innovation Lab’s Chaplains as the Facilitators of Covenantal Pluralism 
Presenters: Grace Tien and Trace Haythorn

Employers, practitioners, educators, and leaders in the field of chaplaincy have differing views about the training chaplains need to do their jobs well. This research maps the “supply side” of chaplaincy, a complex array of organizations, agencies, and institutions that train and credential chaplains. Drawing on curricular materials, archival documents, and interviews, we examine how professional chaplains are trained to work in the United States, what they learn, and what institutions are involved in the process. While the training organizations on the supply side of chaplaincy and spiritual care do share some important learning objectives, they do not work as a unified system in a way that is efficient for students or builds a strong and consistent workforce of chaplains to strengthen the field.

Society Luncheon Speaker

“Foolish the World’s Wisdom: Notes on Forsaken Callings and Spiritual Longings” 

Presener: Dr. Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore 

Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore is E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor Emerita of Religion, Psychology, and Culture at the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion of Vanderbilt University. A Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology and an author, co-author, and editor of over sixteen books as well as over a hundred chapters and articles, she has particular interest in the person and lived theology in the midst of everyday struggles, such as illness, dying, working, and parenting. A nationally and internationally recognized leader in pastoral and practical theologies and in women and childhood studies, she has served as president of the International Academy of Practical Theology, president of the Association of Practical Theology, and co-founder and co-chair of two program units of the American Academy of Religion, Practical Theology and Childhood Studies in Religion.

Workshops

Resistance Narratives of Unhoused People 

Workshop Presenters: Susan Dunlap and Travis Albritton 

Walking by the boat landing in Montgomery one sees where riverboats used to discharge enslaved human beings to be sold at auction houses up the street. Race-based systems of enslavement in the US were deeply embedded in capitalism, and neoliberal capitalism, “capitalism on steroids,” allied with white supremacy, continues to create and maintain “deep poverty”; the rate of homelessness among people of color is three times that of white people. Yet, under circumstances of disconnection and deprivation, many unhoused people continue to practice their faith. Calling on a recent ethnography in a homeless shelter, we explore the particulars of that faith and how it functions as a form of resistance to oppressive social and economic forces. This workshop draws on critical race theory to understand these religious expressions, in particular testimony, as counternarratives that subvert majoritarian narratives of who they are.In addition, considering white supremacy and neoliberalism as forms of national idolatry, we call on the congregations of privileged groups to “get proximate” (Bryan Stevenson) to the margins as the beginning of loosening the bondage to our national idolatry.

Understanding and Addressing the Intersection of Spiritual Struggles and Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore 

Workshop Presenter: Jill Snodgrass 

Previous attempts to understand the impact of clergy sexual abuse on victim-survivors and Catholics more generally have failed to examine the unique experiences of Black Catholics, a marginalized and frequently disregarded contingent in the U.S. Catholic church. The media coverage and the stories told about clergy sexual abuse in the U.S. largely feature White perpetrators and White victim-survivors in a way that erroneously presents the situation as a “White problem.” The study grounding the proposed workshop began to rectify this situation by giving voice to how clergy sexual abuse impacts the spiritual experiences of Black Catholics and former Catholics in the wider Baltimore area, a city at the foundation of Catholicism in the U.S. This workshop will present preliminary findings from the mixed-methods study as a foundation for critical dialogue regarding how pastoral theologians can “collaborate with theological institutes, faith communities, non-profits, and civic organizations to promote the survival, renewal, and flourishing” of Black Catholics, all Catholics, former Catholics, and others who have experienced spiritual struggles as a result of both the proximal and distal impacts of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the United States.

The Psychology of Christian Nationalism: How People Are Drawn in and How to Talk across the Divide 

Workshop Presenter: Pamela Cooper-White 

In the aftermath of the November 2022 elections, this workshop offers a timely opportunity to discuss one of the powerful forces within Christianity that has supported and given momentum to right-wing extremism in the U.S. This workshop will give participants an opportunity to hear about Pamela Cooper-White’s research for the book of the same title, “The Psychology of Christian Nationalism.” This research examines the phenomenon of Christian nationalism and its distorted use of Christianity as a cover for white male supremacy and a right-wing power agenda. The first part of the workshop will present who Christian nationalists are, their beliefs, and what social and psychological factors draw them into this movement. The second part will open up a discussion based on recommendations in the book for whether, when, and how to engage in constructive dialogue with Christian nationalist-leaning individuals, and when to better devote one’s energies more widely toward public education and social justice advocacy.

Remember the Future: The Normativity of the Future in Narrative Pastoral Care

Workshop Presenter: Armin M. Kummer 

In this workshop we will discuss the dangers of an excessive attachment to the past in narrative pastoral care. When depicting individual life stories, one pertinent, and potentially pernicious, metaphor in our neoliberal capitalist culture is the staircase or the ladder. The upward movement – climbing the ladder – stands for everything society values as success. Every step is supposed to bring one higher in terms of personal responsibility, social esteem, or financial reward. For most people, middle age is the time when this normative trajectory reaches its peak. What lies ahead suffers from social stigma. The imagery of descent and decline rarely carries positive connotations. This makes any form of stepping down such a painful experience. At this point, there is a strong temptation to give in to a longing for the past. The biblical tradition knows the calcified fate of Lot’s wife in Genesis 19 as a powerful indictment of the paralyzing and life-denying effects of nostalgia. In narrative pastoral care, it is therefore important to keep the normativity of the past at bay. Narrative identities built on the – in most cases self-servingly glorified or defensively justified – past are often delusional and hence precarious. In this workshop, we will explore how pastoral caregivers can rebalance this tendency with “a future-oriented focus that can support our capacity to imagine new and better worlds“ (M. Moschella) and discern glimmers of the inbreaking of God’s eschatological future – “God’s dream for creation” – into the present (R. Bieringer).

Movement of Integration: The Window of Tolerance and Playing with its Edges Through the Practice of Yoga 

Workshop presenter: Karin Craven 

This workshop emerges from my sustained curiosity about the sensate experience of movement. In our lifelong journey we navigate inner and outer landscapes. The Bible is a testament to such movement. So is the flow of liturgy. Seemingly, we have lost touch with the permeable reciprocal flow of energy and information from our inner experience and the outer world. How we work with emotional resonance matters, especially in a globalized environment as we week to navigate the paradox of tension between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be. Inspired by notions of play and decades of yoga practice, this experiential workshop draws on insights from neuroscience and psychology, poetry and theology. The goal is to provide an integrative experience of body movement that can guide, lead and sustain one’s own journey of remembering and letting go; of taking joy in the freedom of movement; of enlarging and resting in the spaciousness of curiosity, openness, acceptance and love. The intention is to build resilience and emotional capacity, freeing us to move and meet others for the sake of the movement forward.

Cultivating Resilience and Liberation: Racial Identity Development as Religious and Spiritual Struggle 

Workshop Presenters: Melissa Lemons and Beth Toler 

Racial identity is a multi-dimensional construct and a dynamic developmental process that occurs over the span of a person’s entire life. Like the prevailing models of psycho- social development, racial identity development includes a series of crisis that a person must experience and navigate. To better understand the process of racial identity development, this workshop will engage racial identity development through the lens of moral stress and spiritual struggle. Implications for clinical counseling will be explored.

Study Groups

1. Pastoral Theology and Climate Change 

Christine Tind Johannessen ( ctj@km.dk ) & Pamela McCarroll (pam.mccarroll@utoronto.ca ) 

The “Pastoral Theology and Climate Change” Special Interest Group aims to address the multiple environmental crises of our world in order to highlight these issues on the contemporary agenda of pastoral theological research, practice and education. As a forum 7 for constructive conversation and development of theoretical thoughts and inspiration for theological practice, the special interest group seeks to deconstruct the anthropocentric metaphors and methodological priorities common to our field. With reference to practice(s) the group also seeks to reconstruct ways of thinking about and responding to creational and human suffering (trauma, ecoanxiety, solastalgia, ‘speciesism,’ sexism, racism, gender exclusion, eco-grief etc.). The group organisers will start out with two group interactive presentations: the first presentation will deconstruct methodological priorities in pastoral theology in “the age of the Anthropocene,” and consider implications for the field in a climate-changed world; the second presentation will present systematic eco-theological resources to support the field in re-imagining pastoral care and education in the face of a climate-changed future. In the aggregate this special interest group seeks to present resources to aid in re-constructing the interdisciplinary, intercultural and multi-religious field from eco-theology, environmental studies and ecopsychology and invites participants to join together in envisioning pastoral theological priorities and practices for times such as ours. In our meeting in 2022, we invite participants to share their research and interest in the area.

2. Religious Practices and Pastoral Research 

Mary Clark Moschella (mary.moschella@yale.edu) & Raynard Smith (rsmith@nbts.edu) 

The Religious Practices and Pastoral Research Group offers colleagues a chance to hear or present recent work that may involve empirical research, ethnography, congregational or theoretical reflective topics related to pastoral research. To inquire about the group, email the group leaders.

3. Embodiment 

Chanequa Walker-Barnes (walker-barnes_cj@mercer.edu) & Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner (jmoessne@smu.edu) 

The Embodiment Study Group is issuing a call for papers related to the topic of embodiment, theory, practices and pedagogy. The group will serve as a forum within which participants can present journal articles, book chapters, and other works in progress, receive collegial feedback, and engage in fruitful discussion. To submit a paper for presentation, email an abstract of your paper to the Embodiment group leaders by May 1.

 

4. Brain Sciences and Pastoral Theology 

Esther E. Acolatse (esther.acolatse@utoronto.ca) &  Jason Whitehead (jason@winterhawke.com) 

The brain sciences and pastoral theology study group attempts to bring contemporary findings in the neurosciences into dialogue with pastoral theology and pastoral psychology. Areas of interest include topics such as mind/brain relationship, biological processes underlying human suffering and healing, the relational brain, and theological anthropology. Both formal presentations and 8 emerging discussion have been centerpieces of earlier meetings. Information on this year’s presenter will be announced as soon as it is available.

5. Postcolonialism, Globalization and Pastoral Care 

Fulgence Nyengele (fnyengele@mto.edu), Cedric Johnson (cedcjohnson@gmail.com) & Hee-Kyu Heidi Park (Heidi.park@me.com) 

The postcolonialism, globalization, and pastoral care study group explores and encourages postcolonial approaches to pastoral care, while giving particular attention to the employment of globalization as an interpretive lens in the development of pastoral care practices. For our purposes, “postcolonial,” refers not simply to a period in history, but also to a strategic response to the contemporary context of domination and differentiation. The interests of postcolonialism are focused on those at the margins, whose traditions and identities have been dislocated by domination or left uncertain by the forces of globalization. We examine the myriad of ways in which these forces impact, often traumatically, the lived realities of populations worldwide and their implications for pastoral care. Participants interested in presenting are encouraged to submit a paper proposal via email to the coordinators by April 15, 2022 noting your selected area of interest.

6. Theological Dimensions of Family 

 Penny L. Taylor (PennyLeeTaylor@yahoo.com) & William G. “Bill” Ressl (billressl@yahoo.com) 

TDFSG is an interdisciplinary pastoral theological study group for persons interested in bridging divinity with social work, psychology, and other human sciences. The group explores family and the rapidly expanding theological dimensions of what it means to be family. The focus is to provide opportunities for students and professions to present their research in relationship to the rapidly expanding concepts of the family. The conveners of this study group welcome presentations that explore topics with such focus. To inquire about the group, email the group leaders.

Pre-Conference for Scholars and Practitioners of Color

The pre-conference for scholars and practitioners of color starts with an evening dinner gathering on Wednesday, June 8th and panel discussions and dialogue on Thursday morning June 9th. There will be two panel sessions as follows: 

Session I: “Pastoral Theologians of Color look back” and Session II “Pastoral Theologians of Color Move Forward” 

Emmanuel Lartey will serve as the faculty leader. The organizing committee is AHyun Lee, Arelis Benitez, and Hamin Kwak. For additional information regarding the pre- conference contact Hamin Kwak at hamin.kwak@garrett.edu.

Steering Committee 2021-2022

  • Chair/Treasurer: Jim Higginbotham (higgija@earlham.edu)
  • Vice Chair: Hee-Kyu Heidi Park (Heidi.park@me.com)
  • Corresponding Secretary: Jessica Chapman Lape (revchapmanlape@gmail.com)
  • Recording Secretary: Leanna Fuller (lfuller@pts.edu)
  • Information & Technology: David Cho (eunildavidcho@gmail.com)