Dr. Grafton, Academic Dean and Professor of Christian and Islamic Studies, Hartford Seminary, discusses his newest book which he edited, More Than a Cup of Coffee and Tea which was published this year. The book explores some of the important documents and themes that have emerged over the years in the area of Christian-Muslim relations. The book is accessible to both church leaders and laypersons. The global perspective of the book highlights programs and experiences around the world where Lutherans and other Christians encounter and build on the experiences of their Muslim neighbors. In his reflections on seminaries and Muslim issues, Grafton was enthusiastic about the number of seminaries who are including Islamic studies in their courses of studies. He feels that such additions to the curriculum help rostered church leaders to educate congregational members against Islamophobia.
Dr. Charles Leonard, Professor of Practical Theology at United Lutheran Seminary; pastor of St. Marks Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, PA talks about the top story for religion in 2020. COVID-19 and its effect on congregational life. The conversation included the pandemic and church membership, connecting members with each other in this virtual environment, difficulties in Christian education, and post pandemic changes to church culture as we have known it in the past.
Dr. Darlis Swan, the Ecumenical Representative of the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), details the ecumenical movement in the United States. She defined “ecumenical” and went on to share her interest in ecumenism from her seminary studies to her work in the Office of Ecumenical Affairs of the ELCA. She also discussed:
- The transition from the ecumenical movement from the U.S. to the global context.
- Suggested readings on the ecumenical movement
- The involvement of congregational members in ecumenical work
- Ecumenical relationships of the ELCA
Chaplain Palmer and Chaplain Meeker liken the role of Army chaplains to parish pastors insofar as they are responsible for Word and Sacrament but emphasize the role of “incarnational ministry” in their total involvement in the life of the soldier. Special challenges are the visits to families when a son or daughter is killed, and in recent years the need to address post-traumatic stress. For all this, chaplains must undergo a rigorous course of study in addition to basic training. Both Chaplains Meeker and Palmer encourage seminarians and others to consider a career in ministry to the military.
• Chaplain Glenn Palmer, Chief, Training Development Division, US Army Chaplain Center and School, Ft. Jackson SC
• Chaplain Karen Meeker, Chief, Recruiting Division, Office of Chief of Chaplains, Pentagon, Washington DC
Pastor Andrew Geib, Associate Pastor, St. James Lutheran Church in Gettysburg, identified nine top stories in religion for the year 2019: ELCA Church Sanctuary issue, United Methodist possible split, Women in the Church, Collapse of Christianity, the burning of Notre Dame in Paris, and more. While the stories were mostly grim, he ends with word of hope for listeners.
Dr. Christian B. Keller, Professor of History and General Dwight D. Eisenhower Chair of National Security, Department of National Security and Strategy, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA, and author of The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy, argues that the Christian connection between Lee and Jackson was a significant glue that bonded the two generals’ friendship, and this in turn supported their strong professional relationship. Although one was Episcopal and the other a Presbyterian, they were both firm believers in Divine Providence, and as evangelical providentialists, were not that different from many Americans of that era.
Ron Couchman, a 52-year member of the Gettysburg College staff was the former Registrar and is currently working in Special Collections and College Archives, shares his personal story of coming out as a gay man with the help of therapy and his congregation, St. James, Gettysburg.
With the leadership of a task force of which he is a member and the support of the pastors, the congregation has adopted Reconciling in Christ which emphasizes welcome, equality, and justice. The task force holds a celebration of “Reconciling” each January. He recommends a helpful resource, “ReconcilingWorks,” as a way for congregations to build community beyond itself.
United Lutheran Seminary Master of Divinity student Michael McMullen shares his ministry of providing liturgical robes to pastors, choirs and other organizations in need through the non-profit organization Robe Gifting International. Based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Robe Gifting International collects, refurbishes and distributes used liturgical robes around the globe to those in need at no cost.
In a conversation with Fran Quigley the Seminary Explores learns of some deeply-held misconceptions we have about drug costs, the urgency for change, and how people of faith might fit in. Quigley is Clinical Professor and Director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law. He is the author of four books: Prescription for the People: An Activist’s Guide to Making Medicine Affordable for All, If We Can Win Here, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, and Walking Together, Walking Far.
Phil Roth talks about his experience as a volunteer in the PAX program sponsored by the Mennonite Church as his alternative service for the military in the mid-1950s. He described the history of the program as well as the challenges for him and his fellow workers.