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The Role of Religion and Race in U.S. Politics: A Post-Election Conversation on Christian Faith and Public Life


The role of religion and race is the topic of the week during the Presbyterian History and Reformed Theology Lecture Series during July 15-17 at Montreat Conference Center. “This year promises to continue to challenge our thinking about how faith and life, race and religion play out in U.S. politics,” says Charlie Raynal, director of the Presbyterian History and Reformed Theology Program (PHRT) at the seminary. “We are fortunate to be able to explore these with three such distinguished scholars and contributors to this important conversation.” Meeting for three mornings in July in Convocation Hall, participants will be challenged to consider and confront the implications religion and race in U.S. politics.

Monday’s speaker, Johnny B. Hill, will begin with a conversation focusing on “The World House (and the White House).” Drawing upon contemporary and classical work on the theology of difference, inclusion and reconciliation, he will share tools and resources to use to continue this work. Currently serving as Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Hill is the author of The First Black President: Barack Obama, Race, Politics, and the American Dream, which will feature prominently in his presentation.

On Tuesday July 16, Julia M. Speller will lead a discussion on “Black Churches and Prophetic Witness in a Political World.” Drawing on her experience with congregations and study of religious experience and practice in 20th Century US, Speller will provide a historical overview of black congregations through lenses of race, self-identification and relationship with their social and political environments. The conversation will include a discussion of the role of religious education in sustaining prophetic movements and congregations. Speller, Associate Professor of American Religious History & Culture at Chicago Theological Seminary, is a contributing author to “A Pedagogy of the Unmasked: “Unheard but Not Unvoiced, Unseen but Not Invisible,” Teaching for a Culturally Diverse and Racially Just World, scheduled for release Spring, 2013.

The series will conclude on Wednesday with Mark Douglas, who will provide both a response to the previous two days and share his thoughts on “Politics, Ethnography and the Church.” Douglas, Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Master of the Arts in Theological Studies Degree at Columbia Theological Seminary, will lead participants to consider how congregational witness is incarnational and can shape a faith community’s long term, aspirational, vision.

The series will take place from 9:00 – 11:30 AM in Convocation Hall in Assembly Inn. Paul Huh, assistant professor of worship will lead a time of worship from 9:00 – 9:30 AM, using music and liturgy associated with the topic of the day and conference as a whole. He will be assisted by Eric Wall, director of worship and music at the conference center.

Putting Feet to Our Faith: Congregations in the Public Square 

Clergy, congregational leaders and others interested in turning theory into practice are invited to a panel discussion at 12:00 noon on July 17 in Convocation Hall at Montreat Conference Center. The panel will follow the closing session of the 2013 Montreat Lecture Series, THE ROLE OF RELIGION AND RACE IN U.S. POLITICS. 

Panelists include Joe Harvard, recently-retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Durham, SC, Shannon J. Kershner, pastor at the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church, Carolyn and Charles Heyward, clergy leaders at St. James Presbyterian, Charleston, SC  and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, pastor, writer and director of the School for Conversion in Durham.

To reserve a box lunch ($9.00 plus tax includes drink, sandwich, chips, cookie, & fruit), ), CLICK HERE by July 10.  If you prefer a vegetarian option, please indicate in the comment section when you make your reservation online. Miss the deadline? Participants are welcome to bring a lunch to the discussion, which will conclude by 1:30 PM. 

The event is sponsored by Columbia Theological Seminary, Johnson C. Smith Seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center, and the Montreat Conference Center. Advance registration is not required, and there is no charge for this event.

For more information about the lecture series, contact Columbia Theological Seminary’s Center for Lifelong Learning at or call 404.687.4587. For more information about Montreat Conference Center, call 828.419.9807 or visit

Columbia Theological Seminary is committed to "educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God's changing world." As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia is a community of theological inquiry and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia offers seven graduate degree programs and dozens of lifelong learning courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people.

Update: The four sessions of the lecture series will be live streaming at the links available below:  

Michael Thompson
Director of Communications

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