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Rethinking the Christian Left from the Belly of Empire: Charting New Paths Beyond Colonization

Christian Left Conference, July 23 and 24, 2021

Christian Left Conference 2021

What does it mean to speak of a Christian Left?

Who is included under the label the Christian Left? In the last decades, the Christian left has been undergoing enormous reconfiguration: new actors, issues and concerns have uncovered the colonial underbelly of the Christian Left. From the Suffrage movements through to the Social Gospel, and continuing through liberation theologies and political theologies to today, these reconfigurations have included an emergence of different approaches to reading the Bible, the articulation of alternative approaches to theology and ethics and the crossing of disciplinary boundaries. These various actors have complexified idealized notions of the Christian Left in Canada and across the globe, and invite us to critique and dismantle its colonizing features. 

We are excited to announce that our two keynote speakers are Dr. Mayann Francis and Néstor Medina!

Registration

Please join us for our second edition of the Christian Left Conference! All panel discussions and keynote talks are free and online, but registration is required. A Zoom link will be emailed to registrants a few days prior to the conference.

Overview

The theme for the conference is Rethinking the Christian Left from the Belly of Empire: Charting New Paths Beyond Colonization, reflecting on the emergence of historical “new” actors and voices in the Christian Left. The conference will be held online July 23- 24, 2021. The Christian Left Conference is hosted by Emmanuel College’s Centre for Religion and Its Contexts, Trinity St. Paul's United Church, the Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics of The Institute for Christian Studies and the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre.

Keynote Speakers
Keynote Speakers

The Honourable Dr. Mayann Francis, ONS served as Lieutenant Governor for the province of Nova Scotia, from 2006-2012. She was the first African Nova Scotian and second woman to be appointed as the vice regal representative. In December 2020, Dr. Francis began her appointment as the Dean's Warden for the Cathedral of All Saints. In 2020, Dr. Francis completed a five-year appointment as the first Distinguished Public Service Fellow to Dalhousie's Faculty of Management, School of Public Administration.

She is the recipient of six honourary degrees and an Honorary Diploma. She has served in many leadership roles including Chair of the Board for the Atlantic School of theology. Her memoir, Mayann Francis, An Honourable Life, was named one of The Hill Times’ 100 best non-fiction books in 2019 and was shorted listed for The Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award in June 2020.

Dr. Néstor Medina is Assistant Professor of Religious Ethics at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto. He engages ethics from contextual, liberationist, intercultural, and post/decolonial perspectives.  He explores the ethical implications of religious/theological debates, and how these shape concrete social structures and notions of ethnoracial and cultural identity. He also studies how lived religious experiences shape/transform people’s understandings of ethics on the ground, especially reflecting from Latina/o/x (Canadian and USA), Latin American, and Latina/o Pentecostal perspectives. For the last 10 years, he has been studying the ethical implications of interethnic and intercultural relations particularly in connection with indigenous communities in Canada and Latin America. He is the author of Mestizaje: (Re)Mapping ‘Race,’ Culture, and Faith in Latina/o Catholicism (Orbis, 2009), a booklet On the Doctrine of Discovery (CCC, 2017), and more recent, Christianity, Empire and the Spirit (Brill 2018).

Schedule: Friday, July 23, 2021

Panels and times are subject to change.

8:30–9:00 a.m.
(all times EDT)

Welcome and Introductions

Shawn Kazubowski-Houston, Centre for Religion and Its Contexts, Emmanuel College
Territorial Acknowledgement, Conference Overview

Principal Michelle Voss Roberts, Emmanuel College
Welcome, Introductions

9:00–10:30 a.m.

 

Panel 1: Historical and Political Theology

Facilitator: Matthew Dougherty

Dean Dettloff (Institute for Christian Studies), Political Economy and Christian Anti-Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century 

Wendy Cranston (University of Toronto), The Gospel in Court: A Theological Defence for the United Church Intervention to Trinity Western et al. vs. Upper Canada Law Society 

Daniel Lawlor (Boston University School of Theology), Galvanize the Spirit: Howard Thurman's Inter-Religious, Inter-Racial Ecclesiology 

10:30–11:00 a.m. 

BREAK 

11:00 a.m.–12:50 p.m.

Panel 2: Peace and Violence

Facilitator: Ariel Siagan

John Bergen & Jonathan Nahar (Germantown Mennonite Church; Friends of Sabeel North American (FOSNA)), Direct Action as Spiritual Practice and Method 

J. Leavitt Pearl (Carlow University), John Brown’s Radical Puritanism 

Maxwell Grant (University of St. Andrews, Scotland), 'Complexifying' Guns: US Christian Gun Owners in Critical Theological Perspective 

Panel 3: The Possibility of Progressive Christianity

Facilitator: Mark Standish

David Kim-Cragg (St. Matthew's United Church), Bell and Drum: Calling the United Church of Canada to a New History 

Andrew C. Stout (Covenant Theological Seminary), Oppressive or Progressive? The Revolutionary Possibilities of the Reformed Tradition 

Brendon Neilson (Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (UVIC)/Anglican Diocese of BC), Will Secular Christianity Provide a Way? 

Antony Alumkal (Iliff School of Theology), Why Marcus Borg Was Not a Progressive Christian: Reimagining the Progressive Christianity Movement

12:50–1:30 p.m. 

LUNCH 

1:30–3:00 p.m.

Panel 4: Feminism and Its Others

Facilitator: Judith Newman

Dirk von der Horst (Mount St. Mary's University, Los Angeles), Ruether's Prophetic Faith and the End(s) of The Bachelor 

Eliana Ah-Rum Ku (Emmanuel College), A Challenge to Impossible Amalgamate: A Study of Decolonization Hermeneutics for Sexual Victims Based on the Voice of Daughter Zion and Daughter Joseon 

Eleanor Tiplady Higgs (Independent Scholar), Feminism in World YWCA Discourse: Christianity, Imperialism, Transnationalism

Panel 5: The Location of Political Identity

Facilitator: Andrew Tebbutt

D. Kyle Trowbridge (Christian Theological Seminary), Christ and Cruelty: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Judith Shklar, and the Challenge of Political Violence 

Samuel Needham (Emmanuel College, University of Toronto), God and My Right: Religion and the Privileged Space 

Matt Bickett (Yale Divinity School), Losing One’s Place: Mountaintop Removal Mining and Place in Paul Tillich’s Theology of Estrangement 

 

3:00– 3:30 p.m. 

BREAK

3:30–5:00 p.m.

KEYNOTE: Mayann Francis
A Black Woman’s Personal Faith-Base Journey–Faith, Leadership and Public Service

Facilitator: Cheri DiNovo 

5:00–6:00 p.m. 

BREAK 

6:00–7:30 p.m.

Panel 6: Storytelling–Equity, Diversity, Inclusion

Facilitator: Amanda Henderson

Sonja Williams

Cheri DiNovo

Alf Dumont

7:30–8:00 p.m.

Afterhours

 

Schedule: Saturday, July 24, 2021

Panels and times are subject to change.

8:30–9:00 a.m.
(all times EDT)

Welcome and Introductions

Héctor Acero Ferrer, Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics at the Institute for Christian Studies

Ben Menghini, Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto

               

9:00–10:30 a.m.

 

Panel 7: Positioning Empire

Facilitator: John Olthuis

Jeff Nowers (Trinity College, University of Toronto), Transcending Transcendence: A Proposal for the Transformation of Theological Discourse 

Hadje C. Sadje (University of Hamburg, Germany), The Disease of Decaffeinated Theological Thinking: First As Coffee Without Caffeine Then, As Christian Left Without Decoloniality 

Daniel Saunders (Independent Scholar), Reimagining the Christian Left from the Legacy of Tricontinentalism: Anti-Imperialism and Transnational Solidarity  

10:30 - 11:00 a.m. 

BREAK 

11:00 a.m.–12:50 p.m.

 

Panel 8: Spirituality as Response

Facilitator: Gustave Ineza

Michael Laminack (University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology), Theology and Affect: Q-Anonymous and Anti-Fascist Praxis 

J. Thomas Reimer (University of St. Michael's College, Toronto School of Theology), Ascetic Withdrawal and Social Transformation 

Brendan C. Voss (Yale Divinity School), The Political and the Moral: The Relationship Between the Pulpit and the State 

John Melick (Vanderbilt Divinity School), A Postcapitalist Perspective for Christian Worship

Panel 9: Mind, Body, and Self

CANCELLED

 

12:50–1:30 p.m.

LUNCH 

1:30–3:00 p.m.

Panel 10: The Practices of Resistance

Facilitator: Natalie Wigg-Stevenson

Jason McKinney (Epiphany & St. Mark, Parkdale & Trinity College, Faculty of Divinity), Otherwise White Flight: Petit Marronage as a Path to Solidarity 

Jaira Koh (Boston University), That Way Madness Lies: Riots Through a Christian Left 

Obakeng Africa (University of South Africa (UNISA)), Fallism in Face the Long Good Friday: A Double-Grounded Hermeneutic of Praxis in the Afterlife of Apartheid 

Panel 11: Decolonial Interventions

Facilitator: Stephen Di Trolio Coakley

Miriam Spies (Emmanuel College), Decolonizing the Supercrip Body of Christ 

Lucas Kwong (New York City College of Technology (CUNY)), Sanctified Sinophobia and the Christian Left: Exorcising Legion from the Asian American Church 

Sheryl Johnson (Graduate Theological Union), Repentance, Reparations, Right Relations: Decolonizing Church Budgets and Christian Stewardship  

3:00–3:30 p.m. 

BREAK 

3:30–5:00 p.m.

KEYNOTE: Néstor Medina 
The Christian Left: From the Past toward a Possible Future

Facilitator: Ronald A. Kuipers

5:00–6:00 p.m.

BREAK 

6:00–7:30 p.m.

 

Panel 12: Pensamiento Decolonial e Izquierda Cristiana: Tres Respuestas (Responding to Néstor Medina's Keynote)

Facilitator: Ruben David Bonilla Ramos

Translation from Spanish to English: Carmen Ramirez

Francisco J. Concepción (Interamerican University) Colonialism and Decolonialism in Puerto Rican Theology

Deivit Montealegre (Emmanuel College, U of T) Rethinking Economic Debt Theologically

Yenny Delgado (Wesley Theological Seminary) The Church’s Theological and Political Role in Supporting White Supremacy in the United States

7:30–8:00 p.m.

Afterhours

 

Christian Left Conference 2020 Archives

Overview

What is the Christian Left? This is a significant question that leads to more questions: Should there be a Christian left? Why? Has there been a resurgence of the Christian left in recent times? Do we want to explore why this—a resurgence—is or may be important? What is the relationship between the Christian left and the institutional church? What role do conversion narratives—peoples' movement along the theological spectrum—play in the Christian left’s story? What kind of qualifier is ‘left’? Is it a political description? Social? Theological? Or is there an intersectional relationship between political, social, and theological when a Christian is defined as “left?”

Emmanuel College’s Centre for Religion and Its Contexts, Trinity-St. Paul's United Church, Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre, and EDGE: A Network for Ministry Development hosted the 2020 Christian Left Conference online.

The framework for this inaugural edition, “What is the Christian Left?” was taken up by the Ernest Crossley Hunter Memorial Lectureship keynote speaker, Joerg Rieger (founding Director of the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice and Distinguished Professor of Theology at Vanderbilt University), and by an international roster of presenters on 11 panels over two days (August 14 and 15, 2020). A panel addressing racism in the Canadian and North American contexts featured:  

  • Adele Halliday (Emm 1T7), Team Leader of Discipleship and Witness at the UCC’s General Council Office. In early June of this year, Adele's article, "What I need from white people right now: It's way past time to address anti-Black racism," was published in Broadview magazine.  
  • Kenji Marui, coordinating minister for worship and care at Calvary United Church in London, Ontario. Kenji's PhD work on reconciliation in a Canadian context questions whether reconciliation can happen if we do not understand the nature of sin.  
  • Robin McGauley, full-time metalsmith and United Church minister. Robin works from a studio in Kitchener, Ontario, producing art from silver and words. She has made a life-long commitment to reconciliation and anti-racism, which is reflected in her person and in her work. 

Videos of the keynote and panel presentations are available on our Christian Left Conference 2020 YouTube playlist.

Conference Program
Conference Registration

Registration is free and required if you would like to attend the live Zoom sessions. The keynote lecture and panels will also be available via YouTube Live and will not require registration.

Register via Eventbrite.

Schedule: Friday, August 14

Panels and times are subject to change.

9:00 a.m.* Welcome and Introductions  
9:40 Panel 1: Land Justice
meeting room opens to registrants
Panel 2: Imperialism and Nationalism
meeting room opens to registrants
9:45 Introductions Introductions
9:50 David Lappano
"The Diggers, Morant Bay Rebellion, and Land Protectors: A Christian Left Today Must Be Grounded"
The Centre for Christian Studies
Dean Dettloff
"Bursting the Dam: Christianity, Canada, and Anti-Imperialism"
Institute for Christian Studies
10:05 Jason McKinney
"De-Propertizing the Commons"
Epiphany and St. Mark Parkdale / Trinity College
David Seljak
"The Christian Left and the New Religious Nationalism"
St. Jerome's University
10:20 Jaira Koh
"Fucking with the Market / Making Love at Home: Binaries and the Subject of Desire in Landlord Propaganda"
Boston University School of Theology
Ariel Siagan
"The Corpses have Resurrected: Clergies' Conversion to Social Movements"
Toronto School of Theology
10:35 LIVE Q&A with Land Justice Panelists LIVE Q&A with Imperialism and Nationalism Panelists
     
10:55 BREAK  
     
11:25 Panel 3: Indigenous Justice /
Settler Colonialism

meeting room opens to registrants

Panel 4: Economic Justice and Biblical Imagination
meeting room opens to registrants

11:30 Introductions Introductions
11:35 Cameron Fraser
"'What do these stones mean to you?' How Treaty informs my Identity as a Canadian-Settler-Christian, and is forcing me to re-think what it means to be 'One Body'"
St. Andrew's College
Sheryl Johnson
"Progressive Beliefs and Conservative Practices: Embodied Christian Economic Ethics in North American Mainline Protestant Churches"
Graduate Theological Union
11:50 Hyejung Jessie Yum
"Unsettling the Radical Witness of Peace: A Postcolonial Investigation of Mennonite Pacifism in A Settler Colonial Context"
Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
Morgan Bell
"Stunted Imagination and Intractable Capitalism: The Promise of Apocalyptic for the Christian Left"
Emmanual College, University of Toronto
12:05 p.m. John Olthuis
"Structural Justice For Indigenous People and Nations – An Urgent Call to Action"
Indigenous Rights Lawyer Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP and a member of Trinity- St Paul’s United Church, Toronto
LIVE Q&A with Economic Justice and Biblical Imagination
12:20 LIVE Q&A with Indigenous Justice / Settler Colonialism Panelists
     
12:40 BREAK  
     
1:40 Panel 5: Sexuality
meeting room opens to registrants
Panel 6: Media and Homiletics
meeting room opens to registrants 
1:45 Introductions Introductions
1:50 Bri-Anne Swan
"'Keep it Secret. Keep it Safe.': Exploring The United Church of Canada's 1988 Decision with Mild Indecency"
Centre for Christian Studies / St. Andrew's College / Regional Minister of Social & Ecological Justice for Shining Waters Regional Council, United Church of Canada
Gord Brown
"Christianity and the Mass Media in the 21st Century"
Knox College, Toronto School of Theology
2:05 Marcus Zacharia
"A Progressive Coptic Orthodox Christianity? Virtual Activism and Non-mainstream Organizing in the Coptic Diaspora"
Independent Scholar
Eliana Ah Rum Ku
"Biased Preaching: Left Beyond Left"
Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
2:20 LIVE Q&A with Sexuality Panelists Q&A LIVE with Media and Homiletics Panelists
     
2:40 BREAK   
     
3:15

Ernest Crossley Hunter Memorial Lectureship
Keynote Presentation

JOERG RIEGER

The Circular Firing Squads of the Left:
Notes for Christians and Other Seekers
Not Looking for Easy Answers

Joerg Rieger is the Founding Director of the
Wendland-Cook Program

in Religion and Justice
and Distinguished Professor
of Theology
at Vanderbilt University

 
3:25 Introduction  
3:30 Joerg Rieger  
4:30 Live Q&A with Keynote Presenter, Joerg Rieger  
     
5:00 BREAK  
     
6:00 Panel 7: Anti-Racism
meeting room opens to registrants
6:05 Introductions  
6:10 Adele Halliday
“The Problem with Performative Allyship: When We’re Seeking Salvation, Not Solidarity”
Team Leader of Discipleship and Witness, The United Church of Canada's General Council Office
 
6:25 Robin McGauley
"Racism, Embodiment and Incarnation"
Full-time metalsmith and United Church minister

 
6:40 Kenji Marui
“Wrong Destination:  The Folly of the Christian Left’s Journey to Reconciliation”
Coordinating minister for worship and care, Calvary United Church
 
6:55 Live Q&A with Anti-Racism Panelists  
7:10 Good Evening!  

*Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)

Schedule: Saturday, August 15

Panels and times are subject to change.

9:00 a.m.* Welcome and Introductions
9:40 Panel 8: Ecology meeting room opens to panelists
9:45 Introductions
9:50 Natalie Benson
"Zacchaeus' Call for Ecological Reparations"
Yale Divinity School
10:05 Richard T.G. Walsh
"The Doomsday Clock Shows Humankind Borders on an Apocalypse: What Are Candian Christians to Do?"
Wilfrid Laurier University
10:20 HyeRan Kim-Cragg
"Proclaiming the Gospel in an Age of Climate Crisis: An Eco-Justice Homiletics"
Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
10:35 LIVE Q&A with the Ecology Panelists
   
10:55 BREAK
   
11:25 Panel 9: The Christian Left meeting room opens to registrants
11:30 Introductions
11:35 Benjamin L. Menghini
"The Christian Left as a Cultural Nexus"
Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
11:50 Jeff Nowers
"Racial Imagination and Multitudinous Risk: An Aspirational Identification of the 'Christian Left'"
St. Aidan's Anglican Church, Toronto
12:05 p.m. Q&A LIVE with The Christian Left Panelists
   
12:25 BREAK
   
12:40 Panel 10: Social Gospel and Social Justice meeting room opens to registrants
12:45 Introductions
12:50 Daniel Saunders
"From Christian Socialism to Communism: The Class Limits of the Social Gospel"
Institute for Christian Studies (Independent Scholar)
1:05 Rev. James Murray
"Towards an Evolutionary Theology of 'Survival of the Kindest'"
Trinity-St. Andrew's United Church, Renfrew, ON
1:20 Q&A LIVE with Social Gospel and Social Justice Panelists
   
1:40 BREAK
   
2:00 Panel 11: The Christian Left and the Pandemic meeting room opens
2:05 Introductions
2:10 Michelle Voss Roberts
"Implications of the Pandemic for Theological Education"
Principal, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
2:25 Rob Dalgleish
"What does the pandemic make possible that didn't seem possible before?"
Executive Minister, EDGE, The United Church of Canada
2:40 Kyle Gingerich Hiebert
"Ruminations on Being a Peace Church in/after a Pandemic" 
Director, Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre, Conrad Grebel University College
2:55 Cheri DiNovo
"Jesus, the True Communist"
Minister, Trinity-St. Paul's United Church, Toronto
3:10 Q&A LIVE with The Christian Left and the Pandemic Panelists
3:30

Good Afternoon and Thank You

*All times Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)

Ernest Crossley Hunter Memorial Lectureship

This year's Ernest Crossley Hunter Memorial Lectureship featured keynote speaker Joerg Rieger, founding Director of the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice and Distinguished Professor of Theology at Vanderbilt University. 

Ernest Crossley Hunter (1889-1966) was a Methodist/United Church minister known as an outstanding preacher. Son of the famous evangelist John Hunter, E. Crossley Hunter was born in St. Thomas, Ontario, in 1889. He studied at Victoria University, was ordained in 1911, and served several charges in Ontario, including Trinity United Church in Toronto (now Trinity-St. Paul's) and Knox United Church in Winnipeg.

He served as President of Toronto Conference in 1953, and was a founder of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. He was married to Mabel Dunbar in 1915. She died in 1958 and in 1959 he married Stella Drake. He retired in 1958. This lectureship was established in 1952 by Ernest Crossley Hunter and his sons, and was named the Hunter-Crossley Lectureship in Evangelism in memory of John Edwin Hunter and Hugh Thomas Crossley. After his death, the lectureship was renamed the Ernest Crossley-Hunter Memorial Lectureship in his honour.

Dr. Joerg Rieger is Distinguished Professor of Theology and the Cal Turner Chancellor’s Chair of Wesleyan Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the Founding Director of the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice there. He received his Master of Divinity degree in Germany and did his graduate work, including a Ph.D. in religion and ethics, at Duke University.

For more than two decades he has worked to bring together theology and the struggles for justice and liberation that mark our age. He is the author and editor of 22 books and over 140 academic articles, His work addresses the relation of theology and public life, reflecting on the misuse of power in religion, politics, and economics. His main interest is in developments and movements that bring about change and in the positive contributions of religion and theology. His constructive work in theology draws on a wide range of historical and contemporary traditions, with a concern for manifestations of the divine in the pressures of everyday life. His recent books include Jesus vs. Caesar: For People Tired of Serving the Wrong God (2018). He is also editor of two academic book series--New Approaches to Religion and Power with Palgrave Macmillan Publishers and Religion in the Modern World with Rowman and Littlefield.

His lecture is titled, “The Circular Firing Squads of the Left: Notes for Christians and Other Seekers Not Looking for Easy Answers.”