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YDS Conference to address “The Future of the Congregation”

Yale Divinity School will host a conference on the topic “The Future of the Congregation” April 30-May 1, featuring a number of seasoned veterans of the pulpit—including congregational renewal authority Anthony Robinson—as well as relative newcomers to the ministry.

RobinsonRobinson, a popular speaker and prolific writer on issues related to the vitality of congregations, will serve as facilitator of the conference, which will include two panel discussions—the first composed of newer pastors and, the second, of pastors with more experience.  Click here to view the full conference schedule.

 Questions to be addressed by the first panel include:  How do congregations currently understand their relationship to the culture?  What are the implications of this understanding for the future of the congregation?

Participants in the second panel of more experienced pastors will be asked:  Why are some congregations thriving?  What is the role of leadership in a thriving congregation?  Are there ways in which congregations are reasserting themselves as places of theological significance?

Lillian Daniel ’93 M.Div., an author, television host and senior minister of the First Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, IL will moderate the first panel.  Moderating the second panel will be Harlon Dalton, author, Yale Law School professor and associate rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James in New Haven.

John Lindner, director of Yale Divinity School’s Department of External Relations, said the topic for the conference grew out of conversations amongst members of the YDS Board of Advisors “concerning the many challenges and changes in congregations and parishes, and especially the unique challenges for clergy leadership.”

A primary voice in the organization of the conference is Martin Copenhaver, a Board member and senior pastor of Wellesley Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in Wellesley, MA. Copenhaver, a prolific writer, is the coauthor, with Anthony Robinson and Walter Brueggmann, of the book Good News in Exile: Three Pastors Offer a Hopeful Vision for the Church.

The conference will be held at a time when membership in “mainline” Protestant churches—historically the core denominational partners of Yale Divinity School—is in steep decline in the United States, even as the relative percentages of Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, evangelical Christians, Muslims and Hindus are on the rise.

Both panel presentations will be held in Marquand Chapel, as will a concluding discussion in “Town Hall” format moderated by Tony Robinson.  The initial panel and opening remarks will be held 4:00-6:00 p.m. Thursday, April 30 and, the second panel, 9:15-10:15 a.m. Friday, May 1, followed at 10:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. by the “Town Hall” discussion and closing remarks by Dean Harold Attridge.

Members of the first panel include:

  • Jessica Anschutz ’07 M.Div., associate pastor, Park Avenue United Methodist Church, New York
  • Angela Batie ’07 M.Div. campus minister for graduate students, St. Louis University
  • Jeffrey Braun ’04 M.Div., senior minister, First Congregational Church (UCC), Cheshire, CT.
  • Rob Leacock ’05 M.Div., associate for liturgy and worship, Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church (ECUSA), Dallas
  • Nancy McLaren ’06 M.Div., director of Christian education, First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), New Haven, CT
  • Sarah Scherschligt ’04 M.Div., associate pastor, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (ELCA), Gaithersburg, MD
  • Kaji Spellman’06 M.Div., pastoral resident, Wellesley Congregational Church (UCC), Wellesley, MA
  • Jason Turner ’06 M.Div., pastor, Community Baptist Church, New Haven, CT

Members of the second panel include:

  • Jeffrey Haggray ’88 M.Div., executive director/minister, District of Columbia Baptist Convention (ABC)
  • Scott Black Johnston ’89 M.Div., senior minister, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), New York
  • Carol Pinkham Oak ’85 M.Div. rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church (ECUSA), Ellicott City, MD
  • Kerry Robinson ’94 M.Div., founding executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management which is dedicated to promoting excellence and best practices in the management, finances and human resource development of the Catholic Church in the U.S.
  • Nancy Taylor ’81 M.Div., senior minister, Old South Church (UCC), Boston
  • David Wood ’89 S.T.M., coordinator, Transition into Ministry program, a Lilly Endowment funded program that seeks to provide resources to pastors in their earliest years of ministry

Robinson travels throughout the nation speaking, teaching, preaching and working with congregations and church leaders on congregational renewal and transformation. During the 2008 - 2009 academic year he has been teaching congregational studies and leadership at Emmanuel College in the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto. A regular contributor to The Christian Century magazine, he is the author of nine books including the best-selling Transforming Congregational Culture; a recent collection of essays, Common Grace: How to Be a Person and Other Spiritual Matters; and Leadership for Vital Congregations; and Changing the Conversation: A Third Way Congregations.

Robinson has served four congregations—rural and urban, small and large, multi-cultural and multi-racial, as well as primarily euro-American. In 2004, he completed 14 years of ministry at Plymouth Congregational Church (UCC) in Seattle, Washington.

Prior registration for the conference is required, although on-site registration will be possible depending upon space.  Click here to download a mail-in registration form (pdf).

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