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SBL Public Initiatives

Through its public initiatives program, the Society of Biblical Literature seeks to connect biblical scholarship with non-academic audiences that have an interest in biblical studies. In particular, the public lecture series, Engaging the Bible reaches out to clergy, and The Bible in Public Schools reaches out to high school teachers and administrators.

Engaging the Bible: The Bible and Religious Leadership in the 21st Century
Our program begins with a lecture series for clergy, seminary students, and the host community. A keynote speaker starts off the weekend and is followed by in-depth lectures from SBL members. Ample time is given for discussion.  Events help clergy to connect with the latest in biblical scholarship and to apply that scholarship to their writing, preaching, teaching, and participation in the public arena.


Engaging the Bible - Archive of Past Events

SBL held its first series of workshops for religious leaders in 2007, to study and reflect on the Bible and its use in their professional, congregational, and intellectual lives.

2008 Events

  • Engaging the Bible- Faith and Politics
    Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, PA

    A day of lectures by biblical scholars on how politics affects the Bible and the Bible affects politics started off with Professor Ronald J. Sider: "Toward An Evangelical Political Philosophy" followed by Professor Cynthia Briggs Kittredge: "Comforting Or Afflicting? Teaching And Preaching The New Testament In Election Season";Professor Fernando Segovia:"Postcolonial Biblical Criticism: A Geopolitical Approach To The Bible"; and Professor Julia M. O’Brien:"Politics And “Biblical Family Values”:  Ancient And Modern Perspectives"

    A panel discussion followed.

  • Engaging the Bible -The Death Penalty
    Texas Christian University and Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, TX

     Writer Virginia Stem Owens and her husband David Owens kicked the weekend off with stories from their book Living Next Door to the Death House. The book is based on their extensive interviews with those affected by the executions held in their home town, Huntsville, Texas. Huntsville is home to the Walls Unit, where the Texas Department of Criminal Justice conducts executions.

    The workshops that followed the Owens reflections featured SBL members from Brite/TCU community and from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. The conference was an exploration of what biblical studies and theology have to say about the effects of capital punishment on communities.

    Jack Hill, Professor of Ethics at TCU, shared his international perspective from the contexts of South Africa and Fiji

    Francisco Lozada, Professor of New Testament at Brite, and SBL Program Committee Chair, discussed violence in the Gospel of John and the paradox of Christian celebration of Jesus’ death by capital punishment

    Charles Bellinger, Professor of Ethics at Brite, presented the theories of Rene Girard as one possible way of understanding and explaining violence.

    Roger Barnes, Professor of Sociology at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, tied his years of research on capital punishment to his experiences of working with death row inmates

  • Engaging the Bible on Marriage
    Fostering Civil Discourse: Special Series Related to the Indiana Marriage Amendment
    11–12 February 2007
    Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis

    In this two day event for religious leaders, The Society of Biblical Literature partnered with Christian Theological Seminary to discuss the resources the Bible brings to one of the contentious debates in American life today. How do we use the Bible to assist our congregations in better discerning the biblical perspectives on marriage? How do those perspectives illuminate the political issues before us today regarding the rights of gay and lesbian couples? Can the Bible only serve to divide people or can it serve a positive role in civil discourse? To reflect on these issues four workshops and two panel discussions were held:

    Public panel discussions:
    • Public Panel with Biblical Scholars on the Bible and the Marriage Debate
      Victor Paul Furnish, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology and a United Methodist minister
      Kent Harold Richards, Professor of Old Testament, Executive Director of the Society of Biblical Literature, and a United Methodist minister
      Marti Steussy, MacAllister-Petticrew Professor of Biblical Interpretation, Christian Theological Seminary, and minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
    • Pastoral Perspectives on the Marriage Amendment
      The constitutional amendment being debated in Indiana to define marriage is surrounded by a tangle of issues and views regarding church and state, religious understandings of marriage, and what rights citizens should have with respect to forming legally sanctioned relationships. A diverse panel of Christian leaders will lead a civic and pastoral forum to help citizens wrestle with these issues as seen from a variety of Christian faith perspectives.
      Participants include:
      Rev. Glenn McDonald, Pastor, Zionsville Presbyterian Church
      Rev. Clarence C. Moore, Pastor, Northside New Era Missionary Baptist Church
      Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis

    • Preaching on Marriage:
      Ronald J. Allen, Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Preaching and New Testament at CTS and an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
    • Marriage and the Bible in Faith Communities
      Gregory L. Glover, Pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis
    • New Testament Resources on Marriage
      Victor Furnish
    • Old Testament Resources on Marriage:
      Marti Steussy

    This event was funded in part with a grant from the Louisville Institute and by the Society of Biblical Literature.

  • Engaging the Bible on Public Policy

    Bible, Theology, and Public Policy
    26–27 February 2007
    Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC

    Three workshops were presented this weekend in February 2007:
    • The Gospels and Media, Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
    • The Bible and Human Rights Beverly Mitchell, Associate Professor of Historical Theology Wesley Theological Seminary
    • The Bible and “Family Values”: The Case of the Hebrew Bible, Julia M. O’Brien, Professor of Old Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary

    An evening public panel on “The Use of the Bible” in Recent Political Speech examined how scripture was used by a variety of political figures in the 2006 elections. In addition to a theological assessment of this phenomenon it will offer alternative views of how scripture might be appropriately used in political discourse.
    Bruce C. Birch, Dean and Woodrow W. and Mildred B. Miller Professor of Biblical Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary, Presiding;
    Mike McCurry, Partner, Public Strategies Washington
    Shaun Casey, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the National Capital Semester for Seminarians, Wesley Theological Seminary presenting.


  • Engaging the Bible though Material Culture
    Through the Museum with the Bible
    2–3 April 2007
    Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

    SBL partnered with The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in a two-day event that explored how ancient material culture can help us to understand the Bible and its world.

    An evening lecture by Jodi Magness entitled: "Ossuaries and the Burials of Jesus and James" started the weekend.

    • What Can Archaeology Tell Us about Jesus? Jodi Magness, Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism chair in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Image, Text, Scripture: How Artifacts and Texts Shed Light on the Bible Brent Strong, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
    • Ancient North African Art and Biblical Imagery Joel LeMon; Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Candler School of Theology, Emory University




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