Initiative Streams – Fall 2017

Each year, the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom (CSRF) sponsors educational initiatives that both engage the campus community and reach beyond the university to invite the larger public into its ongoing exploration of religious freedom. Many programs are arranged in partnership with local organizations and faith communities, among them are interfaith discussions, semester-long symposia, and guest speakers.

Speakers’ perspectives are intended to invite civil discussion and dialogue, but don’t necessarily reflect the policy or position of Virginia Wesleyan University. Please join us for these special opportunities to build bridges of understanding between people of different worldviews.

Here’s a look at the streams and their associated activities for the 2017 Fall Semester:

September 17th is recognized in the United States as Constitution & Citizenship Day to commemorate the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. Each September, Virginia Wesleyan University hosts an event so that students may more deeply understand America's first freedom.

Thursday, September 14, 2017
Government Support for Church Playgrounds: A Soft Landing or a Bad Swing?
12:00 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.
Batten Student Center, Pearce Hospitality Suite

This year’s Constitution Day speaker, Dr. Timothy O’Rourke, Provost and Vice President at Virginia Wesleyan University, leads an examination and discussion that focuses on the Supreme Court's consideration of a Missouri case in which the state denied grant funding for playground resurfacing at a religiously-affiliated daycare center. This 2017 case--Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer--shares compelling similarities to the 1947 Everson v. Board of Education case, and raises important questions about the state, religion, and the challenging intersections of the two.

Visit the official Constitution Day website for more information.

During a trip to Germany in 1934, Michael King was so inspired by the founder of the Reformation that he changed his own name and that of his five-year-old son to reflect that respect. In 1934 he certainly could not have imagined the kind of legacy that his little boy would end up having. Five-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. would—through the next 34 years of his life—show the world again the power of religion to reform.

Five hundred years ago, King’s namesake was an almost 34 year old priest, who was serving on the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg. A widely-accepted story envisions Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. That image is engrossing, high-octane, and likely apocryphal, but we do know that on October 31, 1517, Luther wrote to his Bishop, Albert of Brandenburg, in a letter that questioned papal indulgences and other practices of the church. What Luther saw as opportunities for change soon resulted in a call for his excommunication. But a worldwide movement followed.

The Reformation dealt with big ideas, but those ideas frequently were communicated in very human ways. Our fall series focuses on “human” elements—from “the backside”—that shaped the Reformation: John Calvin’s health; the creation of maps; Martin Luther’s use of crass language; and intellectual property rights. Please join us for a unique series.

Support for the series provided by The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery at Virginia Wesleyan University

Thursday, October 19, 2017
Gout, Tuberculosis, and Migraines: The Significance of John Calvin’s Body on his Thought
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

How might John’ Calvin’s health help us understand how he came to articulate his theology?  Dr. Craig Wansink shows how the health of John Calvin--the founder of Reformed theology--shaped both his life and theological influence.

Dr. Craig Wansink is the Joan P. and Macon F. Brock Jr. Director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan University, and serves as Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Norfolk.  He also has been a Fellow at the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies at Calvin College.

Thursday, October 26, 2017
Mapmakers of the Reformation:  The Ascendancy of Protestant Cartographers in the 17th Century 
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

From the late 1500s until the late 1600s, the defiantly Protestant Dutch, centered in Amsterdam, led the world in cartographic innovation, artistry, and publishing.  Looking at the maps and careers of several Dutch masters, William C. Wooldridge discusses how it happened that the greatest map.m.akers all adhered to the reformed faith.   

Retired Vice President for Norfolk Southern, Bill Wooldridge brought together one of the finest collections of early Virginia-related maps ever assembled (the Wooldridge Collection was recently acquired by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation). His book Mapping Virginia: From the Age of Exploration to the Civil War has received wide acclaim. A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Wooldridge graduated from Harvard College and earned his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law. He has served as president of the Norfolk Historical Society and of the John Marshall Foundation, on the boards of WHRO and the Library of Virginia Foundation, and is currently a trustee of the Virginia Historical Society. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017 
Holy Dung: Comic Signs of Consubstantiality in Martin Luther Films
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

Religious movies frequently romanticize, sentimentalize, or idealize the lives of saints. However, the Protestant reformer Martin Luther frequently used crass humor and language that would seem indefensible to many today. Three major film biopics of Luther’s life recognize the importance of acknowledging this part of this reformer. Morgan Stroyeck ‘15 and Dr. Terry Lindvall focus on why and how Luther's humor was communicated in these films

Morgan Stroyeck ’15, graduated summa cum laude from Virginia Wesleyan, having majored in Religious Studies and English, and has taught and lived in South Korea. Dr. Terry Lindvall is Virginia Wesleyan’s C.S. Lewis Endowed Chair and Professor in Communication and Christian Thought. Together they have published on Martin Luther and film.

Thursday, November 16, 2017
Copyright or Copywrong? How Gutenberg’s Printing Press Continues to Spark Church Battles
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

The story of the printing press and its contribution to the spread of the Reformation is well known. But that story is incomplete without acknowledging how copyright law emerged from this technological revolution to adjudicate religious ideas as intellectual property. Is the right to such property consistent with or contrary to principles of religious freedom?  J. Andrew Edwards ’98 presents multiple case studies that demonstrate how the Reformation’s social and religious upheaval is far from over.

J. Andrew Edwards is a managing editor at Liturgical Press, the Benedictine publishing house at Saint John’s Abbey, and is an adjunct assistant professor of theology at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.  Edwards received his BA from Virginia Wesleyan in 1998 and holds a PhD in systematic theology from the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto.

In “Life Matters,” members of the Wesleyan community offer autobiographical reflections on their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual experiences. These deeply personal talks create meaningful opportunities for greater understanding and connection, encouraging each of us to think about what has shaped us and given our own life meaning. The series is sponsored by the Virginia Wesleyan Center for Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning (INTEL), Center for the Study of Religious Freedom, and Chaplain’s Office.  

Please feel free to bring a bag lunch or purchase lunch in the dining center.

Thursday, October 19, 2017
Life Matters: Elaine Aird
Accounts Payable Coordinator, Virginia Wesleyan University
12:00 p.m. – 12:50 p.m.
Boyd Dining Center, Shafer Room

Thursday, November 9, 2017
Life Matters: Phil Guilfoyle
Professor of Art
12:00 p.m. – 12:50 p.m.
Boyd Dining Center, Shafer Room

A hallmark program of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom, the Nexus Interfaith Dialogue series was established in 1998 and is co-sponsored by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. A nexus is a point of connection, and that’s just what this program is about: connecting people of all faiths (or no faith) through open and respectful dialogue.

Healing the Heart of American Democracy
In a time when we are faced with significant cultural and political divides in our country, the fall 2017 Nexus series focuses on creating dialogue among people from different identities, and about the moral and spiritual values that bind us together as a diverse nation.

Support for this series is provided by the Interfaith Youth Corp and the Fetzer Institute.

Monday, September 18, 2017
From Torah to Sharia, From Kennedy to Today: Religious vs. Secular Law in the U.S.
7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Boyd Dining Hall

At different times in U.S. history, the word “Sharia,” Jewish sabbath laws, and John Kennedy’s religious convictions have brought Americans into active discussion about the role of—and possible conflict between--religious and secular laws in the United States. How are we to understand the similarities and differences? 

Monday, October 23, 2017
Islam, Christianity, and Judaism as Forces for Change in Coastal Virginia
7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Boyd Dining Hall

Because society is imperfect, religions obligate followers to uphold and share values that will impact the broader community. In Coastal Virginia, what positive changes result from these efforts? How might such efforts harm public life?

The One Love Festival grew out of a conversation about world peace following a 9/11 vigil in 2005. It was conceived as a snapshot of what world peace would look like, even if only for one day. Each fall, the festival offers a variety of activities and brings all kinds of different people together to have fun, learn about each other, and stand together for peace.

The 12th annual One Love Festival pays special tribute to retired professor, poet, and peace activist Bob Young who has been a major part of the festival since its inception. As the baton is passed from one generation to the next, the evening concert also pays tribute to Teens with a Purpose, celebrating their dedication to peace and community.

For event details, visit the One Love Festival website

12th Annual One Love Festival
1:00 p.m.- 9:30 p.m.
Virginia Wesleyan University Campus

1:00 p.m. - 2:20 p.m., Monumental Chapel
Overcoming Bias: Building Relationships across Race, Religion, Gender Identity, and other Differences
Matthew Freeman, Author and Founder of TMI Consulting
Presentation sponsored by Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Pax Christi Community of Hampton Roads

2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., Boyd Dining Hall
Waging Peace: Beyond Extremism to Our Muslim, American Neighbors 
Race: Let’s Talk About It Town Hall Discussion
Moderated by Barbara Hamm Lee, Executive Producer & Host of Another View radio program on WHRV 89.5 FM

4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m., Batten Student Center Marlin Grille
Largest Drum Circle in the World: For Peace and Global Unity Starting in Our Own Community
Led by Arthur Lopez, Drum Circle/Rhythm Event Facilitator, Organizer, and Hand Drum Instructor for Drum Your Dream.com  

7:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., Batten Student Center Marlin Grille
Evening Concert: A Tribute to Bob Young and Teens with a Purpose

Dying for a Chance at the Future: North Korea & The Underground Railroad / Iraq & The Hunting of Christians
As the Pew Research Center has recently highlighted, freedom of worship is increasingly on the decline in many countries. In addition, apostasy and blasphemy laws around the world are leading to the slaughter and forced conversion of religious minorities, and active discriminatory policies limit religious minorities’ opportunities for meaningful work or government recognition. Jews, Christians, and Muslims around the globe all have faced increased persecution.

Some of the most egregious examples of religious persecution come from North Korea and Iraq, and are detailed in two very engaging and meaning-filled monographs: Melanie Kirkpatrick’s “Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad” and Mindy Belz’s “They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East.” This semester we are very pleased to share these two lectures, which offer both sobering, personal stories and inspiring visions of the power of faith and hope in the world.

Support for the series provided by The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery at Virginia Wesleyan University

Thursday, November 30, 2017
Escape from North Korea
7:00 p.m.– 8:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

It is a crime to leave North Korea. Yet every year a small number of desperate North Koreans escape their closed country by traveling along a secret route known as the New Underground Railroad. Journalist-author Melanie Kirkpatrick describes their perilous journey and the rescuers--many of whom are Christian--who help them reach free countries.

This year’s Cookson Visiting Scholar, Melanie Kirkpatrick is a writer-journalist and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. She contributes reviews and commentary to various publications, including the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal, for which she worked for 30 years.

The Cookson Religious Freedom Lecture honors the legacy of the Center’s founding director, Dr. Catharine Cookson. Cookson served as director from 1998 until her untimely death in 2004.

Thursday, December 7, 2017
They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East
7:00 p.m.– 8:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

From Syria into Iraq, Christians are being brutalized and killed by Islamic State fighters (ISIS). Journalist Mindy Belz has spent more than a decade reporting from the ground in the Middle East and has seen first-hand the stark reality of this escalating genocide. Based in part on those personal experiences, Belz explores the complex dynamics at play in war-torn Iraq and Syria and shares stories of Christians who refuse to abandon their faith - even in the face of losing everything, including their lives.

Senior Editor of WORLD magazine, Mindy Belz has covered war in Africa, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. A widely published journalist, she has appeared on Fox News and ABC News, and is a guest on radio talk shows.

Friday, November 3, 2017 **CANCELLED**
Study Abroad with Purpose
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Clarke Hall, The Lighthouse Commons

As a result of working with refugees and others around the world--in areas ranging from Uganda, to Darfur, to Italy—Amy Gilmore and Katie Paul, seniors at Walsh University, share reflections on issues of immigration, genocide, nonviolence, and restorative justice, telling the stories of those individuals who so often go unheard and reflecting on their search for solutions that restore peace and justice to communities.

At Walsh University in Ohio, Amy Gilmore is a Philosophy and Government & Foreign Affairs major. Her interests in forced migration and humanitarian action have taken her to Uganda, across Europe, and this fall, to Chad. Katie Paul majors in Philosophy and Peace Studies at Walsh. Passionate about both the role that health plays in social justice and the traumatizing consequences of conflict, she has traveled to Uganda and throughout Europe. This fall, Katie is in Washington DC interning with Leadership Africa USA. 


Monday, November 13, 2017
Essential Israel: What Does it Mean to be Literate about Israel in the 21st Century?
7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

How can you engage thoughtfully in the increasingly serious public debates about both Israel as a beleaguered democratic state in the Middle East and its relation to the United States? Those are the two driving questions behind Rachel Fish and S. Ilan Troen's 2017 book, Essential Israel. This presentation by Dr. Rachel Fish, Associate Director, Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University, discusses “Israel Literacy.” What does it mean to be literate about Israel in the 21st century and why it is increasingly important for us today?

Sponsored in partnership with the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater