2017-2018 Programs

All CSRF events are free and open to the public.

For more information, call 757.455.3129 or email csrf@vwu.edu.

Fall 2017

Government Support for Church Playgrounds: A Soft Landing or a Bad Swing?
Thursday, September 14, 2017
12:00-1:00 PM
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.

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.

From Torah to Sharia, From Kennedy to Today: Religious vs. Secular Law in the U.S.
Monday, September 18, 2017
7:00-8:30 PM
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? Guided by a panel of experts, this discussion is part of the “Nexus Interfaith Dialogue: Healing the Heart of Democracy” series.

The “Nexus Interfaith Dialogue” series is sponsored in partnership with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. The fall 2017 Nexus series is supported by the Interfaith Youth Corp and Fetzer Institute.

Gout, Tuberculosis, and Migraines: The Significance of John Calvin’s Body on his Thought
Thursday, October 19, 2017
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
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. This program is part of the “Reformation from the Backside” series.

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.

Support for the “Reformation from the Backside” series provided by The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery at Virginia Wesleyan University

Life Matters: Elaine Aird
Thursday, October 19, 2017
12:00-12:50 PM
Boyd Dining Center, Shafer Room

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. Virginia Wesleyan Accounts Payable Coordinator Elaine Aird shares her “Life Matters” reflections. Please feel free to bring a bag lunch or purchase lunch in the dining center.

The “Life Matters” series is sponsored by Virginia Wesleyan’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning (INTEL), Center for the Study of Religious Freedom, and Chaplain’s Office

Islam, Christianity, and Judaism as Forces for Change in Coastal Virginia
Monday, October 23, 2017
7:00-8:30 PM
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? Guided by a panel of experts, this discussion is part of the “Nexus Interfaith Dialogue: Healing the Heart of Democracy” series.

The “Nexus Interfaith Dialogue” series is sponsored in partnership with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. The fall 2017 Nexus series is supported by the Interfaith Youth Corp and Fetzer Institute.

Mapmakers of the Reformation: The Ascendancy of Protestant Cartographers in the 17th Century
Thursday, October 26, 2017
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
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 mapmakers all adhered to the reformed faith.   This program is part of the “Reformation from the Backside”

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 J.D. 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 Public Media and the Library of Virginia Foundation, and is currently a trustee of the Virginia Historical Society. 

Support for the “Reformation from the Backside” series provided by The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery at Virginia Wesleyan University

**CANCELLED**

Study Abroad with Purpose
Friday, November 3, 2017
12:00–1:00 PM
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 D.C. interning with Leadership Africa USA. 


12th Annual One Love Festival
Saturday, November 4, 2017
1:00-9:30 PM
Virginia Wesleyan University Campus

For event details, visit the One Love Festival website

  • 1:00-2:20 PM, 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
  • 2:30–4:00 PM, 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
  • 4:00-5:30 PM, 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 
  • 7:00-9:30 PM, Batten Student Center Marlin Grille
    Evening Concert: A Tribute to Bob Young and Teens with a Purpose

Holy Dung: Comic Signs of Consubstantiality in Martin Luther Films
Thursday, November 9, 2017
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
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. This program is part of the “Reformation from the Backside” series.

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.

Support for the “Reformation from the Backside” series provided by The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery at Virginia Wesleyan University


Life Matters: Phil Guilfoyle
Thursday, November 9, 2017
12:00-1:00 PM
Boyd Dining Center, Shafer Room

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. Virginia Wesleyan Professor of Art Phil Guilfoyle shares his “Life Matters” reflections. Please feel free to bring a bag lunch or purchase lunch in the dining center.

The “Life Matters” series is sponsored by Virginia Wesleyan’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning (INTEL), Center for the Study of Religious Freedom, and Chaplain’s Office


Essential Israel: What Does it Mean to be Literate about Israel in the 21st Century?
Monday, November 13, 2017
7:00-8:00 PM
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


Copyright or Copywrong? How Gutenberg’s Printing Press Continues to Spark Church Battles
Thursday, November 16, 2017
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
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. This program is part of the “Reformation from the Backside”

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.

Support for the “Reformation from the Backside” series provided by The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery at Virginia Wesleyan University


Escape from North Korea
Thursday, November 30, 2017
7:00-8:00 PM
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 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.

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

They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East
Thursday, December 7, 2017
7:00-8:00 PM
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.

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