Study of Religion

Events, 2013-2014

Inaugural Elon University Conference on Jewish-Christian Relations

A program at Elon's Numen Lumen Pavilion brought together scholars to discuss the history and future of the relationship between the world's Jewish and Christian communities. 

Nov. 17, 2013 from 1-6:30 p.m. in the Numen Lumen Pavilion

A dozen leading scholars of religious studies visited Elon University in November for the inaugural Elon University Conference on Jewish-Christian Relations.

The program, which was open to the public, took place from 1-6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17, in the Numen Lumen Pavilion in Elon’s Academic Village.

The Conference on Jewish-Christian Relations brought together students, scholars and members of the general public for an in-depth look at the history of the relationship among the world’s Jewish and Christian communities and offered an outlook for how that dynamic can be improved.

"This conference provided a powerful learning experience,” said Geoffrey Claussen, Elon’s Lori and Eric Sklut Emerging Scholar in Jewish Studies. "Some of the scholars who shared their work exposed just how terrible the relationship between Jews and Christians has often been, and others illustrated just how much potential for good there is in this relationship."

Claussen and Jeffrey Pugh, Elon’s Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies, organized the event – the latest demonstration of Elon’s ongoing commitment to fostering spiritual exploration and understanding on campus.

"Elon is a natural host for the kinds of conversations that we'll be entering into over the course of the afternoon," Claussen told the crowd as he welcomed them to campus. "The idea for this conference began as Dr. Pugh and I began to develop a new course that we've been team-teaching this semester focused on Jewish-Christian relations in general and Jewish-Christian dialogue in particular."

The session featured speakers from Elon University, Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual.

Topics for their presentations included perspectives on the Biblical passages of Genesis, defining Jewish identity, Evangelical-Jewish relations, Jewish and Christian feminist ritual innovation and the future of Jewish-Christian dialogue. The conference’s keynote session was a dialogue between two world-renowned theologians, Peter Ochs and Stanley Hauerwas.

The conference was held in the Numen Lumen Pavilion, Elon's multifaith center that opened Spring 2013 as a resource for Elon’s expanding programs focused on spiritual thought and exploration. It is the home for Elon's Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society.

"This place was constructed to be a place of interfaith dialogue, relations and understanding – and we're proud of that mission here at Elon," Elon University President Leo M. Lambert said in his welcoming remarks. "Our work in religious and spiritual life at Elon, I think, is pretty simple in concept. We're hoping that every student who comes to Elon will find a spiritual home … a spiritual family here. In addition to that, we believe it should be a hallmark of an Elon education to engage in interfaith dialogues [and] to advance understanding and promote peace."

Claussen believes the conference helped achieve that mission. "There was enormous creativity and thoughtfulness on display," he said, "and I'm proud that Elon could host such a dynamic set of conversations."

For video of this event, click here.

The event schedule ran as follows:

1 p.m.: Welcoming Remarks
- Dr. Leo M. Lambert (President, Elon University)
- Dr. Geoffrey Claussen (Elon University)

1:05-2 p.m.: Reading Genesis
- Dr. Marc Bregman (UNC-Greensboro) – “Jewish and Christian Perspectives on the Sacrifice of Isaac”
- Dr. Ellen Haskell (UNC-Greensboro) – “Contesting the Kingdom of Heaven: Rachel as Counterpart to Christ in Medieval Jewish Mysticism”
- Dr. Malachi Hacohen (Duke University) – “Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael: The Future of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations”

2:15-3 p.m.: Defining Jewish Identity
- Dr. Lynn Huber (Elon University) – “‘Those Who Say That They Are Jews and Are Not’: The Function of Jewish Identity in the Book of Revelation”
- Dr. James Tabor (UNC-Charlotte) – “Who is a Jew?: A Modern Conundrum with Ancient Roots”

3:15-4:15 p.m.: Evangelical-Jewish Relations
- Dr. Shalom Goldman (Duke University), “The Use of Hebrew and Yiddish by British and American Christian Missionaries to Jews: 1870-1970”
- Dr. Yaakov Ariel (UNC-Chapel Hill) – “The Rise of Messianic Judaism”
- Dr. Motti Inbari (UNC-Pembroke) – “The Christian Zionist Response to Israeli Land for Peace Solutions”

4:30-5:15 p.m.: Jewish and Christian Feminist Ritual Innovation
- Dr. Vanessa Ochs (University of Virginia)
- Dr. Diann Neu (Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual)

5:30-6:30 p.m: The Future of Jewish-Christian Dialogue
- Dr. Stanley Hauerwas (Duke University)
- Dr. Peter Ochs (University of Virginia)

Closing Remarks: Dr. Jeffrey Pugh (Elon University)

Sponsored by the Elon College Fund for Excellence, the Eric and Lori Sklut Emerging Scholar in Jewish Studies Program, Elon’s Department of Religious Studies, the Department of History and Geography, the Women's/Gender Studies program, the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society, and the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.

Religion and Violence in Asia and Africa Conference

Elon's Center for the Study of Religion Culture and Society hosts the 2013 conference of the South Atlantic States Association for Asian and African Studies.

Sept. 20-21, 2013 

On September 20-21, the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Soceity (CSRCS) welcomed regional scholars to a conference on "Religion and Violence in Asia and Africa:  Perspectives and Pedagogies."  Friday afternoon's keynote speakers were Rosalind Hackett, professor of religious studies at the University of Tennessee, and Ebrahim Moosa, professor of religion and Islamic studies at Duke University.  Both speakers addressed different ways violence and religion are manifest in Africa and Asia respectively.  On Saturday, there were two sessions dedicated to teaching about Religion and Violence in Asian and African contexts.  These sessions were led by Brian Pennington, professor of religion at Maryville College, and Omar Ali, associate professor of camparative African Diaspra history and politics at UNCG.

Rosalind I. J. Hackett (PhD Aberdeen) is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee, adjunct Professor in Anthropology, and faculty associate at the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy. She was a Distinguished Professor in the Humanities from 2003-2008 and taught in Nigerian universities from 1975-1983, while conducting fieldwork. She has published widely on religion in Africa, notably on new religious movements, as well as on art, media, gender, conflict, and religious freedom in the African context. She recently published an edited book, Proselytization Revisited: Rights Talk, Free Markets, and Culture Wars (2008), and has co-edited Displacing the State: Religion and Conflict in Neoliberal Africa (2011). Her future research and publication plans include a two co-edited works: (with Simon Coleman) The Anthropology of Global Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism and (with Benjamin Soares) New Media and Religious Transformations in Africa (2012).

Ebrahim E.I. Moosa (PhD University of Cape Town) is Professor of Religion and Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion at Duke University. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special focus on Islamic law, history, ethics, and theology. Dr Moosa is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination, winner of the American Academy of Religion's Best First Book in the History of Religions (2006) and editor of the last manuscript of the late Professor Fazlur Rahman, Revival and Reform in Islam: A Study of Islamic Fundamentalism. He was named Carnegie Scholar in 2005 to pursue research on the madrasas, Islamic seminaries of South Asia.  Dr. Moosa serves on several distinguished international advisory boards and is associated with some of the foremost thinkers, activists and role-players in the Muslim world and beyond. He advised the first independent South African government after apartheid on Islamic affairs and serves on committees of the Organization of Islamic Conference in addition to others. He also has extensive experience in human rights activities. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation to research contemporary Muslim ethics and issues of philanthropy in the Muslim world

Omar H. Ali (PhD Columbia Univeristy) is an Associate Professor of Comparative African Diaspora History and Politics in the African American Studies Program at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A recipient of an Excellence in Teaching Award, and a past member of the Teaching Prize Committee of the World History Association, Ali serves on the History Advisory Committee of the College Board and as a Road Scholar for the North Carolina Humanities Council. He was invited to serve as Lead Scholar for the Council's 2013 Summer Institute "Muslim Journeys: Islam and its Many Roads." Nationally, he serves on the Board of Directors of the All Stars Project, an innovative after-school program involving over 10,000 young people from poor and working-class neigborhoods in New York, Newark, Chicago, and Oakland. Ali also serves on the Board of Directors of IndependentVoting.org, which focuses on non-partisan political reform, and has appeared on CNN, NPR, PBS, Al Jazeera, C-SPAN, CBS, Fox, and Black Network Television discussing the rise of independent voters in the U.S. and the connection between democracy and human development.

Brian K. Pennington (PhD Emory University) is Professor of Religion and Chair of the Division of Humanities at Maryville College. He has published work on religion in colonial India, Hindu-Christian encounter, and method and theory in the study of religion. He is the author of Was Hinduism Invented?: Britons, Indians, and the Colonial Construction of Religion (2005), a study of Hindu-Christian interaction in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and editor of Teaching Religion and Violence (2012), a resource book for college instructors that covers both the history of violence in various religious traditions and contemporary religious conflict. He is also co-editor, along with Amy Allocco, of the forthcoming Ritual Innovation in South Asia. His fourth book in progress, God’s Fifth Abode: Emergent Religion in the Indian Himalayas, is a study of religious change in the pilgrimage city of Uttarkashi. Pennington is a member of the Advisory Council for the Conference on the Study of Religions in India and he is a former member of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion, the Board of Directors of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies, and past President of the American Academy of Religion, Southeast Region.

This conference was made possible through the support of a number of departments and programs, including African/ African-American Studies, Asian Studies, International Studies, Religious Studies, the School of Education, and the Isabella Cannon Global Education Center.

Other News in the CSRCS...

Religious Studies team Receives Interfaith Studies Award

The Interfaith Youth Core awarded $5,000 this spring to professors Jeffrey C. Pugh, Geoffrey D. Claussen and Amy L. Allocco to help in the development of an interfaith studies course sequence that might also serve as the precursor to a future minor in interfaith studies.

Three faculty members in the Department of Religious Studies received a $5,000 award from an organization whose mission is to advance interfaith programming and understanding on college campuses around the world.

Professors Jeffrey C. Pugh, Geoffrey D. Claussen and Amy L. Allocco will use the award to explore possibilities for a new academic program at Elon focused on interfaith studies. The program would complement numerous initiatives already taking place through the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, Elon’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society, and other campus constituencies.

The three professors developed the grant proposal after attending an Interfaith Youth Core workshop, “Toward a Field of Interfaith Studies: Course Sequences, Pedagogies, and Best Practices,” at the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership at New York University in January 2014.

The award helps the team cover costs from site visits to religious and faith-based organizations across North Carolina, as well as seminar development expenses, books and related materials. A key component of the new minor would be for students to directly engage with members of diverse religious communities.

Founded in 2002 by interfaith educator Eboo Patel, the IFYC is a Chicago-based organization building a movement on college campuses through various programs and events. The award is designed to recognize a recipient’s commitment to advancing the field of interfaith studies.

Patel has made previous visits to Elon and is scheduled to deliver the university’s 2014 Baccalaureate sermon in Alumni Memorial Gymnasium.