Photo: Pastor Lenny Duncan’s Book Talk. Photo By Bill Gohl, Used with Permission.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer opened Discipleship with the stark but subtle distinction between costly grace and cheap grace. Some since Martin Luther’s proclamation of free grace have wanted to understand God’s grace apolitically—that is, as God’s unmerited regard for an individual regardless of the social structures that otherwise shape her body and the body politic. Critiques of cheap grace (including critiques from Luther himself) ultimately target “grace” as an ideological justification of the status quo. Perhaps then our contemporary word for “cheap grace” is privilege—white privilege, male privilege, straight/cis-gender privilege, able-bodied privilege, American privilege, Christian privilege. The speakers, workshop leaders, and participants at this conference are invited to think through the critical distinction between God’s unmerited grace and North America’s unearned privilege in its many forms in order that the church more faithfully embody Jesus’s calling to discipleship, to justice, and to become the beloved community
Jason Mahn, Professor of Religion, Augustana College & Convocation Host.
This year at the annual Convocation of Teaching Theologians, about 50 theologians – seminary, college, and university faculty together with doctoral students, and others serving in a variety of settings – met for three days at Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) to take up the theme: Unearned Privilege as Cheap Grace. Here’s a brief recap.
White Privilege, Cheap Grace, Responsive Institutions
Jason Mahn, Kit Kleinhans, Monica Smith
An opening panel exploring the institutional context of white privilege.
The Blanket Exercise
An embodied exercise that invited participants to confront the evil history of colonialism.
Interpreting Privilege, Proclaiming Justice
David Brondos, Shauna Hannan, Guy Nave
A panel exploring the relationship between hermeneutics and proclamation while resisting privilege.
Resistance and Redemption: Observations by Our Bishops
Patricia Davenport, Guy Erwin, Bill Gohl
A panel of Lutheran bishops reflected on the role of privilege in their mission areas.
Pastor as Advocate and Ally?
Clint Schnekloth, Heidi Neumark, Surekha Nelavala
A panel of Lutheran pastors reflected on their own efforts to practice justice.
Preaching from the Perspective of the One Lying in the Road: Beyond the Good Samaritan
Lenny Duncan, Heidi Neumark
Naming and Resisting Christian Privilege
Caryn Riswold, Jacqueline Bussie
Privilege and Pedagogy
Workshops for participants to consider the theme in relationship to the vocation of teaching and preaching.
Dear Church: A Book Reading and Conversation
An evening with Pastor Lenny Duncan, a prophetic voice in the ELCA.
New Research on the Call to Justice and Discipleship
Britta Carlson, Denise Rector, Kevin Vandiver
A panel of Lutheran PhD students exploring issues of privilege and justice through their emerging scholarship.
- During the Business Meeting, members elected Beverly Wallace (Luther Seminary), Moses Penumaka (Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary), and Guy Nave (Luther College) to three-year terms on the Steering Committee.
- The Steering Committee appointed Denise Rector (Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago) as Doctoral Student Advisory Member. The Steering Committee also named Tim Snyder (Wesley Theological Seminary) to a one-year term as Chair, Adam Pryor (Bethany College) to a one-year term as Convocation Host, and Susan McArver (Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary) as Chair of the Convocation Planning Committee, and Moses Penumaka (Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary) as Membership Secretary.
- The members also engaged in an initial conversation about changing the criteria for membership in the Association. Particular attention was given to evaluating the “associate member” category and exploring new pathways for membership beyond institutional affiliation.
- The Steering Committee welcomed members of the ELCA Theological Roundtable Coordinating Committee and Churchwide staff from the Theological Discernment team in the Office of the Presiding Bishop. In a joint meeting, leadership from both explored ways to deepen collaboration and offer mutual support. The Steering Committee also initiated a conversation about the possibility of relating to the Churchwide Organization through the Office of the Presiding Bishop, instead of the current relationship with Domestic Mission and the Network of Colleges and Universities.