May 11, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 16

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    Ministry students’ conference to look at how economy challenges faithful

    By Jennifer Carnig
    News Office

    The complex relationships between the church and the economic structures and imperatives of wider society have been on the minds of Christians since Jesus entered the temple and demanded that the worshippers “stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace.” But as the disparities between rich and poor become more pronounced, the topic demands renewed and continued attention, according to ministry students in the Divinity School.

    On Friday, May 12, students will take up the topic when they host their second-annual ministry conference, this year titled “The Temple in the Marketplace: Challenges of Faith in this Economy.”

    Speakers from a variety of Christian traditions and academic disciplines will address questions of how churches and Christians interact with a for-profit economy, how churches shape and are shaped by the economy, and what opportunities and limitations this economy offers for Christian ministry.

    The subject matter is relevant because churches are increasingly examining their roles as economic agents, both at the local and the national level, said ministry student Benjamin Dueholm.

    “This is evident in things as ordinary as the ‘Fair Trade’ coffee movement and as broadly institutional as questions of investing,” Dueholm said.

    Additionally, national church budgets in the so-called mainline denominations are severely restricted, he said, forcing some difficult choices about what denominations will do with their money and why. Some of these decisions are reflected at the parish level, as churches have to weigh competing claims for renovation, outreach, mission and benevolence.

    “Likewise, these issues are present for individuals who wish to have their economic decisions informed by their Christian faith,” Dueholm continued. “We expect our speakers and our participants to share ways to think about these difficulties and decisions in new ways, in order to enrich both individual and church life.”

    The Rev. Lillian Daniel, author and pastor of First Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, will preach at the opening worship service, and panels of clergy and scholars will address other topics such as “The Church as an Economic Participant” and “The Individual as Economic Participant.”

    Kathryn Tanner, the Dorothy Grant Maclear Professor of Theology in the Divinity School, will deliver the keynote address. Her writing and teaching have focused on understanding God’s relation to the world and using interdisciplinary methods to meet contemporary theological challenges. Tanner’s latest book, Economy of Grace, explores the intersections between theology and economics.

    Other participants include Deborah Kapp, professor of urban ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary; Richard Taub, the Paul Klapper Professor in Social Sciences and Chair of the Committee on Human Development, who has written on entrepreneurship in urban and rural communities, both in the United States and abroad; Luther Holland, pastor of Congregational Church of Park Manor and the former co-minister of the Chicago Metropolitan Association of the United Church of Christ; Dwight Hopkins, Professor of Theology in the Divinity School and an ordained American Baptist minister who works in the fields of black and liberation theologies; and Larry Jackson, pastor of Jackson Boulevard Christian Church on Chicago’s West Side and a director of a local Christian credit union.

    The conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St. It is free and open to the public, and lunch will be provided to the first 100 people who register by e-mailing ministryconference@gmail.com. More information and a complete schedule are available on the Web at http://divinity.uchicago.edu.