Fall 2017 National Meeting

November 17-21, 2017   ●   Boston, Massachusetts


Program Overview

Westar’s Fall 2017 national meeting will take place in Boston, Massachusetts, in conjunction with the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). This is the largest event of the year in the fields of biblical studies and theology, with over 1,200 sessions and workshops and one of the world’s largest exhibits of books and digital resources for religious studies.

The Westar fall meeting, held in the context of the annual Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion, will be organized differently this year. The SBL/AAR dates are November 18–21. Westar’s two academic seminars will meet concurrently on the day before, that is, on Friday, November 17th.

There will be no explicit Associate program at the Fall meeting. In its place, Westar, in cooperation with the SBL, will host several community events.

As usual, scholars and members of the public are welcome to attend Westar seminars.


This year audience members will not register directly with Westar. Instead, they must register with the AAR or the SBL. Advance registration ends August 24th.

If you have already registered or intend to register with AAR instead of SBL, that registration also works with Westar's program.

To register with SBL, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to: sbl-site.org/meetings/meetings_registrationAM.aspx
  2. Click “New Registration”
  3. Fill out the form and submit payment. Be sure to select “Westar” from the dropdown Affiliate list.

Westar Fellows and Invited Scholars only

If you are either a Westar Fellow or an invited scholar, and you plan to sit at the table and participate in either the God or Christianity Seminars, or both, on Friday, please also register with Westar.

This second registration is not needed for audience members.

To register with Westar for a seat at the table, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to: westarinstitute.org/national-meetings/fall-2017-seminar-registration/
  2. Fill out the form and submit payment.

Academic Seminars

Westar Institute conducts collaborative, cumulative research in the academic study of religion, addressing issues, questions, and controversies that are important both to the academic community and to the general public. Two seminars are currently in progress: the Christianity Seminar and the Seminar on God and the Human Future.

Westar academic seminars will be held at:

John B. Hynes Veteran's Memorial
Convention Center
900 Boylston St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Christianity Seminar

Ritual Life in Early Christ Movements

The Christianity Seminar will consider papers on bathing, meal, and non-meal-based eucharistic practices from the first into the third century. Papers by Soham Al-Suadi of the Université de Berne, Lillian Larsen, University of Redlands, Andrew McGowen, Yale Divinity School, Stephen Patterson, Williamette University and Hal Taussig, Union Theological Seminary NY, will be distributed for reading in advance of the seminar. Though written by leading scholars, they pose key challenges to conventional, standardized, and ecclesiastically formulated notions of early baptism and eucharist.

Christianity Seminar   ●   Friday, November 17
Hynes Convention Center Room 210
Session One
1:00 PM - 2:45 PM

Ritual Bathings in Christ Communities and Early Christian Communities: Part I

Presiders: Maia Kotrosits And Richard Ascough
Presenters: Stephen Patterson And Hal Taussig
Session Two
3:15 PM - 5:00 PM

Trajectories of Meals and Separate Eucharistic Events into the Third Century: Part I

Presiders: Nina Livesey And Deborah Saxon
Presenters: Soham Al Suadi, Lillian Larsen And Andrew Mcgowan
Session Three
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Bathings, Meals, Eucharists and Other Rituals into the Third Century: Part II

Plus, A Panel On Major Learnings in First Seven Years of Christianity Seminar
Presiders: Carly Daniel-Hughes And Celene Lillie
Presenters: Soham Al Suadi, Lillian Larsen, Andrew Mcgowan, Stephen Patterson, Hal Taussig

Seminar on God and the Human Future

Religious Naturalism

At the Seminar on God and the Human Future, spiritual leader Bart Campolo, USC, will enter into conversation with John D. Caputo of Syracuse University and Carol Wayne White of Bucknell University. Campolo advocates religious naturalism for its relational approach to spiritual practice and its potential to provide an alternative for a non-believing or non-religious audience. Caputo will explore the topic of religious naturalism in light of his signature “weak theology.” White will connect religious naturalism to critical race theory and highlight it as an important resource for contemporary social movements.

God Seminar   ●   Friday, November 17
Hynes Convention Center Room 304
Session One
1:00 PM - 2:45 PM

Why I Don't Call Myself An Atheist

A Relational Approach To Religious Naturalism
Presider: Jeffrey W. Robbins
Presenter: Bart Campolo
Commentator: John D. Caputo
Session Two
3:15 PM - 5:00 PM

Religious Naturalism, Sacred Humanity, And God

Presider: Karen Bray
Presenter: Carol Wayne White
Commentator: Bart Campolo
Session Three
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

A Critical Report On The Threat Of Christian Nationalism

Presider: Clayton Crockett
Presenters: Whitney Bauman, Joe Bessler, Karen Bray, Sarah Morice Brubaker, John Caputo, Clayton Crockett, Jessica Johnson, Namsoon Kang, Catherine Keller, Jordan Miller, Hollis Phelps, Alan Richard, Jeffrey W. Robbins, Mark Lewis Taylor, Noëlle Vahanian

Participation in Academic Seminars

Westar has developed a new model of scholarly discourse that is open, public, accessible, collegial, and rigorous. Its academic seminars engage leading scholars from accredited institutions worldwide, while also embracing the public and the media as observers and participants.

All others, scholars and non-scholars alike, are welcome to audit the seminars.

Seminar Papers

The Seminar Papers are the basis for the discussions in the Friday sessions. They will not be presented orally at the event. Persons wishing to follow the discussions should read the papers in advance.

Electronic copies of the Seminar Papers are available to the public and will be posted when they come available, usually 2 to 3 weeks prior to the event. Hard copies of the papers will be available at a cost of $25 each.

Order hard copies of seminar papers
Read papers online

AAR/SBL Program Highlights

SBL-Westar Institute Public Lecture

The Society of Biblical Literature and Westar Institute are pleased to continue the joint sponsorship of a free public lecture series featuring major scholars addressing important cultural issues that relate to the study of religion.

This free public lecture will be held in a church:

First Church in Boston (Unitarian Universalist)
66 Marlborough Street
Boston, MA 02166

Dr. Pamela Eisenbaum

Avatars of the Word

The Role of Technology and Theology in (Re)Producing Scripture

The Bible familiar to modern readers is a single volume printed book that contains Holy Scripture. Such a statement is so obvious it hardly seems worth saying. But in fact scripture has come in many forms over the centuries. Before print, texts were copied by hand, and before books, texts were written on scrolls. While one may assume that scripture is the same no matter what form it comes in, study of past technologies of the preservation and transmission of the Bible reveals how the very understanding of what the Bible is and what it says changes along with its packaging. This lecture offers an overview of early scribal practices in order to demonstrate the correlations between “technologies of scripture” and “theologies of scripture” among Jews and Christians.

Photo of Pamela Eisenbaum

One of four Jewish New Testament scholars teaching in Christian theological schools, Pamela Eisenbaum is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Christian Origins at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. The author of several books on early Christianity including, most recently, Paul Was Not a Christian, she is a contributor to the Women’s Bible Commentary and the Oxford Access Bible, and has published many articles on the Bible, ancient Judaism and the origins of Christianity.

Free Public Lecture   ●   Monday, November 20
7:00 PM

Avatars of the Word

The Role of Technology and Theology in (Re)Producing Scripture
Pamela Eisenbaum

Religious Literacy Sundays

Westar is working with local congregations to sponsor educational talks delivered by Fellows at local Sunday morning services. These community events, dubbed “Religious Literacy Sundays,” will be free and open to all who choose to attend. Event locations and programs are still in development, so stay tuned for more information.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Polebridge Authors & Books

Polebridge Press will have a booth at the AAR/SBL exhibit hall, which requires a name badge for entry and which will be located at:

Hynes Convention Center
900 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02115

Dates & Deadlines At-a-Glance

Aug 24Advance registration deadline
Nov 17Westar Academic Seminars
Nov 19Religious Literacy Sundays
Nov 20SBL-Westar Public Lecture
Nov 18-21SBL/AAR Annual Meeting