Santa Rosa, California | 2/22/2016The Westar Institute is pleased to announce Chebon Kernell and Barbara Wendland as the 2016 recipients of the Advocate for Public Religious Literacy (APRL) award, a national award that seeks to recognize the courage, commitment, and contribution of members of the public who go to extraordinary lengths to cultivate thoughtful discussion and disseminate learning about religion in their communities.
Barbara Wendland is a lifelong lay member of the United Methodist Church and a member of Southern Methodist University’s School of Theology Executive Board. Colleague David Dykes nominated Wendland based on her years of work as the publisher of the Connections newsletter, which aims “to increase the religious literacy of the many churchgoers who are largely uninformed about religion, theology, the Bible, and church history and operations.” The newsletter grew to 6,000 subscribers largely by word of mouth as Barbara met an unfulfilled need for many. “She wanted to assure them that they were neither alone, mistaken, nor un-Christian,” Dykes said.
Chebon Kernell is an Elder in the Seminole Clan and a member of the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Fellow minister Hal Taussig nominated Kernell for his tireless efforts to educate the general public, including not only mainstream American Christians but also native peoples themselves, about the “deep and broad religious riches” of indigenous peoples in the context of reconciliation work and the recovery of native practices. Kernell also served as a member of the council of religious leaders who selected ten newly discovered early Christian texts for the A New New Testament project to broaden the New Testament canon and create space for a fuller range of voices within the Christian tradition.
Westar received many outstanding nominations for this award, and the Award Selection Committee was impressed by the high-quality, creative work being done for the sake of religious literacy across the United States. This work gives hope that the public narrative of religious "illiteracy" can be changed via the sustained efforts of individuals like this year's recipients, in modes that speak to diverse communities.
The inaugural award will be formally announced Saturday, March 19, 2016, at the Westar Spring 2016 national meeting during the closing banquet, where recipients will be honored and receive a commemorative medal. All conference events take place at the Flamingo Resort Hotel & Conference Center. Registration is accepted online and at the door.
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