Fall 2019 National Meeting

November 22-26, 2019   ●   San Diego, California


Westar Fellows and Invited Scholars only: Register for $25

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, in addition to your AAR/SBL registration, please also register with Westar.

This second registration is not needed for audience members.

To register with Westar for a seat at the table, click here

Members of the Public

Attendees do not need to register directly with Westar. Instead, they must register with the AAR here or the SBL here.

Program Overview

Westar’s Fall 2019 national meeting will take place in San Diego, California, 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.

Westar’s two academic seminars will meet concurrently on Friday, November 22nd, the day before the official AAR/SBL meetings kick off.

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.

Academic Seminars

Christianity Seminar

Re-Assessing the Categories of Heresy and Orthodoxy in the Christ Movements of the First Two Centuries: Finishing up its seven-year study of the first two hundred years of Christ movements by March, 2020, Westar Institute’s Christianity Seminar takes on a major re-assessment of what heresy and orthodoxy meant in these two centuries in San Diego.  Following the Seminar’s previous important innovations in how to reconfigure gender, Judaism, martyrology, ritual, gnosticism, and category of “Christian;” four leading scholars write papers from different angles on new ways of thinking about difference without a binary approach to categories of heresy and orthodoxy.  The 20-some members of the Seminar discuss, debate, and participate in ballots on the topics and papers in three sessions.  Seminar member Deborah Niederer Saxon (Butler University) begins the process with discussion of her paper and is followed by visiting scholars Kristine Toft Rosland (University of Agder); Eduard Iricinschi (Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum); and Markus Vinzent (Kings College London), in the first two sessions.  The evening session has both the Seminar members and guest presenters joining in integration of the four papers into Seminar-wide agreements and differences.

Seminar on God and the Human Future

The Westar Institute’s Seminar on God and the Human Future explores post-theistic problems in theology and raises futuristic questions about theological method and issues. Over the past several years, the seminar has addressed questions like the weakness of God, strategic atheism, anatheism, and the color of God. These past studies have been about the varieties of post-theism.

This year marks the turn of the Seminar to questions about the human future. Interested scholars are invited to observe the sessions and to inquire about involvement.

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.

Christianity Seminar

15A Mezzanine Level, Convention Center

Friday 11am-12pm

Initial discussion on Phase II of the Christianity Seminar

Friday 1:00-2:45pm

Presiders: Hal Taussig and Glenna Jackson

Topic: Reassessing the Categories of Heresy and Orthodoxy in the First and Second Centuries

Presenters: Deborah Niederer Saxon; Kristine Toft Rosland

Friday 3:15-5:00pm

Presiders: Shirley Paulson and Jason BeDuhn

Topic: Reassessing the Categories of Heresy and Orthodoxy in the First and Second Centuries

Presenters: Eduard Iricinschi; Markus Vinzent

Friday 6:30-8:00pm

Presiders: Celene Lillie and Lillian Larsen

Topic: Reassessing the Categories of Heresy and Orthodoxy in the First and Second Centuries


Professors Deborah Niederer Saxon; Kristine Toft Rosland; Eduard Iricinschi; Markus Vinzent

Monday, 11/25
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Pacific Ballroom 14 (First Floor) - Marriott Marquis
Theme: Christianity Seminar Phase II, Christianity Beyond the 2nd Century

Seminar on God and the Human Future

15B Mezzanine Level, Convention Center

Session One

Friday, 1:00-2:45

Topic:  A Primer on Afro-Futurism

Presenter:  Terrance Dean (Denison University)

Respondent:  Michael Brandon McCormack (University of Louisville)


Reflecting on James Baldwin’s seminal essay, “The Fire Next Time” (1965), which critically and yet imaginatively challenges prevailing logics and genres that normalized discourses on white patriarchy, religious ideologies of Christianity and the Nation of Islam, as well as race relations and black identity in America, this works-in-progress considers Baldwin’s consistent resistance toward classifications, and systemic powers of oppression. This project endeavors to situate Baldwin within Afrofuturistic thought that demystifies modern ethno-class specific framings of religious piety and systemic racialized beliefs of black conformity, and reimagines race and religious nationhood. Making his own “bio-poesis” as a black gay man the de-centering trope, Baldwin unhinges the ideas of white patriarchy and religious normative identity and raises important new considerations of expressions of black identity under the guise of the monster. From the framework of Afrofuturism, this work-in-progress interprets Baldwin as an Afrofuturistic thinker whose creative and transformative re-imaginings and biographical narrations sought to transform the paradigms of race, religion and sexuality for Black persons. Evident in many of Baldwin’s works are apocalyptic themes: heaven and hell, other worldly dimensions, and post-racial and post-sexual concepts and themes. This works-in-progress is a project engaging scholarship around Baldwin’s writings on religion, race, sexuality, and futurity. Some questions under consideration are: In what ways does Baldwin see the world beyond race, including post-sex and post-gender? What futurity can be made possible for Black persons today? How did Baldwin imagine themes of freedom and liberation for Black persons in relation to the social and political paradigms of global identity and sex and religious futurity?

Session Two

Friday, 3:15-5:00

Topic:  A Primer on Indigenous Futurism

Presenter: Mathew Arthur (Simon Fraser University)

Respondent:  Terrence Dean (Denison University)

Session Three

Friday, 6:30-8:00

Topic: Radical Theology, Theopoetics, and the Future


Daniel Boscaljon (The Thoughtful Life Project)

Kameron Carter (Indiana University)

Jon Ivan Gill (California State University, Long Beach)

Katharine Lassiter (Chicago Theological Seminary)

Lakisha Lockhart-Rusch (Virginia Union University)

Jordan E. Miller (Bike Newport, RI)

Jeffrey W. Robbins (Lebanon Valley College)

George Schmidt (Chaplain, U.S. Navy)

Tamisha Tyler (Fuller Theological Seminary)


In previous years, this roundtable has explored the relationship between radical theology, theopoetics, and race as well as radical theology, theopoetics, and property. For this final year of the roundtable, we turn to the topic of the future, and ways that radical theology and theopoetics promote life in opposition to forms of theology predicated in death.

As various strains of radical theology have reminded us, Christian theology and its practice has been complicit in promoting a discourse of death. Soteriology is obsessed with death and an outside patriarchal figure who serves as savior, extracting us from the life that surrounds us. The fear of death includes the fear of life and spawns our sterilized (lifeless) desire to dominate and destroy the earth and damaging attitudes toward women. Tales of subduing and dominating the earth have long since gripped our theological foundation--even and especially in a secularized iteration of it--and, fueled by capitalist structures, these narratives threaten lives and livelihoods, planets and places, and creatures and wilds.

How can a radical theology birth a vital theology of life? What must a radical theology and/or theopoetics have to offer the earth that does not foreclose the possibility of a human future? What can the particular and peculiar presence of life on earth have to offer radical theology and theopoetics? How must radical theology become a resisting theology, which Jordan Miller argues “emerges from people fighting against the instruments of death, whether biological, technological, political, theological, economic, or bureaucratic”?

Rather than present papers, we engage each other conversationally around the focal point, elicited through prompts and roundtable discussion. We begin by each making a 3 minute opening statement (500 words) on the topic. We encourage each other to develop and articulate our personal theologies, informed by how our personal theologies and activism inform one another. Then we move through a series of specific questions with panelist conversation, pausing for attendee questions and comments after each round. Finally, we flip the room and let the attendees take over the conversation. This approach is consistent with the radical theoretical matrix, which attempts to break down and question hierarchies. The collaborative evolution of these prompts as focal points, instead of traditional papers with authors, enable an equal and balanced conversation.

Session Four

Saturday, 1pm

Meeting Location:  Laguna [south tower first floor], Convention Center

Topic:  Varieties of Post-Theism book workshop

Presenters:  Clayton Crockett, Jeffrey W. Robbins, and David Galston

Westar academic seminars location:

Christianity Seminar: 15A Mezzanine level, Convention Center

                 God Seminar: 15B Mezzanine level, Convention Center

(download a map here: convention-center.png (54 downloads) )

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.

Fall Meeting 2019 Papers (114 downloads)
Eduard Iricinschi Paper (41 downloads)

Order hard copies of seminar papers

AAR/SBL Program Highlights

SBL-Westar Institute Public Event

Details forthcoming

Location details forthcoming

Polebridge Authors & Books

Polebridge Press will offer recent books in conjunction with Wipf & Stock:

Location forthcoming

Dates & Deadlines At-a-Glance

Aug 24Advance registration deadline
Nov 22Westar Academic Seminars
Date forthcomingSBL-Westar Public Event
Nov 23-26SBL/AAR Annual Meeting