March 13-16, 2013
Flamingo Conference Resort
Santa Rosa, California

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Elaine Pagels

elainepagels_bigEarly “Christians” seized on the Book of Revelation as a weapon against heresy and infidels of all kinds—Jews, even Christians who dissented from their increasingly rigid doctrines and hierarchies. But were they its original targets? Elaine Pagels persuasively interprets Revelation as a scathing attack on the decadence of Rome. She argues that its author, John of Patmos, was taking aim at the Roman Empire following the “Jewish War” in 66 ce, when militant Jews in Jerusalem, fired with religious fervor, waged an all-out war against Rome’s occupation of Judea, and their defeat resulted in the desecration of Jerusalem and its Great Temple.

Elaine Pagels is Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University. She is the bestselling author of several books, including The Gnostic Gospels (1979), Beyond Belief (2003), Reading Judas (with Karen L. King, 2007), and most recently Revelations (2012).

The Underground Church
Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus

Robin Meyers

robinmeyersTheories abound as to why the church is declining so rapidly in the West. Could the reason be that no one expects anything important to happen on Sunday morning? The first Jesus people practiced pacifism, radical egalitarianism, and the redistribution of wealth (and paid for it with their lives). Today’s church largely defends the status quo. But what if churches today became, once again, an underground movement, taking on the power structures of our times? In this workshop, a minister from the reddest of states will tell how the scholars of Westar helped corrupt at least one church in Oklahoma.

Robin Meyers is a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma City University, a syndicated columnist, an award-winning commentator for NPR, and Senior Minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC Church of Oklahoma City. His books include Why the Christian Right Is Wrong (2006), Saving Jesus from the Church (2009), and The Underground Church (2012).

Mary Magadalene Leads the Way

Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre

Johnson-DeBaufre-MelanieMary Magdalene was a much more important figure in early Christianity than either the New Testament or traditional histories allow. Her reputation as a repentant prostitute is a fiction. The New Testament both includes and sidelines her. Beyond the canon, some early Christians regarded her as a visionary and leader. Why was her story so contested? If some speak of Petrine and Pauline Christianity, can we speak of Magdalene Christianity? This workshop explores the texts, issues, and scholarly proposals that reconfigure Mary Magdalene’s place in the history of Christianity as well as in the Christian theological imagination.

Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre is Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Drew Theological School in New Jersey. She is the author of Jesus Among Her Children (2006), Mary Magdalene Understood, with Jane Schaberg (2006), and co-editor of The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.

From Jesus to Constantine
Why we need a Christianity Seminar

Bernard Brandon Scott

Brandon ScottThe Acts of the Apostles, Irenaeus, the Canon, and Constantine tell of the pure teaching of Jesus that was handed on to the twelve apostles and then sullied by heretics. This is the orthodox story as we know it today. The real story is very different. How did a movement whose hero was crucified by an official of the Roman Empire end up as the official religion of that Empire? How did the historical Jesus become the second person of Trinity? How did a movement birthed in Judaism come to be anti-Jewish? The Christianity Seminar will tackle these and other seminal questions.
Bernard Brandon Scott (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is the Darbeth Distinguished Professor of New Testament at the Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa, OK. He is the author of several books, including The Trouble with Resurrection (2010) and Re-Imagine the World (2002).

Profile of the Christianity Seminar

The Christianity Seminar aims to move away from an understanding of Christianity that has been predetermined by the canon and reconstruct the conversation and debate from the formative moments of the movement.

At its inaugural session on Friday, it will take up Elaine Pagels’ latest book, Revelations, which provides a framework for engaging topics such as the meaning of apocalyptic and the differences between the religious beliefs and practices of Paul of Tarsus and John of Patmos.

On Saturday, it will turn to the role women played in the emergence of Christianity and address questions like the one posed by Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre, “If some speak of Petrine and Pauline Christianity, can we speak of Magdalene Christianity?”

Other questions on its five-year agenda include,

  • How did Christianity end up as the official religion of the Roman Empire?
  • How did the historical Jesus become the second person of the Trinity?
  • How did the earliest followers of Jesus self-identify?
  • How did a movement birthed in Judaism come to be anti-Jewish?
  • Was the canon the necessary outcome of Christianity?