PRESS RELEASE – Friday, October 11, 2013
How Did Ancient Christian Women, Slaves Shape Church? Jesus Seminar Scholars to Discuss in Public Forum at First Congregational Church in Auburn, CA

Religion scholars from the Jesus Seminar on the Road program will hold a public forum on diversity and conflict in early Christianity on November 1–2 at First Congregational Church in Auburn, the Jesus Seminar announced Friday.

A typical story of Christian origins, such as that found in the biblical book of Acts, depicts early Christians as a unified, loving community. But a careful look back into the mists of history reveals variety and controversy around topics such as the roles of women and slaves, and the relationship between Christians and the Roman Empire. This seminar will examine the plurality and diversity in early Christian belief and social practices, and ask why Christianity grew, why it succeeded, and how it became unified. The Saturday session will conclude with a performance of “Woman on the Way,” a rendition of the Gospel of Mark as Artemisia, an imaginary late first century woman, might have told it.

Jesus Seminar on the Road scholars Joanna Dewey and Bernard Brandon Scott will lead the forum. Joanna Dewey, who holds a PhD from Graduate Theological Union, is the Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr. Professor Emerita of Biblical Studies at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is the author of several books, including Mark as Story (2012). Bernard Brandon Scott, who holds a PhD from 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).

The forum, entitled “The Social World of Early Christianity,” will take place on November 1–2 at First Congregational Church, 710 Auburn Ravine Rd., in Auburn, CA. This program, part of the Jesus Seminar on the Road series, is sponsored by Westar Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to religious literacy, as well as Southminster Presbyterian Church.

All sessions are open to the general public. Registration is $75 for all three events ($60 pre-registration by Oct 18th), and $50 for additional family members. The individual cost is $20 for Friday evening and $30 each for Saturday morning and afternoon sessions. Register by phone, 503-375-5323, or online at www.westarinstitute.org/events/. Questions on local arrangements should be directed to Barbara Grandstaff, (530) 885-9087.

Founded in 1985, the Jesus Seminar was organized to discover and report a scholarly consensus on the historical authenticity of the sayings and events attributed to Jesus. A 2007 Pew Forum survey found that 37% of Americans read the Bible or other Holy Scriptures at least once a week, but 48% “say they ‘seldom’ or ‘never’ read books (other than Scripture) or visit websites about their own religion.”