Past Speakers
2018 Birmingham Fall Lecture: Philip Gulley
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Professor Mark Muesse

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Shades Valley Lutheran Church

720 Shades Creek Parkway
Birmingham (Homewood), AL 35209
(205) 871-3512

9:00 AM - First Lecture: 

The Importance of Unlearning God. When what we've been taught about God, humanity, and the world no longer resonates with our experience, what can we do?  Some leave the church, lose their faith, and grow bitter.  Others remain, but defect in place, mouthing religious platitudes they no longer believe, but think they must.  What do we do when our experience of God contradicts the first things we learned about God?

11:00 AM - Second Lecture: 

The Myth of the True Church.  How can we resist the temptation to insist our path is the true path to God?  What are the dangers of exclusive religion in a pluralistic world?  And how can the church still value its gospel, while also appreciating the paths and truths others have found?

1:30 PM - Third Lecture: 

Awakened Souls.  What does it mean to be a fully alive human?  How can our experiences with the Divine contribute to our growth, our happiness, and our well-being?

About Philip Gulley

Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor, writer, and speaker from Danville, Indiana.  Gulley has written 21 books, including the Harmony series recounting life in the eccentric Quaker community of Harmony, Indiana and the best-selling Porch Talk essay series.  Gulley’s memoir, I Love You, Miss Huddleston: And Other Inappropriate Longings of My Indiana Childhood, was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor.  In addition, Gulley, with co-author James Mulholland, shared their progressive spirituality in the books If Grace Is True and If God Is Love, followed by Gulley’s books If the Church Were Christian and The Evolution of Faith.

In his most recently published work of non-fiction,  Living the Quaker Way: Timeless Wisdom For a Better Life Today, Gulley offers the opportunity to participate in a world where the values of the Quaker way bring equity, peace, healing, and hope.  Living the Quaker Way invites readers to encounter the defining commitments of the Religious Society of Friends–simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality, and shows how those ideals can be incorporated in personal and public life to bring renewal and eliminate the clutter that is keeping us from deeper spirituality.

Gulley’s latest fictional series continues the exploits of Sam Gardner, first introduced in the Harmony series.  The new Hope series includes A Place Called Hope, A Lesson in Hope, and A Gathering in Hope, his most recent fictional release.

Gulley is currently working on his 22nd book entitled Unlearning God, in which he describes the process of spiritual growth, especially the re-interpretation of the earliest principles we learned about God.

You can also read Gulley’s essays in every issue of Indianapolis Monthly and The Saturday Evening Post.

For reviews and testimonials, please read Church Testimonials and What Others are Saying about Philip.
Tupelo Lecture Weekend
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September 28th & 29th, 2018

The Link Centre

1800 West Main Street

Tupelo, MS 38801

SPAFER Presents a Jesus Seminar on the Road

The Fifth Gospel

In 1945 a new gospel was discovered that would alter the way scholars look at gospels, the origins of Christianity, even Jesus himself. The new gospel was identified as the previously known but never found Gospel of Thomas. This Seminar introduces the Gospel of Thomas, examines its vision of Jesus, and asks how Thomas challenges our understanding of the historical Jesus and the story of Christian beginnings.

Suggested Reading: The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus
Stephen J. Patterson (Polebridge, 1992)  Author & Speaker


2018 Birmingham Spring Lecture: Mark Muesse: April 14, 2018
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Professor Mark Muesse

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Shades Valley Lutheran Church
720 Shades Creek Parkway
Birmingham, AL 38801
(Click here for Maps & Directions)

Professor Mark W. Muesse, PhD from Rhodes College in Memphis:
The Promise of Buddhist Spirituality

Albert Einstein considered Buddhism the most promising religion for the modern world and its scientific outlook. He wrote:

"Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future:  It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and spiritual; and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity."

In this series of talks and exercises, Dr. Mark W. Muesse will explain Einstein’s assertion by providing an introduction to Buddhist thought and practice.

9:00 AM - The Awakened One

Dr. Muesse begins the series with an overview of the life of Siddhattha Gotama, the man better known as the Buddha. This talk will cover the life of the Buddha in its historical context and emphasize the distinctive features of his world.

11:00 - The Noble Path

Drawing on the Buddha’s fundamental philosophy, Dr. Muesse then moves to discuss the essential components of Buddhist spirituality, including the practices of meditation, the arts of cultivating compassion, and methods of insight.

Break for Lunch

1:15 PM - Starting the Journey to Mindfulness

Finally, we conclude with an experiential component. Dr. Muesse will teach several of the basic techniques of Buddhist meditation, including mindfulness with breathing, walking meditation, lovingkindness, and gratitude practice.

2:00 - Adjourn

About Professor Mark W. Muesse:

Mark W. Muesse was born in Waco, Texas in 1957 and attended Baylor University, where he received a B.A., summa cum laude, in English Literature (1979). He also attended Harvard University, where he earned a Masters of Theological Studies (1981), a Masters of Arts (1983), and a Ph.D. in The Study of Religion (1987).  At Harvard, his principal teachers were Gordon D. Kaufman, Richard R. Niebuhr, and Sharon Welch in theology and Wilfred Cantwell Smith, William Graham, and Diana L. Eck in religion. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the relationship between liberalism and fundamentalism.

Muesse has taught at Harvard College, Harvard Divinity School, and the University of Southern Maine, where he also served as Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  Muesse came to Rhodes College in 1988 as Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and became Associate Professor in 1995.  He served as Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, Director of the Life:Then and Now program, Director of the Asian Studies program, and the W. J. Millard Chair in Religious Studies.

At Rhodes, he teaches courses in world religions and philosophy, modern theology, and spirituality.  In 2007, he received national recognition by Fortress Press, which presented him with its Undergraduate Teaching Award at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Diego.  In 2008, he received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching, Rhodes′ highest honor for a member of its faculty. He was a 2011 recipient of the “Distinguished Service Award” from the Viswayogi Viswamji Foundation for Universal Integration and Peace in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India, for “outstanding and dedicated community service and exceptional efforts to promote ‘human values and culture.’”

He has produced four lecture series and companion books for The Great CoursesThe Great Religions: Hinduism; Religions of the Axial Age; Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad; and Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation.  He is the author of many articles and reviews in comparative religions and theology. His books include Redeeming Men: Religion and Masculinities, The Hindu Traditions: A Concise Introduction, which was awarded a Certificate of Special Distinction by the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies, and The Age of Sages: The Axial Age in Asia and the Near East.  His newest book, Four Wise Men: The Lives and Teachings of Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, was published by Cascade Books in 2017.

Muesse has also been Professor of Theology at the Tamilnadu Theological Seminary in Madurai, India.   He has traveled extensively throughout Asia and has studied at International Buddhist Meditation Centre, MahachulalongkornUniversity, Bangkok, Thailand; the Himalayan Yogic Institute, Kathmandu, Nepal; the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey; and the Subodhi Institute in Piliyandala, Sri Lanka.   His wife Dhammika, a native of Sri Lanka, teaches in the Rhodes Chemistry Department.  They have a daughter, Ariyana, who is a eighth grader at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis.

Tupelo Event: Rev. Michael Dowd in Tupelo, MS: March 31, 2018
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Professor Mark Muesse

March 31, 2018

Link Centre
1800 West Main Street
Tupelo, MS 38801
(Click here for Maps & Directions)

Theme: Ecology as the Heart of Theology

9 AM - Lecture 1:  Reality 101: Deep-Time Wisdom and Dark Optimism

11 AM - Lecture 2:  Limits 101: Energy, Ecology, and Human Nature

Lunch available for purchase on site

AFTER LUNCH Homily/Discussion: ProFuture Faith: The Death and Resurrection of Religion?

Adjourn at 2:00 PM

DESCRIPTION: A science-based, deep-time big picture is vital for staying sane and sober in chaotic and contracting times. An evidential “dark optimism” can help us accept what is inevitable, avoid what is futile, and be a blessing to friends, family, and neighbors in a difficult and uncertain world.

The techno-fetish religion of growth everlasting was never sustainable. We tolerated it is because religion has been asleep at the wheel for centuries owing to idolatry of the written word, idolatry of the otherworldly, and idolatry of beliefs.

Anthropocentrism led us to defile primary reality — the climate, forests, soils, seas, and life upon which we depend. And now we are in the early stages of the Great Reckoning. The good news is that this may also be the Great Homecoming — the prodigal species coming home to Reality. By shifting from human-centered to life-centered measures of progress and success we can, once again, become integral members of the community of life.

By honoring the evolutionary significance of religion and the religious significance of science, we experience a deep and profound love of life, trust in death, and passion for posterity. At the intersection of science, inspiration, and sustainability we find that ‘reality is divine’ and ‘ecology must be the heart of theology.’ Such a pro-future sacred realism clarifies our predicament and our way forward.
This series of two dynamic, multi-media presentations followed by a boxed lunch and short homily will showcase the lessons of history and the Grace Limits of ecology, economics, and human nature. It will also highlight how global collective intelligence, interpreted meaningfully, can help green religion and empower all of us be “faithful to the future.”

About Rev. Michael Dowd:

Rev. Michael Dowd is a bestselling eco-theologian and pro-science ‘evangelist' whose work has been featured in The New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Discover, and on television nationally. His book, Thank God for Evolution, was endorsed by 6 Nobel Prize-winning scientists, noted skeptics, and by religious leaders across the spectrum. Michael and his science writer,  evolutionary educator, and fellow climate activist wife, Connie Barlow, have spoken to some 2,500 religious and secular groups across North America since 2002. Michael has delivered two TEDx talks and a program at the United Nations. He has also conducted two acclaimed online conversation series: “The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity” and “The Future Is Calling Us to Greatness.” Michael’s message, grounded in an ecological interpretation of Big History, always centers on fidelity to the future and how to stay sane, sober, and inspired to act locally and become ever more resilient in chaotic and contracting times. Recent sermons can be found here and here, longer programs here. His main volunteer work is recording “deep sustainability scripture”.

2017 Fall Lecture Weekend: Diana Butler Bass
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Diana Butler Bass

November 4th and 5th, 2017


In Partnership with Canterbury United Methodist Church
350 Overbrook Road
Mountain Brook, AL

In Partnership with Canterbury United Methodist Church, we will present Diana Butler Bass with three lectures on Saturday November 4th, 2017.

Theme for the weekend:
Saturday November 4th, 2017 @ Canterbury United Methodist Church

"We are engaged in a profound conflict regarding religion," claims Diana Butler Bass, "not between conservatives and liberals. But between those nostalgic for an older structure of theology and those open to the possibility of a deep restructuring of faith."  In this year's SPAFER lectures, she explores the shift away from vertical and hierarchal religion toward emerging forms of faith found on the horizons of spiritual experience. The most provocative and radical thing imaginable is the proclamation: God is with Us, All of Us.  Here. Now.  In the worlds of nature and neighbor.  In these difficult days, where we locate sacredness might well be our salvation. 

The day will be based on her recent award-winning book, GROUNDED: FINDING GOD IN THE WORLD and offer a preview of her upcoming book (April 2018), GRATEFUL: THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF GIVING THANKS.

Lecture 1:  Good-bye God-in-Heaven  --  9:00  AM Saturday Morning

Lecture 2:  An Alternative Architecture  --  11:00 AM Saturday Morning
Lunch at the Church  --  included in your ticket price  -- 12:30 PM

Lecture 3:  The Radical Way of Gratitude  -- 1:30  PM Saturday afternoon
Sunday November 5th, 2017 @ Canterbury United Methodist Church
9:15 AM  Lecture  -  Grounded: Finding God in Nature and the World - A Spiritual Revolution

To see the list of her many books, please visit:

To learn more about Diana Butler Bass herself, please visit:


Jesus Seminar on the Road, Spring 2017
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Jesus Seminar LogoIn Co-Operation with Edgewood Presbyterian Church,
SPAFER will host a Jesus Seminar on the Road
in Birmingham, AL, on April 21st and April 22nd, 2017.

All Lectures will take place at:
Edgewood Presbyterian Church, 850 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, AL 35209

Topic for the weekend - Changing Perceptions: Earth, Self, God

The Southern Progressive Alliance for Exploring Religion (SPAFER) and Edgewood Presbyterian Church are partnering with the Jesus Seminar on the Road program to ask how new scientific insights are changing the way people conceive of the earth, the human self, and the divine. The event is led by guest scholars Clayton Crockett of the University of Central Arkansas and Susan Elliott, a writer and environmental activist based in Red Lodge, Montana.

The program, entitled “Changing Perceptions: Earth, Self, God,” kicks off with a lecture on Friday, February 17th, 7:30–9 pm, and continues on Saturday, February 18th, with a series of daytime sessions 9:30 am – 4 pm. Beginning with an overview of how human relationships with the earth have changed from ancient to modern times, Elliott and Crockett will move on to ancient and modern conceptions of the self. The event will conclude by tackling the question of God’s meaning and value, if any, for the future.

All events take place at Edgewood Presbyterian Church, 850 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, AL 35209. Prices are $20 for the Friday evening lecture, $30 for each morning and afternoon session on Saturday, or $60 for the whole weekend. This event qualifies for Continuing Education Units for clergy and other educators. Registration is accepted online and at the door (credit cards accepted).

For Information about the speakers and to Purchase Tickets:

To download/print fliers or posters for this event, please use the links below:
Download or Print Flier  •  Download or Print Poster

Bernard Brandon Scott
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October 14th & 15th, 2016


Shades Valley Lutheran Church
720 Shades Creek Pkwy
Birmingham, AL 35209

7 PM Friday Night
Five Quick and Dirty Rules for Interpreting Paul

For the past twenty years a slow rumbling has been building up among New Testament scholars that is only now beginning to make its effects felt to a more general public. A new Paul is beginning to emerge, a Paul who differs from the Paul of Augustine and Luther. In this presentation we will explore five rules that I think should guide an interpretation of Paul.

9 AM Saturday morning
Showdown in Antioch

In Galatians 2:12-13 Paul reports a dramatic confrontation between himself and Cephas about Jewish Christians and gentile Christians eating together. The significance of this conflict for understanding Paul has often been overlooked. We will explore why this is one of the traumatic events in Paul’s life.

11 AM Saturday Morning
Does Paul Make Sense?

After we have grasped what Paul was about, we must ask, “Does he make any sense?” What might we make of Paul today? Does he offer us any leverage in understanding our contemporary situation?

About Bernard Brandon Scott:

Bernard Brandon Scott is the author and editor of many books, including The Real Paul: Recovering His Radical Challenge and The Trouble with Resurrection. A charter member of the Jesus Seminar, he is chair of Westar’s newly established Christianity Seminar. He served as chair of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as a member of several SBL Seminars including the Parable Seminar and Historical Jesus Seminar. He holds an A.B. from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, an M.A. from Miami University, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.

Bernard Brandon Scott's website:


Amy-Jill Levine
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March 18th & 19th, 2016


In Partnership with Canterbury United Methodist Church, 350 Overbrook Road, Mountain Brook, AL

Overall theme for the weekend:

"Jesus in His Jewish Context"

7 - 8 PM Friday Night
How Jews and Christians Read Scripture Differently

Followed by 30 minutes of Q&A, then a short reception from 8:30 to 9:15 PM

9 - 10 AM Saturday morning
The Parables as Jewish Stories

Followed by 30 minutes of Q&A
Then a break for punch and cookies from 10:30 to 11 AM

11 AM - 12 PM Saturday Morning
Jews and Christians in Conversation about the Middle East: Biblical Perspectives

Followed by 30 minutes of Q&A

About Amy-Jill Levine:

Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, and  Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences. Holding the B.A. from Smith College, the M.A. and  Ph.D. from Duke University, and honorary doctorates from Christian Theological Seminary, Drury University, the University of Richmond, the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, and the University of South Carolina-Upstate,

Professor Levine has been awarded grants from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. She has held office in the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the Association for Jewish Studies.

Her books include The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (HarperOne), the edited collection, The Historical Jesus in Context (Princeton), and the thirteen-volume edited series, Feminist Companions to the New Testament and Early Christian Writings (Continuum). With Marc Brettler of Brandeis University, she edited the  Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford). She has written, with her Vanderbilt colleague Douglas Knight, The Meaning of the Bible: What The Jewish Scriptures and the Christian Old Testament Can Teach us  (HarperOne); with Warren Carter of Brite Divinity School, she published in 2013 The New Testament: Methods and Meanings (Abingdon).  Her most recent book is Short Stories by Jesus: the Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi (HarperOne).  She has recorded "Introduction to the Old Testament," "Great Figures of the Old Testament," and "Great Figures of the New Testament" for the Teaching Company.

In 2011, Professor Levine became Affiliated Professor at the Woolf Institute: Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations at Cambridge, UK. A self-described "Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt," Professor Levine combines historical-critical rigor, literary-critical sensitivity, and a frequent dash of humor with a commitment to eliminating anti-Jewish, sexist, and homophobic theologies.

Amy-Jill Levine's website:


Rabbi Rami Shapiro
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October 9th and 10th, 2015

Shades Valley Lutheran Church
720 Shades Creek Pkwy
Birmingham, AL 35209

Please see the map below.


Rabbi Rami's Guide to God / An Exploration of Theological Options

7:00 PM Friday Night:
Why God Matters and Why What You Believe About God Matters Even More

9:00 AM Saturday Morning: 
Image and Likeness / Are You in God's Image, or is God in Yours?

11:00 AM Saturday Morning:
The GoMU (God of My Understanding) Manifesto / Carrying this Conversation into Your Community

About Rabbi Rami Shapiro:

"To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or say as well in another; and the more languages you learn, the more nuanced your understanding of life becomes. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence."

Challenged by Joshu Sasaki Roshi to be a zen rabbi in 1973, ordained as a Reform rabbi in 1981, earned a doctorate in religious studies in 1985, welcomed as a rebbe by Reb Zalman Schachter–Shalomi in 2000, labeled a Holy Rascal by Sister Jose Hobday in 2003, made a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason in 2010, and initiated into the Ramakrishna Order of Vedanta Hinduism in 2011, Rabbi Rami is a world renowned lecturer and author, who has been bringing the perennial wisdom of the world’s religions to spiritual seekers of every faith and none for over forty years.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro's website:

Rabbi Rami Shapiro's manifesto:

Rabbi Rami Shapiro talks about Religion:

An excellent article about our Next Speaker:


Jesus Seminar on the Road
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Jesus Seminar LogoIn Co-Operation with the Westar Institute,
SPAFER will host a Jesus Seminar on the Road
in Birmingham, AL, on April 17th and 18th, 2015.

All Lectures will take place at:
UU Church of Birmingham, 4300 Hampton Heights Drive, Birmingham, AL 35209

Topic for the weekend - Jesus in the First and Twenty First Centuries

Lecture Topics:
     1. How To Live in Empire – Then and Now
     2. The Wisdom of the Pre-mythic Jesus
     3. Jesus Among the Platonists
     4. Jesus and Democratic Discourse
     5. Where does this conversation lead us?

Friday Night:
     • Lecture #1 – 7:30 - 9:00 PM, followed by Reception

Saturday Morning:
     • Lecture #2 – 9:30 - 10:30 AM
     • Break
     • Lecture #3 – 11:00 - Noon
     • Lunch Break 12:00 to 1:30 PM

Saturday Afternoon:
     • Lecture #4 – 1:30 - 2:30 PM
     • Break
     • Lecture #5 – 3:00 – 4:00 PM

For Information about the speakers and to Purchase Tickets:

To download/print fliers or posters for this event, please use the links below:
Download or Print Flier  •  Download or Print Poster

Brian McLaren - September 19th and 20th, 2014
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All Lectures at:
Canterbury United Methodist Church
350 Overbrook Road
Mountain Brook (Birmingham), AL

Theme: Emerging Christianity in a 21st Century World

Friday Night – September 19th – 7:00 PM
Session 1: Reading the Bible in a 21st Century World

Saturday Morning – September 20th – 9:00 AM until 12:30 PM
Session 2: Christian Identity in a 21st Century World
Session 3: Christian Mission in a 21st Century World

About Brian D. McLaren

Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is an ecumenical global networker among innovative Christian leaders.

Born in 1956, he graduated from University of Maryland with degrees in English (BA, summa cum laude, 1978, and MA, in 1981). His academic interests included Medieval drama, Romantic poets, modern philosophical literature, and the novels of Dr. Walker Percy. In 2004, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity Degree (honoris causa) from Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and in 2010, he received a second honorary doctorate, this one from Virginia Theological Seminary (Episcopal).

From 1978 to 1986, McLaren taught college English, and in 1982, he helped form Cedar Ridge Community Church, an innovative, nondenominational church in the Baltimore-Washington region ( He left higher education in 1986 to serve as the church's founding pastor and served in that capacity until 2006. During that time, Cedar Ridge earned a reputation as a leader among emerging missional congregations.

Brian has been active in networking and mentoring church planters and pastors since the mid 1980's, and has assisted in the development of several new churches. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings - across the US and Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. His public speaking covers a broad range of topics including postmodern thought and culture, Biblical studies, evangelism, leadership, global mission, spiritual formation, worship, pastoral survival and burnout, inter-religious dialogue, ecology, and social justice.

He is primarily known, however, as a thinker and writer. His first book, The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix, (Zondervan, 1998, rev. ed. 2000) has been recognized as a primary portal into the current conversation about postmodern ministry. His second book, Finding Faith (Zondervan, 1999), is a contemporary apologetic, written for thoughtful seekers and skeptics. (It was later re-released as two short books, "A Search for What Makes Sense" and "A Search for What is Real.") "More Ready Than You Realize" (Zondervan, 2002) presents a refreshing approach to spiritual friendship. "Adventures in Missing the Point" (coauthored with Dr. Anthony Campolo, Zondervan, 2003) explores theological reform in a postmodern context. "A Generous Orthodoxy" (Zondervan, 2004), is a personal confession and has been called a "manifesto of the emerging church conversation."

His first work of teaching fiction (or creative-nonfiction), "A New Kind of Christian" (Jossey-Bass, 2001), won Christianity Today's "Award of Merit" in 2002, and has become one of the pivotal texts for what is increasingly called "Emergence Christianity." It was followed by "The Story We Find Ourselves In" (Jossey-Bass, 2003), which seeks to tell the Biblical story in a fresh way. Brian concluded this trilogy with "The Last Word and the Word After That" (Jossey-Bass, 2005), a book that reopened the question of hell and final judgment.

His 2006 release, "The Secret Message of Jesus" (Thomas Nelson), explores the theme of the kingdom of God in the teachings of Jesus. "Everything Must Change (Thomas Nelson, 2007) traces critical ways in which Jesus' message of the kingdom of God confronts contemporary global crises. In "Finding Our Way Again" (Thomas Nelson, 2008), Brian draws resources from ancient traditions and practices to enrich spiritual formation today.

In "A New Kind of Christianity" (HarperOne, 2010), Brian articulated ten questions that are central to the emergence of a postmodern, post-colonial Christian faith. His 2011 HarperOne release, "Naked Spirituality," offers "simple, doable, and durable" practices to help people deepen their life with God.

Brian's "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World)" is the premier release of Jericho Books (September 2012). It explores the intersection of religious identity, inter-religious hostility, and human solidarity.

Brian's books have been translated into many languages, including Korean, Chinese, French, Swedish, Norwegian, German, and Spanish. He has written for or contributed interviews to many periodicals, including Leadership, Sojourners, Tikkun, Worship Leader, and Conversations. He is an active and popular blogger, a musician, and a songwriter, offering a variety of resources through his website,

A frequent guest on television, radio, and news media programs, he has appeared on All Things Considered, Larry King Live, Nightline, and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. His work has also been covered in Time (where he was listed as one of American's 25 most influential evangelicals), Christianity Today, Christian Century, the Washington Post, Huffington Post,, and many other print media.

He has taught or lectured at many seminaries and has served on a number of boards, including Emergent Village (, Sojourners (, Mars Hill Graduate School (, International Teams (, and Off The Map (, and he is a founding member of Red Letter Christians (

Brian is married to Grace, and they have four adult children. His personal interests include wildlife, ecology, fishing, hiking, music, art, and literature.

Thomas Moore - May 2nd & 3rd, 2014
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Co-Sponsored by Friends of Jung-South and the Southern Progressive Alliance for Exploring Religion

ThomasMoore ThomasMoore-AReligionOfOnesOwn-banner
A Religion Of One's Own

518 19th Street North • Birmingham, AL

May 2, 2014
Friday night 7-9 pm

Lecture and Q & A:
"A Religon of One's Own"

Dr. Moore will be speaking from his newly released book, A Religion of One's Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World. Book signing to follow.

Please scroll down to order tickets online,
or by mail with a check.

May 3, 2014
Saturday 9 am - 1 pm

Workshop: "Shaping Spiritual Practices into a Religion of One's Own"

Taking specific lessons from C. G. Jung, Georgia O'Keefe, Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau, we will explore treating ordinary daily practices as elements in one's own religion.

Thomas Moore is the author of the bestselling book Care of the Soul and fifteen other books on deepening spirituality and cultivating soul in every aspect of life.

He has been a monk, a musician, a university professor, and a psychotherapist, and today he lectures widely on holistic medicine, spirituality, psychotherapy, and the arts. He lectures frequently in Ireland and has a special love of Irish culture.

He has a Ph. D. in religion from Syracuse University and has won several awards for his work, including an honorary doctorate from Lesley University and the Humanitarian Award from Einstein Medical School of Yeshiva University.

Three of his books have won the prestigious Books for a Better Life awards. He writes fiction and music and often works with his wife, artist and yoga instructor, Hari Kirin.

He writes regular columns for Resurgence, Spirituality & Health, and The Huffington Post and has recently published Writing in the Sand: The Spirituality of Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels, Care of the Soul in Medicine, and The Guru of Golf and Other Stories about the Game of Life. Much of his recent work has focused on the world of medicine, speaking to nurses and doctors about the soul and spirit of medical practice.

Fred Plumer - September 27 & 28, 2013
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"Progressive Christianity - What Is It?"

FRIDAY evening @ 7 PM:
"Everything Changes - It Either Evolves or Dies"

SATURDAY morning @ 9 AM:
"The Christian Church - Is There a Future?"

SATURDAY morning @ 11 AM:
"A New Christian Paradigm for the 21st Century."

After an extensive background in building management, real estate development and restaurant ownership and management, Fred Plumer made a career shift in 1981. He earned his M.Div. degree at the Pacific School of Religion while doing work in an inner city community center. In 1984 Rev. Plumer was called to the Irvine United Congregational Church in Irvine, California to lead a UCC new start church. The church became known throughout the denomination as one of the more exciting and progressive mid-size congregations in the nation.

Rev. Plumer served on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC) for five years, and chaired the Commission for Church Development and Evangelism for three of those years. In that time the Southern California Conference put in place one of the most aggressive church development plans in its history. Rev. Plumer regularly gives workshops on church growth.

He became a member of the Executive Council for The Center for Progressive Christianity in 1995 and has written The Study Guide for TCPC’s “eight points.” He has had several articles published on church development, building faith communities and redefining the purpose of the enlightened Christian Church.

Always interested in the latest and best scholarship, Rev. Plumer has been involved with the Jesus Seminar since his graduate work in the early eighties. Rev. Plumer was the executive producer of a video and workbook on the Open and Affirming process in the UCC. This highly acclaimed video, "A Journey of Faith," has now been used in five countries and in thousands of churches of several denominations as a teaching tool for those interested in studying the subject of the church and sexual orientation issues. In 1990 he was the recipient of ECCO’s Humanitarian Award for his work in this area.

Rev. Plumer has been active in the inter-faith dialogue since his seminary years. In 1989 under his leadership the UCC church agreed to host a small group of Jews who wanted to start a Reconstructionist Synagogue. The congregations shared space, operating expenses, teaching forums, mission outreach projects, special services and meals for over 15 years. The synagogue became one of the fastest growing congregations in the nation with nearly five hundred families when they found it necessary to build their own facility. The unique relationship between the two congregations was the subject of numerous newspaper articles and radio talk shows providing Rev. Plumer many opportunities to speak of the importance of inter-religious dialogue. In 2000 with the support of the synagogue, a Mosque joined in this unique mix of religious traditions sharing space and ideas. The new relationship was covered by numerous newspapers, two talk shows and was a special feature that ran on CNN news, Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

In September of 2004 Rev. Plumer retired from the Irvine church so he could devote more time to writing and his passion - reclaiming the message of Jesus. In January of 2006 after Jim Adams, founder of TCPC retired as President, Fred was elected as the new President.

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Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow - April 12 &13, 2013
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"Soulful Science: Evidential Inspiration and Realistic Hope"

FRIDAY evening @ 7 PM:
"The Sacred Side of Science: Big History, Human Nature, Death" - Michael Dowd

SATURDAY morning @ 9 AM and 11 AM:
1) "How Religion Is Failing Our Youth — and What We Can Do About It" - Connie Barlow
2) "How Religion Betrayed God — and Atheists Became Prophets" - Michael Dowd

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THE REVEREND MICHAEL DOWD is a former pastor, veteran sustainability activist, and big history / big integrity evangelist. An outspoken religious naturalist, he is the author of the bestselling bridge-building book, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World (Viking 2008 / Plume 2009), which was endorsed by 6 Nobel Prize-winning scientists and other science luminaries, including noted skeptics, and by religious leaders across the spectrum.

Michael and his wife, Connie Barlow, an acclaimed science writer and gifted evolutionary educator, permanently travel North America and have addressed more than 1,500 religious and non-religious groups since 2002 — ranging from Unitarian Universalists and secular high school, college, and university students, to Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical Christian churches, to New Thought, New Age, and Integral groups. They show how the science-based history of everything and everyone can be interpreted in ways that inspire people to cooperate across political and religious differences in service of a just and thriving future for all.

In December 2010 Rev. Dowd hosted the acclaimed conversation series (now a digital audio educational series), "The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity", and in June 2011 he and Connie launched a 5-week online course titled, "Evolutionize Your Life".

Celebrated by liberals and conservatives alike and uniquely gifted at building bridges between believers and non-believers, Michael shares "The Great Story" — humanity's common creation story — in ways that uplift and expand heart, mind, and soul. His passion is showing how a sacred view of death, human nature, and the trajectory of big history can inspire and empower each of us to live with greater integrity, joy, and zest for life.

Michael and Connie are co-creators of the leading Religious Naturalism / Epic of Evolution educational website:

CONNIE BARLOW is an acclaimed author of popular science books and articles, and developer of THE GREAT STORY website. Connie's most recent book, The Ghosts of Evolution (Basic Books), was's top-recommended science book for several months in 2001. Her previous books, Green Space, Green Time: The Way of Science (Copernicus Books), Evolution Extended: Biological Debates on the Meaning of Life (MIT Press), and From Gaia to Selfish Genes: Selected Writings in the Life Sciences, all explore the nexus of science, spirit, and meaning.

Barlow, an evolutionary humanist and Unitarian Universalist, is also a well-known developer of curricula for children's religious education that highlight our shared evolutionary story. Since 2002, she and her husband (Rev. Michael Dowd) have lived entirely on the road as "America's evolutionary evangelists" — which is also the title of the couple's occasional podcast. She posts videos on evolutionary themes on YouTube under the name "ghostsofevolution".

She is founding member and webmaster of Torreya Guardians, an internet community of botanists, naturalists, and others dedicated to ensuring the continuing persistence in the wild of America's most endangered conifer tree: Torreya taxifolia. In the 1990s she contributed articles to Wild Earth magazine toward encouraging others in conservation to develop "deep-time eyes" by way of learning the history of evolutionary change and paleoecological interactions — culminating in her contributions to "Pleistocene Rewilding" advocacy.

Dr. Joerg Rieger - September 21 & 22, 2012
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Joerg Rieger • Canterbury United Methodist Church • September 21st & 22ndJoergRieger

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Joerg Rieger, is Wendland-Cook Professor of Constructive Theology at Perkins School of Theology, SMU. For more than two decades he has worked to bring together theology and the struggles for justice and liberation that mark our age. His work addresses the relation of theology to public life, using tools from cultural studies, critical theory, and religious studies, and reflecting on the misuse of power in politics and economics.

Rieger has lectured throughout the United States, as well as internationally, including presentations in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.
He is on the steering committee of the Dallas Area Christian Progressive Alliance, on the steering committee of Jobs with Justice in North Texas, and he is co-founder of the Workers' Rights Board in the Dallas area. For more information on his work, see

Internationally recognized for his prolific and visionary writing, a selection of his books includes Traveling (2011), Grace under Pressure (2011), Globalization and Theology (2010), No Rising Tide: Theology, Economics, and the Future (2009), Beyond the Spirit of Empire: Theology and Politics in a New Key (2009, with Néstor Miguez and Jung Mo Sung), Christ and Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times (2007, German and Portuguese transl.); God and the Excluded: Visions and Blindspots in Contemporary Theology (2001); and Remember the Poor: The Challenge to Theology in the Twenty-First Century (1998).

"Empire, Economics, & Christ: Does Christianity Still Make a Difference?" Lectures

Friday, September 21, 2012

Session 1: "Christ and Empire: The Radical Christian Heritage"
7-9pm Lecture, Q&A, Reception

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Session 2: "Economics as Religion: What Does Jesus Have to Do with Wall Street?"
9 – 10:30 am, Lecture, Q&A

Session 3: Economics and Resistance: Reshaping Desire From the Bottom Up
11 am – 12:30 pm, Lecture, Q&A

Canterbury United Methodist Church
350 Overbrook Road in Birmingham

Friday - Lecture, Q&A , Reception - $20.00

Saturday - Two Lectures - $20.00

Advance purchase of Weekend Ticket to include Friday & Saturday Lectures - $35.00

Special Student Pricing!
Students with a valid Student I.D. Card will be admitted at the door for $5.00 each day.
No advance purchase required, but bring your Student I.D. Card.

Dr. Robin R. Meyers - April 13 & 14, 2012
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RobinMeyers Please click here to download the flier for this event.

Dr. Robin Meyers, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC), a tenured professor in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University, an author, a syndicated columnist, and an award-winning commentator for National Public Radio. He has been the Senior Minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC church of Oklahoma City, the fastest-growing UCC church in the Kansas-Oklahoma conference, since 1985.

Dr. Robin Meyers was born in Oklahoma City, and grew up in Wichita, Kansas. After graduating from Wichita State University (1975), he received his MDiv from the Graduate Seminary of Phillips University (1979) and his Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey (1981). In 1991 he was awarded a PhD by the University of Oklahoma's Communication Department, for his work in the area of persuasion and preaching.

Meyers is the author of five books, a textbook on preaching entitled: With Ears to Hear: Preaching as Self-Persuasion; Morning Sun on a White Piano: Simple Pleasures and the Sacramental Life, endorsed by Bill Moyers; The Virtue in the Vice: Finding Seven Lively Virtues in the Seven Deadly Sins, endorsed by Desmond Tutu; Why the Christian Right is Wrong: A Minister’s Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, and Your Future. And his newest book, Saving Jesus From The Church: How To Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus.

Please click here to download the flier about his latest book.

Friday, April 13th, 2012
Session 1:   "How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus"
Time: 7 pm

Saturday, April 14th, 2012
Session 1:   "Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus"
Time: 9 am

Session 2:  "The Church of the Future and How We Get From Here to There."
A discussion lead by Dr. Meyers.
Time: 11:00 am


Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham
4300 Hampton Heights Drive, Birmingham, AL

Bishop John Shelby Spong November 4-5, 2011
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Please note that the date of Bishop Spong's lecture series has changed  to the weekend of November 4th & 5th.  Out of town visitors should consider making room reservations as soon as possible, because there are Samford and Birmingham Southern football games on this weekend. 

The weekend lectures were held at South Side Baptist Church located at 1016  19th Street South in Downtown Birmingham, AL.

BIRMINGHAM -- Overall Title: Eternal Life

Friday night at 7:00 PM

Developing a New Angle of Vision -- The old symbols are based on pre-suppositions no longer widely believed.  We must separate the quest for eternity from those symbols.

Saturday morning 9:00 AM until 12:30 PM

The Interconnectedness of Life and the Birth of Self-Consciousness -- From a single cell of life we have journeyed in our evolving history into self-consciousness.

Jesus - A Step Beyond Self-Consciousness into a Universal Consciousness -- Entering the mystical experience at the heart of life and meeting eternity.

TUPELO -- Overall Title: "Jesus for the Non-Religious"

Sunday Afternoon - The Link Centre - November 6, 2011
2:00 PM --   "Human Life: Fallen or Incomplete?"
4:00 PM --    "Salvation: Rescue from a Fall or Expansion of our Humanity?"

Dr. Wayne Flynt - Birmingham, March 4-5, 2011
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DrWayneFlyntEighteenth Lecture - The South's Battle Over God - Dr. Wayne Flynt - Birmingham, March 4-5, 2011.

Barbara Brown Taylor- Birmingham, September 24-25, 2010.
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3_BarbaraBrownTaylorSeventeenth Lecture - Body and Soul: What the Body Knows About God - Barbara Brown Taylor- Birmingham, September 24-25, 2010.

Bernard Brandon Scott - Birmingham, March 26-27, 2010
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BernardBrandonScottSixteenth Lecture - The Resurrection: Ancient and Modern - Bernard Brandon Scott- Birmingham, March 26-27, 2010.

Martin Marty - Birmingham, October 23-24, 2009
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MartinMartyFifteenth Lecture - Exploring the Paradoxes of American Religion - Martin Marty - Birmingham, October 23-24, 2009.

Bernard Brandon Scott, - Birmingham, April 3-4, 2009
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BernardBrandonScottFourteenth Lecture -Re-imaging the World in Parables - Bernard Brandon Scott, - Birmingham, April 3-4, 2009.

Hal Taussig, Ph.D. - Birmingham, October 26-27, 2008
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HalTaussigThirteenth Lecture - A New Look at Old Scripture in Two Sessions - Hal Taussig, - Birmingham, October 26-27, 2008.

Eleanor DelBene - Birmingham, October 26-27, 2007
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UrsulaGoodenoughTwelfth Lecture - Exploring the Wonder of the Creation - Ursula Goodenough, and The Cosmic Walk, Eleanor DelBene - Birmingham, October 26-27, 2007.

James M. Robinson, Birmingham, March 9-10, 2007
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JamesMRobinsonEleventh Lecture - The Lost Gospels of Christianity: Q - The Gospel of Jesus' Own Disciples, The Four Nag Hammadi Gospels - James M. Robinson, Birmingham, March 9-10, 2007.

Delwin Brown, Birmingham, November 3-4, 2006
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DelwinBrownTenth Lecture - Progressive Christianity: A Direction for the Future? - Delwin Brown, Birmingham, November 3-4, 2006.

Amy-Jill Levine, Birmingham, May 5-6, 2006
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AmyJillLevineNinth Lecture - Jesus and Judaism: Why the Connection Matters - Amy-Jill Levine, Birmingham, May 5-6, 2006

Bart Ehrman - Birmingham, Oct. 28-29, 2005
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4_BartErhmanEighth Lecture - Truth & Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Early Christianity - Bart Ehrman - Birmingham, Oct. 28-29, 2005

John Dominic Crossan - Birmingham, May 6-7, 2005
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JohnDominicCrossanSeventh Lecture - Paul Then and Now - John Dominic Crossan - Birmingham, May 6-7, 20051

John Cobb and Gary Dorrien, Birmingham, July 8-10, 2004
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Sixth Lecture - Let Justice Flow Like a Mighty River: Awakening America to God's Demand for Justice - John Cobb and Gary Dorrien, Birmingham, July 8-10, 2004

John Shelby Spong - Birmingham, March 10-11, 2004
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1_BishopJohnShelbySpongFifth Lecture - Using the Bible as a Doorway to God, Not as a Weapon to Undergird Prejudice - John Shelby Spong - Birmingham, March 10-11, 2004

Marcus Borg - Birmingham, November 7-8, 2003
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2_MarcusBorgFouth Lecture - The Heart of Christianity: Seeing the Christian Life Again - Marcus Borg - Birmingham, November 7-8, 2003

Dr. David Bains - Cheaha State Park Alabama, August 16-17, 2002
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SPAFER Two-day Retreat -- Two-day Retreat - Seeing God Through the Eyes of Another Person: World Religions: Same Questions, Different Answers, or Different Questions, Different Answers? and Religious Diversity in the U.S.: What Difference Does it Make? - Lead by Dr. David Bains - Cheaha State Park Alabama, August 16-17, 2002.

John Shelby Spong - Birmingham, March 6-7, 2002
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1_BishopJohnShelbySpongThird Lecture - The Courage to Move into the Future and Rethinking Human Sexuality - John Shelby Spong - Birmingham, March 6-7, 2002

Hal Taussig, Ph.D. - Birmingham, Dec. 7-8, 2001
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HalTaussigSecond Lecture - The Search for Authentic Spirituality: Opening Hearts and Minds - Hal Taussig, Ph.D. - Birmingham, Dec. 7-8, 2001

Stephen J. Patterson, Ph.D. - Birmingham, June 1-2, 2001
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StephenJPattersonFirst Lecture - Stephen J. Patterson, Ph.D.: Faith in the Real World.

SPAFER's first lecture weekend was at Pilgrim Congregational, which at the time was the Blue Roof church on Montclair Road, in Birmingham, AL. (they have since sold that property). The date was June 1st and 2nd, 2001.

Jesus Seminar on the Road, May 12-13, 2000
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