The Seventh Annual Divinity School Ministry Conference

Ministry: Left, Right, and In-Between

Friday, April 15th 2011
9am-5pm (with a reception following) 

University of Chicago Divinity School
1025 E. 58th St. Chicago, IL 60637

ministry_poster_2011.jpgMinistry Conference Blog

Focusing on themes of allegiance and religion, the Seventh Annual Student Ministry Conference will explore the question: How do we engage in authentic ministry in the context of a polarizing political climate? The conference will bring together students, clergy, lay persons, and scholars together to reflect upon these issues through keynote lectures, panel discussion, worship, and dialogue.

This theme will be framed through a keynote address by Rev. Sandya Jha, author of Room at the Table: The Struggle for Dignity and Unity in Disciples History (Chalice Press, 2009) and pastor of First Christian Church of Oakland: a multicultural, multi-socioeconomic, GLBT-inclusive, liberationist, emergent, increasingly missional congregation (that would not use any of those words to describe it). More information on Rev. Jha can be found at her website:

Further focusing the conference will be two panel discussions consisting of pastors, politicians, and scholars who will discuss specific issues of ministry in our current political climate. The two panels are described below.

“Queering Religious Politics: Political Issues and LGBTQ Spiritual Lives”

 In order to have a more in-depth discussion of a current issue that polarizes both churches and society, this panel aims to get an on-the-ground view of what is happening in churches that are working towards becoming fully inclusive of LGBTQ persons. What questions arise in these discussions? How do people of faith navigate an inclusive discussion on a topic that many find provocative merely by its nature? What impact do these conversations have on persons, congregations, and denominations?

Rev. Bonnie Beckonchrist, Lead Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Arlington Heights, IL
She is an active member of the Reconciling Ministries Network and has worked with both urban and suburban parishes in their efforts to become reconciling parishes. She received her MDiv at Garrett Evangelical Theological Society in 1982 and recently completed her D.Min from Wesley Theological in 2010 and focuses her work on the reconciling process through clergy mentoring, task force planning and preaching.

Tony Hoshaw, PhD Student, Chicago Theological Seminary
Mr. Hoshaw is an active LGBTQ voice in Chicago for safe spaces for the LGBTQ Community and its Allies to have honest conversations. His own work has been discussing the way anti-queer forces in the Christian tradition have been successful in convincing people that "there is nothing queer about God or the Gospels," and what that means for queer theology, persons, and practice.

Rev. Kaari Reierson, Former Member of the Department of Studies, ELCA
Rev. Reierson is the former Senior Editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics and Associate Director for Studies in Church in Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Under her leadership she has encouraged a lively discourse on issues facing the LGBTQ community and in parish ministry as a Colleague in Ministry at Grace Lutheran in Evanston.

Nicole Sotelo, Media Coordinator and Former Just Church Coordinator, Call to Action
Ms. Sotelo is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and author of "Women Healing from Abuse: Meditations for Finding Peace." Both in her position at Call to Action and in her daily life she has spoken out consistently about the need for moving past prejudices and the important role younger generations have in making a pro-love, anti-prejudice movement a success.

“Preachers as Precinct Captains: Chicago Politics in Chicago Pulpits”

Specifically looking at political issues from a Chicagoan vantage point, this panel will bring together politicians, activists, and church leaders to discuss the how current political issues play a role in Chicago churches. What affect do congregations have on local political issues? What role is the role of the congregation and a religious leader in political conversations? How do political leaders engage with religion in their work?

David Hatch, SOUL Representative
As a leader in SOUL, Southsiders Organizing for Unity and Liberation, David Hatch has helped engage community members on the Southside of Chicago in questions of empowerment, the democratic process, how to bring resources to the underprivileged areas in which they are most needed, and how to open discourse between people from diverse economic and social backgrounds. Some of the campaigns SOUL has worked on include Green Jobs, Transportation, Education Reform, and HIV/AIDS initiatives.

Robert Giligan, Executive Director of the Illinois Catholic Conference
Mr. Gilligan is engaged in regular advocacy work at the state legislature on behalf of the Illinois bishops. He also played a prominent role in organizing and spearheading the catholic campaign to abolish the death penalty in Illinois, mobilizing Catholics and parishes across the state to advocate on behalf of this issue.

The Rev. Alexander Sharp, Executive Director of Protestants for the Common Good
Prior to earning the Master of Divinity degree from the University of Chicago in 1996, Al Sharp served as the Vice President of Business and Finance at the University of Chicago from 1982 to 1994. Al was Commissioner of Welfare for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1975 to 78. Before this, he headed the Office of University and Professional Schools in the New Jersey Department of Higher Education and holds a Master of Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. He is a member of Hyde Park Union Church in Chicago.

Final Panelist TBA


In addition to these two panels our worship service will explore a theme of dissonance through its music, liturgy and preaching. The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel from First Congregational Church Glen Ellyn will be one of the preachers at the worship service and will also be leading a preaching workshop with those interested. She is the author of Tell It Like It Is: Reclaiming the Practice of Testimony and co-author with Martin B. Copenhaver of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers. In addition she also hosts her own talk show on WTTW channel 11 entitled 30 Good Minutes.

The Rev. Dr. Daniel’s preaching style will be contrasted with that of Pastor Julian Deshazier, newly installed Senior Minister at University Church. Julian DeShazier became University Church's pastor in October 2010. As a graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Chicago Divinity School, Julian served as Teen Pastor at Covenant United Church of Christ before coming to University Church. He has also served with the Coca-Cola Leadership Program in Atlanta, Georgia, and recently completed a fellowship with the Fund for Theological Education, which allowed him to travel the globe, developing ways to advocate for disinherited youth. Julian currently serves on the boards for several United Church of Christ ministries, including the Council for Youth and Young Adults (CYAAM) and United Black Christians (UBC). Julian is also an award-winning musician and songwriter, known to many as "J.Kwest."


Conference Schedule

8:30: Speakers' Breakfast--Coffee, pastries, and informal conversation for all conference speakers

9:00: Registration (Swift Hall, First Floor Lobby)

9:15: Keynote Address by Rev. Sandhya Jha (3rd Floor Lecture Hall)

10:30: Break

10:45: Worship (Bond Chapel)

12:00: Lunch (Swift Hall Common Room)

12:00: Optional Preaching Workshop with Conference Preachers (Swift 400)

1:15: Panel- "Queering Religious Politics: Political Issues and LGBTQ Spiritual Lives" (Lecture Hall)

2:30: Break

3:00: Panel- "Preachers as Precinct Captains: Chicago Politics and Chicago Pulpits" (Lecture Hall)

4:30: Closing Remarks: Dr. Clark Gilpin and Rev. Kevin Boyd (Lecture Hall)

5:00: Reception (Common Room)


All questions can be directed to James Hoke and Michael Le Chevallier at