Thurber Lecture Archives

Thurber Lecture — Reggie Williams

Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus.
Tuesday 19 March in the Thurber Room – Meal at 19h; Presentation 19h45-21h15

Reggie WilliamsDietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian and activist who publicly confronted Nazism and anti-Semitic racism in Hitler’s Germany. The Reich's political ideology, when mixed with theology of the German Christian movement, turned Jesus into a divine representation of the ideal, racially pure Aryan and allowed race-hate to become part of Germany's religious life. Bonhoeffer provided a Christian response to Nazi atrocities that was sparked by his experiences in Harlem in 1930.

What Bonhoeffer learned about Jesus in Harlem's churches featured a black Christ who suffered with African Americans in their struggle against systemic injustice and racial violence—and then resisted. In the pews of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, under the leadership of Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., Bonhoeffer absorbed the Christianity of the Harlem Renaissance. This Christianity included a Jesus who stands with the oppressed rather than joins the oppressors and a theology that challenges the way God can be used to underwrite a union of race and religion.

Dr. Reggie L. Williams is associate professor of Christian Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. His book Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance (Baylor University Press, 2014) was selected as a Choice Outstanding Title in 2015, in the field of religion. The book is an analysis of exposure to Harlem Renaissance intellectuals, and worship at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist on the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, during his year of post-doctoral study at Union Seminary in New York, 1930-31.

Dr. Williams’ research interests include Christological ethics, theological anthropology, Christian social ethics, the Harlem Renaissance, race, politics and black church life. His current book project includes a religious critique of whiteness in the Harlem Renaissance. In addition, he is working on a book analyzing the reception of Bonhoeffer by liberation activists in apartheid South Africa.

Dr. Williams received his Ph.D. in Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2011. He earned a Master’s degree in Theology from Fuller in 2006 and a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from Westmont College in 1995. He is a member of the board of directors for the Society for Christian Ethics, as well as the International Dietrich Bonhoeffer Society. He is also a member of the American Academy of Religion and Society for the Study of Black Religion.

Thurber Lectures is an adult community gathering and growth time that is open to all.



Thurber Lecture — Joanne Burke

Paris Noir - African Americans in the City of Light
Wednesday 13 February in the Thurber Room – Meal at 19h; Presentation 19h45-21h15

Paris Noir - African Americans in the City of LightParis Noir: African Americans in the City of Light is the most comprehensive and compelling documentary existing on the remarkable migration of pioneering African Americans to France and the impact both cultures had on each other.

View film trailer here:

Weaving stories and themes from World War I, the Jazz Age of the 1920s up to the German occupation of WWII, Paris Noir is thought-provoking storytelling that resonates in today's social and political climate. ​

More than a historical documentary, Paris Noir reveals the beginning of worldwide assertion of African American culture. Directed, written and edited by critically-acclaimed documentary filmmakers Joanne Burke and David Burke, Paris Noir blends rare photographs and archival footage, exciting period music, and insightful commentary by leading scholars and experts. ​

Joanne Burke was a top documentary film editor for CBS, NBC, and PBS in New York for twenty years, editor also of feature films for Sidney Lumet, and co-editor of Gimme Shelter, the Maysles Brothers’ classic documentary about the Rolling Stones, as well as over 20 documentaries. ​

David Burke was a longtime writer/producer for CBS News 60 Minutes and other CBS and NBC programs. He is the author of several travel books. His Writers In Paris evolved into the highly praised David Burke's Writers in Paris Walking Tours, listed as one of Lonely Planet's Top Ten literary walks worldwide. ​

Since moving to Paris in 1986, the Burkes have produced, written and edited independent films together: an award-winning biopic on jazz genius Mary Lou Williams and several documentaries focussing on innovative women in developing countries.

Their African Americans in Paris series, a groundbreaking 2-DVD set of mini documentaries, chronicles the experiences of pioneering Black Americans. The series received the award of Best Director from the prestigious Berlin Black International Cinema Film Festival in 2015.

Thurber Lectures is an adult community gathering and growth time that is open to all.


Thurber Lecture — Bob and Gracie Ekblad

Redemptive Presence Amongst Today's Excluded.
Wednesday 16 January in the Thurber Room – Meal at 19h; Presentation 19h45-21h15

Bob and Gracie EkbladBob and Gracie Ekblad are founders and co-directors of Tierra Nueva (New Earth) in Burlington, Washington. Together they minister at Tierra Nueva and at their home-based retreat center New Earth Refuge in the Skagit Valley. They have three adult children. Bob is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He holds a ThD in Old Testament and is known internationally for his courses and workshops on reading the Bible. Gracie is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and holds a Masters in Theology. She pastors and teaches at Tierra Nueva and beyond, emphasizing discipleship, holistic healing and liberation.

Thurber Lectures is an adult community gathering and growth time that is open to all.


Thurber Lecture — Dr. Medi Ann Volpe

Who is Normal?: Disability and the Image of God.
Wednesday 5 December in the Thurber Room – Meal at 19h; Presentation 19h45-21h15

Dr. Medi Ann VolpeDr. Medi (“Meeda”) Ann Volpe teaches theology and ethics at Durham University (UK). Her research draws contemporary themes in Christian formation, theological anthropology, spirituality and ethics into conversation with voices from the classical Christian tradition, and is particularly attentive to the gifts those with intellectual disabilities bring to the Church. Her first book, Rethinking Christian Identity: Doctrine and Discipleship, was published in the Challenges in Contemporary Theology series and her essays have appeared in numerous journals..

Thurber Lectures is an adult community gathering and growth time that is open to all.


Thurber Lecture — Rev. Mateen Elass

Who is My Neighbor?: Muslim and Christian Bridgebuilding.
Tuesday 6 November in the Thurber Room – Meal at 19h; Presentation 19h45-21h15

Rev. Dr. Mateen ElassRev. Dr. Mateen Elass is a board member of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He currently serves as an Associate Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs (ECO). In 2015, Mateen took up a new calling with Voice of the Truth, a ministry dedicated to reaching the Arabic-speaking peoples with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mateen’s particular work is with churches and Christian groups eager to learn about Islam, its claims and challenges, and how to share the gospel winsomely and effectively with Muslims. He is eager to respond to opportunities for teaching and training Christians in these timely matters.

Elass was raised in Saudi Arabia in a Muslim environment. He holds degrees from Stanford University (B.A. Psychology; Philosophy), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div., M.A. Biblical Studies), and a PhD (New Testament) from the University of Durham in England. He is the author of Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book and The Holy Spirit.

Thurber Lectures is an adult community gathering and growth time that is open to all.