Annual Meeting 2017

The 7th Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers was held in the summer of 2017 in co-operation with our Partner Organization, Opus: the Art of Work, at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. We were pleased to register 75 people including staff and board members from 17 Study Centers and 10 Partner Organizations, and 7 other guests. The participants represented three countries — the U.S., Canada, and South Africa.  We began at 1:30 pm on Monday, July 24 and concluded at noon on Wednesday, July 26.

As always we considered what it means to answer the call of Christ in a university environment. Our three main speakers were Drs. Peter Leithart, John Inazu, and Chris Armstrong. Dr. Leithart delivered two lectures focused on the role of the Christian Study Center in contributing to unity among Christians and the model the Eucharist gives Study Centers for gift-exchange and fellowship. A fuller description of the lectures can be found below.

  • To listen to Dr. Leithart’s lecture on “Unity in the Word” click HERE.
  • To listen to Dr. Leithart’s lecture on “Table Companions” click HERE.  (We apologize for the quality of the audio recording of this lecture.)


Dr. Inazu addressed particular issues in higher education, especially as they relate to his recent call for Christians to advocate a confident pluralism as we live and work in 21st century America. A fuller description of the lecture can be found below.

  • To listen to Dr. Inazu’s lecture on “Confident Pluralism and the University” click HERE.
  • To view video segment included in Dr Inazu’s lecture click HERE.


Dr. Armstrong spoke on vocation, focusing on addressing the misconceptions in many of the views on vocation held in the American church today and on developing a clearer, more theologically responsible view. A fuller description of the lecture can be found below.

  • To listen to Dr. Armstrong’s lecture on “Vocation as Spiritual Formation” click HERE.
  • To view Dr. Armstrong’s PowerPoint presentation click HERE.


Continue looking below for the detailed bios of these speakers as well as for more information about their talks and a schedule of the meeting with descriptions of the workshops we held.

Karl Johnson welcomed, administered a charge, and prayed for our newest Study Center Director, Tom Wolthuis, of Geneva Campus Ministry, located in Iowa City, Iowa.



Many explored free time by walking around the beautiful grounds of Wheaton College, visiting quaint downtown Wheaton, and touring the Marion E. Wade Center that houses a major research collection of materials by and about seven British authors:  Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Chris Williams.


~ Our Speakers ~


Peter J. Leithart is an American author, minister, theologian, and president of Theopolis Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, & Cultural Studies in Birmingham, Alabama. He previously served as Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature as well as Dean of Graduate Studies at New Saint Andrews College. He is the author of commentaries on the Book of Kings and the Book of Samuel, as well as a Survey of the Old Testament. Other works include books on topics such as Dante’s Inferno, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen. He is also the author of a book of children’s bedtime stories titled Wise Words based on the Book of Proverbs. Leithart blogs at Peter J. Leithart, which is hosted by the journal First Things.

Leithart addressed us twice. Here are his descriptions of those lectures: “Unity in the Word”: Jesus calls the church to be one as the Father and Son are one. This is the future of the church, and we need to orient ourselves to the future the Spirit is moving us toward. The liturgy is the center of the church’s life, and the Word is one of the focal points of the liturgy. This first lecture explores ways that Christian Study Centers can facilitate deeper unity in the word.

“Table Companions”: The Eucharist is an expression of our unity with Jesus and one another, and also a cause of our unity with Jesus and one another. We are one body because we partake of one loaf. The unity at the Lord’s table on the Lord’s day sets the pattern for our daily meals and daily interaction. This lecture explores the Eucharist as a model of gift-exchange and fellowship in the context of Christian Study Centers.

John Inazu teaches at Washington University in St. Louis, where he is the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion (with a joint appointment in the Law School and the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics). His scholarship focuses on the First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion, and related issues of political and legal theory. His first book, Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly, (Yale University Press, 2012) seeks to recover the role of assembly in American political and constitutional thought. His second book, Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2016. Professor Inazu’s articles have appeared in a number of law reviews and specialty journals, and he has written broadly for mainstream audiences in publications including USA TodayCNN, the Hedgehog Review, and the Washington Post.

Inazu spoke on the topic of “confident pluralism” as it relates to the university in America. He describes his address this way: “This discussion explores how the aspirations of tolerance, humility, and patience intersect with the university’s efforts to bridge difference and pursue knowledge.” For a window into the topic, look here at his brief essay in The Hedgehog Review.

Chris Armstrong is a church historian (Duke PhD in American Christian History) who taught from 2004 to 2013 at Bethel Seminary, St Paul, MN. At Bethel, Chris founded and directed an initiative on faith, work, and economics called Work with Purpose. In 2014, Chris came to Wheaton College to found and direct Opus: The Art of Work, an externally funded institute on faith and vocation. Chris was drawn to church history because he wanted to know how Christians have lived out their understandings of God, humanity, and the world; the same impulse drives his current research on faith, vocation, and human flourishing to see how theology is lived out. He has written Patron Saints for Postmoderns (InterVarsity Press, 2009), and his most recent book Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C S Lewis (Brazos, 2016) finds in medieval Christian tradition some very “earthy” helps to living well in our natural, social, and cultural worlds.

Armstrong’s address is entitled “Reconnecting Vocation to Christian Faith and Spirituality”. He describes it like this: “Our Western cultural narrative on ‘vocation’ or ‘calling’ (where we even still use these words) focuses on personal choice, following your passion, and finding fit and fulfillment. This is more Disney than Christian. In the historic Christian understanding, although choice plays a role in the jobs and careers we pursue, the deeper callings we find within those contexts are ultimately given, not chosen. And though we can find fulfillment in our vocations, we are called for others, not for ourselves.

Given these truths, what would it look like to initiate our students into a ‘spirituality of vocation?’ What understandings and practices can begin to form their hearts and guide their actions toward vocation as God intends it? How can we help them prepare to experience their future workplaces as arenas of discipleship and mission in service of a higher calling?”


~ Our Schedule ~


Monday, July 24

1:30-2:45  Welcome and Introductions – Led by Drew Trotter, ED, Consortium of Christian Study Centers and Karl Johnson, ED, Chesterton House

2:45-3:10  Break

3:10-4:00  Workshops 1 – Three Options (Repeated Tuesday)

1) Thinking Institutionally about Study Centers – Madison Perry, ED, North Carolina Study Center

What kind of organization is a study center, and how can study centers best bring together the various groups in a university community? This breakout session considered the practices and goals most conducive to forming study center communities, with an eye toward the unique calling of being a study center.

2) The State of the University – C. John Sommerville, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida & Edward Dixon, Director, Center for Christianity and Scholarship

This workshop was a conversation on the intellectual state and declared purpose of the university. What questions are universities asking? What questions should they be asking? What are ways study centers can help the university ask the questions we think it should be asking? The discussion engaged both the conceptual and practical.

3) Blaise Pascal: Appropriating the Resources of the Christian Tradition – Richard Horner, ED, Christian Study Center of Gainesville

Though Blaise Pascal died over 350 years ago, he has played a major role in shaping our center’s mission. As a pre-modern prophet, who understood at modernity’s dawn what post-modern prophets have come to understand late in modernity’s day, Pascal offers an intellectually compelling critique of the modern mind, offers a way out of the late-modern cul-de- sac in which we find ourselves today, and articulates a thoughtful, Christian understanding of human experience. He provides an excellent example of how study centers can appropriate the rich intellectual resources of the Christian tradition in serving their respective universities.

4:00-5:00  Vocation as Spiritual Formation: Chris Armstrong, Director, Opus: The Art of Work

5:00-6:00  Dinner

7:15-9:00 Plenary Session – Peter Leithart Lecture #1: Unity in the Word

Tuesday, July 25

7:00-7:30  Devotions & Prayer

7:30-8:30  Breakfast

9:00-10:30  Plenary Session – Peter Leithart Lecture #2: Table Companions

10:30-11:00  Break

11:00-12:00  Workshops 2 – Three Options (Same as Monday)

12:00-1:30  Lunch

1:30-6:30  Free Time

2:00 and 3:00 – Marion E. Wade Center Tours (Optional)

5:00-6:00  Dinner

6:30-7:00  Group Photo (location tbd)

7:00-8:30  Plenary Session – John Inazu Lecture: Confident Pluralism and the University

Wednesday, July 26

7:00-7:30  Devotions & Prayer

7:30-8:30  Breakfast

9:00-11:45  Plenary Session – Led by Drew Trotter, ED, Consortium of Christian Study Centers and Karl Johnson, ED, Chesterton House

9:00-10:15     Feedback – Drew Trotter, ED, CCSC

How were you challenged during the last two days to grow in what you are doing? Talks, workshops, discussions, etc. Divide into Regions for part of the time?

10:15-10:30 – Break

10:30-11:00   New Study Center Stories – Karl Johnson, ED, Chesterton House

  • Geneva Campus Ministry
  • New Study Center Charge
  • Prayer for Geneva Campus Ministry


11:00-11:45   Closing – Drew Trotter, ED, CCSC

Prayer time and fill out surveys

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Registration ended June 15, 2017.  Registration fee included 5 meals, lodging and conference fees.

The registration fee was significantly lower this year. That was due in part to the dorm-like rooms we occupied. They were very nicely outfitted, but each double occupancy room shared a bathroom with another double occupancy room. Couples who came had a variety of options available to them.

**This meeting was not a function of Wheaton College**