Annual Meeting 2011
Karl Johnson of the Chesterton House said it best: “When I got home from the Annual Meeting in San Francisco, everyone said to me, ‘You must be exhausted.’ In fact it is quite the opposite. I feel refreshed!”
November 18th & 19th marked the inaugural of what we hope to be our Annual Meeting of members, partner organizations, and other individuals interested in the Consortium of Christian Study Centers. San Francisco, CA, while a long way from home for many of us, proved to be a wonderful location, as representatives from universities and study centers all over the country and even England met to hear presentations, share ideas, ask questions and get to know each other better. On Friday afternoon, a panel of experienced Study Center directors (David Mahan of Rivendell Institute at Yale University in New Haven, CT; Karl Johnson of Chesterton House at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY; and Drew Trotter, formerly of the Center for Christian Study at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA), told about their experiences and lessons learned over the years. Participants were also able to ask questions specific to their local study center, and the discussion was vigorous, ranging from university relations to how to answer difficult apologetics questions.
After the afternoon session, participants went to hear various lectures and panel discussions put on under the auspices of the American Academy of Religion or the Society of Biblical Literature, or enjoyed the sights and sounds of San Francisco. Several went to a panel on “The Impact of Academic Scholarship on the Study of the Bible in the last Two Hundred Years” which included Amy Levine, Dominic Crossan, Bart Ehrmann and N.T. Wright. Opportunities like this one abounded.
On Saturday morning the Annual Meeting participants reconvened to join in more discussion from the previous afternoon’s panel after which they were treated to two workshops on issues crucial to the life and operations of Study Centers. R. Craig Wood, an education law attorney, who also teaches at UVa and Washington and Lee Law Schools, presented a wide-ranging overview of legal issues confronting anyone who works in or around higher education today. Fueled by the crisis at Penn State, Wood raised issues regarding sexual harassment charges, legal and moral responsibilities to report wrong-doing and handling the media. But he also thoroughly investigated questions about IRS reporting, Board policy manuals, First Amendment Issues and many other topics of concern to Study Center heads, which involve the Law. As one person who has been in Study Center work for ten years said to me afterwards, “What I wouldn’t give to have heard that ten years ago!”
Ken Leonard, a development consultant with over twenty years in the business of non-profit development, also did a remarkable job of cramming a wealth of information into a short period of time. He started by talking about fundraising as both an art and a science, squelching the idea that there are formulas for raising money, which work in every instance. He structured his talk around five elements of successful fundraising: having a clear and compelling vision, building deep and thoughtful relationships, having goals and knowing how to measure results, doing the research necessary to be successful at the task, and understanding the dynamics of effective solicitation. It was a superb presentation.
Outside of the scheduled meeting times participants had time to dialogue with one another, to eat meals together, to share experiences and resources, form friendships and provide encouragement to one another—in short to have the kinds of “conversations in the doorways” that the Consortium seeks to foster. We look forward to this being an annual event that all those invested in the flourishing of the Study Center movement can attend and say at the end: “I feel refreshed!”