Faculty in the News

Slate.com quoted Prof. Scott Thumma, an expert in the megachurch phenomenon, extensively in its article, The Modern Megachurch Can’t Really Die. The article focused mainly on the Mars Hill Church  in Seattle, which closed recently after scandals surrounding its pastor, Mark Driscoll. But the church’s satellite locations continue to operate and may for some time. “If you have a sick tree, give it plenty of pruning and it might come back healthy, right?” Thumma said. “Theoretically, you would think it would make it easier if you have a congregation of 10,000, and 5,000 are in multiple locations, to be able to spin those off and make the congregation more able to survive.”

Prof. Feryal Salem led a Muslim Prayer at a multi-faith prayer service at the College of the Holy Cross on Tuesday, Jan. 20, and spoke at the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Va., on Jan. 23. Her topic was Reasons for Disagreements among Four Sunni Schools of Jurisprudence.

Prof. MT Winter will appear at the National Liturgical Composers Forum meeting in St. Louis during the last week in January, giving two keynote presentations, facilitating a ritual prayer experience, and participating in a public concert.

Academic Dean Uriah Kim appeared on Rich Answers on Lite 100.5 with the Rev. Dr. Shelley Best on Jan. 4, 2015.  They covered topics such as starting out as an atheist, two Gods in one house, why the Hartford Seminary is so unique and many other things. For the full podcast, click here.

Prof. Scott Thumma was quoted in two recent articles, one in the Wall Street Journal and one in the Christian Examiner that followed on the Wall Street Journal article. The Wall Street Journal article, Europe’s Empty Churches Go on Sale: Hundreds of Churches Have Closed or Are Threatened by Plunging Membership, Posing Question: What to Do With Unused Buildings?, was published on Jan. 2. It’s available to subscribers. Prof. Thumma was also quoted in the Christian Examiner on Jan. 5 in the article Abandoned by missionary agencies, Christianity is dying in Europe. Prof. Thumma talked about how America’s churchgoing population is aging and within a generation, religious patterns here will approach those in Europe. “Within another 30 years the situation in the U.S. will be at least as bad as what is currently evident in Europe,” he said.

Prof. Yehezkel Landau was cited in an article in the Huffington Post (Breaking Bad Turkey!) by Hartford Seminary student Arzu Kaya Uranli: “Recent developments in Turkey are dismaying for anyone concerned about human and civil rights, interfaith relations and peace efforts in the Middle East. The government clampdown on media outlets is not only a violation of democratic norms and freedoms, it is also a blow to those who believe that Islam and democracy can constructively coexist,” said Yehezkel Landau, a Hartford Seminary Professor, who is a scholar-practitioner in interfaith education and Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. He emphasizes that the appearance of an anti-Israel, pro-Hamas stance of the current leaders in Ankara is lamentable. “They have tragically forfeited the role of the trusted intermediary that Turkey used to play in that war-ravaged region,” he concluded.

Prof. Scott Thumma was quoted in The Internet: Threat or Defender of the Faith? on dw.de. The article says: “Increasing numbers of churches in the U.S. now rely on the internet for mobile versions of the Bible and for communication needs, says Scott Thumma, professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Institute for Religion Research and author of “Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations”. “If churches don’t adopt these tools and use them effectively, they are indeed guaranteed never to capture the imaginations of the younger digital native generations,” he says.

Prof. Scott Thumma was interviewed for a Dec. 4 article in the Wall Street Journal called Decline in Church Building Reflects Changed Tastes and Times. The article said, “Many megachurches, typically Protestant congregations with weekly attendance above 2,000, erected enormous buildings with arena-like sanctuaries in the 1990s and early 2000s. But while their memberships have continued to grow over the last decade, their sanctuaries haven’t, said Scott Thumma, a professor at Hartford Seminary who studies megachurches. Instead, he said, an increasing number have become multisite churches, holding multiple smaller services in rented movie theaters and other satellite locations. It is less expensive than a big building and makes for a more inviting worship experience, he added.”

Prof. Lucinda Mosher has an essay in the book Birlikte Yaşama Kültürü ve Diyalog (Coexistence and Dialogue), edited by Kenan Çetinkaya, which was just released in Turkey. Along with essays by Leonard Swidler, Reuven Firestone, Roest Crollius SJ, Mehmet Esgin, and and Kenan Çetinkaya is Prof. Mosher’s essay: “Hıristiyan-Müslüman Karşılaşması: Teolojik Boyuta Diyalogsal bir Bakiş” (Christian-Muslim Encounter: Studying the Theological Dimension Dialogically). It discusses the methods she uses in a Hartford Seminary course.

Prof. Najib Awad spoke on Nov. 20 to about 50 9th-graders at the Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy in East Hartford who have been studying world religions as part of a Global Studies class. Prof. Awad talked about his personal story as a Christian from Muslim-majority Syria as well as addressing the broader topic of Christian-Muslim relations.

The work of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and Prof. Scott Thumma was cited in a Nov. 19  Washington Post article, “Can a Church Be Too Big to Fail.”

Prof. Najib Award has been invited by the Religions For Peace organization to participate in their consultation meeting, titled “Syria for all the Syrians: the Role of Religions in Peace-Building”, which will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 23-24.

Prof. Shanell T. Smith will speak on Nov. 13 at Yale Divinity School about her new book, The Woman Babylon and the Marks of Empire: Reading Revelation with a Postcolonial Womanist Hermeneutics of Ambiveilence. The talk will take place at 5:30 p.m. in Niebuhr Hall and a book signing will follow at the Yale Divinity School bookstore.

Prof. Yehezkel Landau spoke on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn., as part of a conference involving the Our Muslim Neighbor Initiative of the Religions for Peace USA. An article in AL.com featured Prof. Landau’s talk, with the headline: “Peace in the Middle East Will Come Only With the Help of All God’s People, Says Yehezkel Landau.”

President Heidi Hadsell will be speaking at a conference on “Ethics for Children – The Missing Piece in Interfaith Education and Peacebuilding Efforts” on Nov. 17 at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York. She will talk about “Overcoming fundamentalism and Feat of the Other – Challenges and Opportunities.”

Prof. Yehezkel Landau served on a panel at the Life Together conference presented by the Faith & Culture Center at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Nashville. Panelists represented the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths. According to an article about the panel in the Tennesean, “Anti-Islam activities motivated some religious Middle Tennesseans to get involved in Faith & Culture Center activities.”

Academic Dean Uriah Kim is a co-editor of the Festschrift Reading a Tendentious Bible: Essays in Honor of Robert B. Coote. Dean Kim said he was “especially pleased that this book honors a prominent Hebrew Bible scholar and one of my teachers.”

A study by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research was cited in this article on WLOX.com about increasing church membership. “Like many churches across the country, First United Methodist Church in Gulfport meets during the week as well as on Sunday’s to offer it’s congregation another opportunity to come together and worship. A study by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found that several factors are bringing more numbers to church rolls. First and foremost may be the programs churches offer the community.”

Prof. Najib Awad was invited by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and the U.S. Department of State to participate in the Syrian religious leaders and intellectuals’ conversation/workshop on the ongoing conflict in Syria and the challenges it presents to Syrian people. The workshop took place Washington, D.C. on Oct. 27 and 29, 2014. Between Nov. 3 and 7, Prof. Awad will be in Germany participating and speaking in a closed conference titled “Civil War in Syria- (Religious)-Political Perspectives on the development in the Syria Conflict.” The conference is taking place in Loccum and Berlin.

Prof. Mahmoud Ayoub traveled to Huntsville, Ala., in October to talk about Islam at Oakwood University and the Huntsville Islamic Center. Prof. Ayoub’s message was that peace is the theme of the Qur’an. “‘Salaam,’ as the Qu’ran describes it, is more than the absence of war,” Prof. Ayoub said. “Salaam is doing something positive – building up the Earth to make it a holy, safe place to make it the abode of God.” The Huntsville Times wrote an article about the visit.

Prof. Lucinda Mosher  is a panelist and session moderator for an Anglican-Lutheran Consultation on Diaspora Hindus and Anglican Relations, convened by the Anglican Communion Network of Interfaith Concerns, Oct. 29 to Nov. 1, 2014, at The Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, UK. Prof. Mosher will be presenting an overview of Hindu-Christian relations in the United States.

Prof. Scott Thumma was quoted in a piece by MSNBC.com about the growth of megachurches. “The cultural norms and values have changed in that most of our institutions are no longer small and antiquated with organs and wooden pews,” said Scott Thumma, a leading expert in megachurch research and professor of sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute. “It’s not surprising that the religious life parallels and echoes everyday life.”

Prof. Yehezkel Landau was featured in a WNPR radio interview on Oct. 22 about the decision of the Connecticut conference of the United Church of Christ to divest itself from companies the conference believes are profiting from the Palestinian Territories occupation. Prof. Landau said he thought a different approach would be more effective. “It goes against any real healing process between American Christians and Jews, which is very much needed,” he said, adding that rather than condemning one side or the other in this conflict, American Christians should be supporting peace building efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. The interview can be heard on this link.

The work of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and Prof. Scott Thumma has been cited in several publications this fall.

An article in the November 2014 issue of Sojourners, “One in the Lord” by Maria-Pia Negro, refers to a 2010 study by HIRR that “revealed an increase in multiracial congregations in the U.S.”

Prof. Thumma’s book Beyond Megachurch Myths was quoted in an article in German in Megakirker.

Prof. Thumma was quoted in a story in Columbia Faith and Values about megachurches considering the new Apply Pay service for tithing. “Using Apple Pay would greatly reduce that time, thus allowing more time for the worship components of the service,” he said.

In Christianity Today, Prof. Thumma spoke about the external board advising the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, from which controversial pastor Mark Driscoll just resigned. The article said: “A deeper question raised by the Mars Hill saga asks if nondenominational churches can better govern their congregation and disciple their pastors with elders drawn from within the church body, or if they should seek outside expertise. The external accountability board is increasingly prevalent, said Scott Thumma, a megachurch researcher at Hartford Seminary. ‘In some sense, megachurches wouldn’t exist if they didn’t adopt business practices,’ he said.”

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