2020 Speakers

Weekly Religion & Life Lecture Series: 2020 Speakers

6/21 - 6/25: Rev. Dr. Jerusha Matsen Neal

The Rev. Dr. Jerusha Matsen Neal is an ordained American Baptist minister with broad ecumenical experience, most recently serving as Dean of Studies at Davuilevu Theological College, the oldest theological seminary in the Fiji Islands. She currently serves as Assistant Professor of Homiletics at Duke Divinity School.

Neal studied at the University of Chicago (B.S.) and Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div., Ph.D.). Her scholarly work examines theologies of the Spirit on the performative borders of body and culture. A former actress and playwright, she has also authored a collection of dramatic monologues, Blessed: Monologues for Mary (2012).

Jerusha has spent her ministry preaching in cross-cultural spaces and bridging denominational communities. God’s work in these in-between locations has convinced her that preaching matters now more than ever.

She has served as keynote preacher for such events as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, the Young Preacher’s Festival and the Homegrown North Carolina Women’s Preaching Festival. Neal is committed to encouraging the voices of young preachers - and particularly the voices of women - in the risky proclamation of gospel hope.

Jerusha lives in North Carolina with her husband the Rev. Wes Neal and they have two children, Mercy and Josiah, who she says keeps her heart full of gratitude and wonder.

6/28 - 7/2: Rev. Dr. Thomas William Elliott, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. Thomas William Elliott, Jr. is an Associate Professor in the Practice of Practical Theology and Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University where he is the director of the Contextual Education II, Teaching Parish, and Ministry Internships and teaches classes in Methodist studies and preaching.

Elliott studied at Mercer University (BA) and at Emory University (M.Div, D.Min). An elder in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, he has served as the pastor of rural, town and suburban churches for 26 years prior to joining the Candler faculty in 2013.

In addition to his professor responsibilities, he currently appears in churches, coffee houses, and musical settings as a singer, songwriter, musician (guitar and piano), worship leader and storyteller.

Tom’s music weaves together a wide range of musical styles ranging from adult contemporary to folk, rock, jazz, country, and praise with the elements of inspirational storytelling and humor. In 1999, Tom released his first CD entitled “God’s Time” featuring “The Miracle of the Seed” and “Love Grows Here.” His second CD, “Jubilee” (2010) is a collection of original worship music written over 20 years of ministry.

In addition to solo, Tom writes, co-produces, and performs regularly with Marcus Vess and plays in Cannon Chapel services at Candler. He is also a member of the “Wild at Heart” band, a praise and worship group of six clergy friends.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Tom is married to Kelly and they have two grown children.

7/5 - 7/9: Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Britt, IV

The Rev. Britt is the senior minister of Peachtree Road UMC, an 8,000-member church in Atlanta, Georgia. During his tenure, the church has been recognized as one of the 25 fastest growing in the denomination and has created a partnership with Cascade UMC to develop a model for racial reconciliation, and is creating innovative ministries to offer a “hand up” to others through outreach.

Bill received his BA in Religion from Stetson University in Florida, his Master of Divinity at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and his Doctor of Ministry from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

He has served United Methodist churches in the North Georgia Conference since 1981 and has held Conference Positions from Ordained Ministry and Church Development to Finance and Administration.

Bill is married to Wendie and they have two adult children and two grandchildren, and he enjoys golfing as a hobby.

7/19 - 7/23: Rev. Dr. Gerald Liu

Gerald C. Liu is an Assistant Professor of Worship and preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his BA in Music at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, his Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (during which time he was also a theological fellow at Georg-August Universitat in Gottingen, Germany), and his PhD from Vanderbilt University with a concentration in homiletics and liturgics.

He has previously served as a British Methodist Minister in Nottingham, England before becoming ordained in the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church. Currently he volunteers as a minister in residence at Church of the Village, a United Methodist congregation in Manhattan.

His classes and publications explore curiosities about the arts as theological resources and phenomena, Asian American identity, multicultural worship, and the production of believable public Christian witness. He is the worship editor for the preaching journal Homiletic, a Council Member for international association of liturgical scholars, Societas Liturgica, and the author of Music and the Generosity of God (Palgrave, 2017).

7/26 - 7/30: Rev. Matthew Ruffner

Rev. Matthew Ruffner is the Senior Pastor at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. Matthew was called to PHPC in April 2015 after serving as Associate Pastor for Mission at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

Matthew has a passion for helping shape the life and trajectory of Dallas through the church. He is involved with Purpose Built Communities in Dallas, which guides neighborhood revitalization by creating pathways out of poverty for the lowest-income residents and building strong, economically diverse communities. He also serves as an ambassador for Project Unity, a community-building program founded after the 2016 police shootings in Dallas to help heal race relationships between law enforcement and citizens.

Matthew has previously served on the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Board and the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Board of Trustees. He was the recipient of the Zick Preaching Award, which recognizes outstanding young preachers in the United States in 2015 and 2016. He was also a Chautauqua Institute summer preacher in 2019.

Matthew earned degrees from Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina (Bachelor of Arts: History and Religion, 2005) and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia (Master of Divinity, 2010). After completing his studies at Columbia Seminary, he worked as a consultant for the Cousins Family Foundation in Atlanta.

Matthew is married to Sarah Conley Ruffner, and they have two children, daughter Olivia and son Elliott. Matthew loves college football and basketball and enjoys playing golf.

8/2 - 8/6: Rev. Jemonde Taylor

The Reverend Jemonde Taylor, automotive engineer turned priest, serves as the eleventh rector of the 152-year-old, Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church, in Raleigh, NC. Prior to arriving at Saint Ambrose, Father Taylor served Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, in Dallas, TX.

Father Taylor holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in robotics and vehicle design from Stanford University. He earned his M.Div. from the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York City in 2009.

Jemonde nurtures a season of liturgical renewal at Saint Ambrose with an emphasis on African American and African culture through Ethiopian Orthodox icons as Stations of the Cross, icons and kneelers of African American Episcopal saints, Episcopal service music based on African American Spirituals, and a Jazz Mass. He recently led Saint Ambrose through a three-year, $750,000 capital campaign building upgrade emphasizing environmentalism through rain garden and rainwater cisterns installations, restroom and water renovations using 80% less water, and low-e glass protecting the stained-glass windows to reduce heat transmission.

Father Taylor is active in the community through his membership in Raleigh’s Stormwater Management Advisory Commission, Duke Cancer Institute Community Advisory Council, PBS/UNC TV Black Issues Forum Advisor, and the Industrial Areas Foundation Steering Committee. He serves the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina through many committees and is an active member in the larger Church, as well, involved with the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest, the Office of Black Ministries, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Compass Rose Society, and is a contributor to Sermons that Work.

Jemonde is working on a documentary film funded by the Henry Luce Foundation on Race, Church, and Theological Practices as a collaborative effort between the Louisville Institute’s Clergy-Scholar Research Team and Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.

His recent seminars and lectures include The Darkness Sings: The Church’s Unfinished Symphony with Race and Baptized in Dirty Water: The Theology of Hip-Hop. Father Taylor studies the spirituality and history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, including leading pilgrimages to Ethiopia. 

Jemonde is married to Kierson Leigh Taylor, and they are the proud parents of one darling daughter.

8/9 - 8/13: Dr. Amy G. Oden

Dr. Amy G. Oden is Visiting Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology in Oklahoma City. She has also served on the faculties of Oklahoma City University and Wesley Theological Seminary where she served as Dean, and teaches for the Religion Department at the University of Oklahoma. She holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University, writing her dissertation on Augustine and North African Christianity.

Amy teaches theology, history of Christianity and spiritual formation, walking alongside students in learning. Her passion is to introduce spiritual practices that can ground and nourish lives for justice in the world. Her books focus on bringing voices of ancient wisdom to inform and illuminate contemporary life. Her latest book is Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness (Abingdon, 2017)

Other publications include: 

In Her Words: Women’s Writings in the History of Christian Thought, Abingdon Press, 1994. 

And You Welcomed Me: Sourcebook on Hospitality in Early Christianity, Abingdon Press, 2001. 

God’s Welcome: Hospitality for a Gospel-Hungry World, Pilgrim Press, 2008. 

Born and raised on the prairies of Oklahoma, Amy has found her spiritual home under the wide-open sky. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband, Perry, and extended Oden family.

8/16 - 8/20: Rev. Dr. Robert Livingston

Rev. Dr.  Robert (Bob) Livingston is the Senior Minister at The First Congregational Church in Ann Arbor, MI.

Bob has a love of preaching, teaching, pastoral care, and church leadership. He received his doctorate from Chicago Theological Seminary in the area of preaching, and his Masters of Divinity from Western Theological Seminary.

Born and raised in Grand Rapids, he, his wife, Laura, and his family moved to Ann Arbor in 1997 when Bob began serving The First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor as their Senior Minister.

Bob and Laura have three adult children, two who live in the Ann Arbor area and one who lives in St. Louis. Bob enjoys family time, running, fishing, DIY projects, and anything active and outdoors.

8/23 - 8/27: Dr. William H. Lamar IV

William H. Lamar IV is pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. Ordained as an itinerant elder in 2000 at the Florida Annual Conference of the AME Church, Lamar has also served congregations in Monticello, Florida; Orlando, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; and Hyattsville, Maryland. 

Prior to his two most recent appointments (in Maryland and the District of Columbia), Lamar was the managing director of Leadership Education at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. Through his association with Duke, he convened and resourced executive pastors of large churches, denominational finance executives, young denominational leaders, Methodist bishops, and the constituency of Lilly Endowment’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Program. For nearly 15 years, Lamar has been actively involved with organizations like Direct Action Research Training (DART), Industrial Areas Foundations (IAF), and Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) for faith-based community organizing for justice. Most recently, he has collaborated with Repairers of the Breach, the Center for Community Change (CCC), and People Improving Communities through Organization (PICO) to enact a social justice ministry in surrounding communities and to exhibit a real embrace to the beloved community. Under his leadership, Metropolitan remains committed to worship, liberation, and service.

A 1996 magna cum laude graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Lamar earned the Bachelor of Science degree in Public Management with a minor in Philosophy and Religion and a certificate in Human Resource Management. In 1999, he earned the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Lamar is currently a doctoral student in the inaugural cohort of Christian Theological Seminary’s Ph.D. program in African-American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric. An avid reader and writer, Lamar has published articles in outlets such as Christian Century, The Christian Recorder, Divinity Magazine, “FaithandLeadership.com,” The Anvil, “TheUndefeated.com,” and the “Huffington Post.” He has also been featured in The Washington Post and the Afro- American and on “The Takeaway,” the “Huffington Post Live,” and PBS “News Hour.”

Lamar is honored to serve Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, where he seeks daily to extend the cathedral of African Methodism’s nearly two centuries-long legacy of bearing witness to and ushering into this world the reign of the living God.

9/6: Rev. Earl Dunbar

The Rev. Earl Dunbar was born in San Diego, Ca. and has just celebrated 30 years in ministry. He is ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church and has served Covenant churches as both a Permanent and Interim Pastor in Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Virginia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Currently, Dunbar is serving a church in the ECO denomination (Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians) as Pastor at New California Presbyterian Church in Marysville, Ohio.

Pastor Earl is better known as husband to Marcia-Anne (Director of Youth Ministry) and father to sons Jonathan and James [Jamie] (both Bay View kids and leaders).

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The Bay View Association is located just outside of Petoskey, Michigan on the shore of Little Traverse Bay.

1715 Encampment Ave
P.O. Box 583
Petoskey, MI 49770

Phone: 231-347-6225

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To be an institution in which Christian values and traditions are central; To enrich the human experience for individuals and families within Bay View and the surrounding community through a seasonal program of religious, educational, cultural and recreational opportunities; to provide a Christian perspective in a changing world.

The Bay View Association is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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