"Free for All" National Event
Durham, NC (April 15-16)
Can you imagine communities that encounter the biblical text as a privileged invitation to collaborate in the process of interpretation? In these same communities — collective and personal imagination, artistic expression, sacramental practices such as the common table and baptism, and other essential practices such as mission, hospitality, and dialogue are not only motivated by the text but also are integral in shaping our reading of the Bible. This is the vision of the "Free for All."
Sadly, this dream can be rare in its actual expression. Biblical interpretation in our present culture tends to be limited by a few powerful voices who
tell us precisely what it must mean (and what it cannot mean), theological overdetermination that
also restricts meaning to predefined possibilities, the personal entitlements of individual readers who read the text to reinforce their agendas and loyalties, the apathy of bored readers, or the profuse frustration of silenced perspectives. The result is a devastating disconnect between text and community.
The consequences of the disconnect are dramatic. In many fellowships, the Bible is perceived to be oppressive, sacred but irrelevant, or even trivial by its lack of interpretation or intersection with the actual lives of those in community. In more churches and communities than we care to admit, participants live in the typical anxiety of "don't ask, don't tell" environments where they fear to reveal their honest questions about the text and the actual contours of their lives. In addition, many perspectives and experiences are entirely excluded from the interpretative process.
The "Free for All" event is a theological dialogue, an artistic encounter, and an imaginative experience based on the book by that title which seeks to close this gap by encouraging communities to embrace the freedom to interpret and embody the text. Authors, Tim Conder and Dan Rhodes, draw upon their experience as leaders in the emergent community, pastors in various settings, and as founders of Emmaus Way, a community founded on the practices of dialogue and community interpretation of the text, to lead this conversation.
But as a dialogue event, the voices of those in a
ttendance will be critical to the content of the event. Tim and Dan also are excited to draw upon the experiences of scholars, pastors, artists, often neglected interpreters to expand this conversation. Check our site regularly to get updates about seminar leaders and other contributors!
"Free for All" is an image that cuts in two directions. When we hear this term we often think an argument that crosses the lines of propriety, chaos spinning out of control, or the likes of a bar fight. It conveys our greatest fear of the chaos invited when giving the responsibility of interpretation to whole communities rather than trained professionals. But it also implies the beautiful possibility of a liberated text, liberated from homogeneity and the claims of objectivity despite the biases that all persons bring to word, functioning as a living word in practicing communities of faith. This event will offer not only a vision and rationale for that second trajectory by looking at the Bible from historical and social lenses, but will also explore m
any proven paths to this reality from pastors and leaders who are committed to the value of community interpretation and a living text.
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Also in the spirit of this metaphor, the conference will be offered, "free for all," meaning free from a registration charge! The event will be held in downtown Durham, NC (walking distance from Duke University and many excellent pubs and restaurants) and is being produced by JoPa productions. The event website <freeforallbook.com
> has a registration link, hotel and transportation information, and other critical updates.
On Free for All...
“This is as clear and thought provoking a statement as I have seen yet of a theology of Scripture for emergence Christianity. Conversational in tone, these pages are filled with the practical implications of the possibilities and ideas being presented. As cofounders of Emmaus Way, Conder and Rhodes speak with the authority of lived experience as well as out of their own deep faith.”--Phyllis Tickle, author, The Great Emergence
“The Bible is the product of the believing community, and it is meant to be read in community. Solitary reading of Scripture has gotten us into all manner of difficulties. Now Tim Conder and Dan Rhodes discover the fruitfulness of reading the Bible together. This book is a wonderful exercise in biblical hermeneutics by two of the best representatives of a younger generation of pastor-scholars. Weaving in popular culture, well-informed Christian theological insight, and excitement for the Bible as uniquely revelatory, Conder and Rhodes lead us into a fresh new encounter with Scripture—the church’s book—speaking anew to the church for the salvation of the world.” --Will Willimon, bishop, the North Alabama conference of the United Methodist Church; author, Conversations with Barth on Preaching