2014 Pastors Conference

2014 ESR Pastors Conference

Faith Beyond Belief:
Accompanying Our Congregations on the Journey Toward Faith

Featuring Keynote Speaker
Margaret Placentra Johnston
Monday, September 29, 2014


Any number of theorists have described a faith development path beyond fixed, literalist beliefs, through a period of questioning, toward a more fluid and more unitive form of faith. Though many or most clergy have studied it at the academic level, very few have incorporated this rather sticky concept into their ministry. This one-day conference will consider reasons why survival of our individual traditions may depend on our success in shepherding congregants toward post-literal faith. Participants will have a chance to discuss to what extent should this be part of their ministry? And how exactly might they go about empowering individual congregants on their journey toward spiritual maturity?

Session I – Introduction to Faith Development [videoPDF of slides]

Keynote speaker, Margaret Placentra Johnston will present an overview of the faith/spiritual development process as described by various theorists from different fields, including Drs. James Fowler, M. Scott Peck, K. Helmut Reich, and Paul Ricoeur. Also Ken Wilber and Caroline Myss.  

Session II – Why the Church Should Support Movement Beyond Belief [videoPDF of slides]

Numerous factors in today’s world detract from literal religious messages, many of which seem increasingly improbable in our modern – but quickly becoming post-modern - society. But great hope may be found for traditions and churches that allow for, or even promote, the unitive and values-based faith that development theorists tell us can arise on the far side of doubt and questioning. This session will present a rationale for accommodating, if not encouraging, faith exploration among our congregants.  

Session III - Should We, Could We, How Can We?

Breakout groups will discuss: do we want to (should we try) to accompany people on a journey beyond literal belief toward unitive faith? What challenges will we face/ what will be the benefits? How might we do this?

Session IV – The Way Forward

Each breakout group will share a summary of their discussion. Margaret Placentra Johnston will assemble a written summary of the main points that arose. She will send this report to all participants within a few weeks of the conference.

Keynote Bio:

As a practicing Optometrist Dr. Margaret Placentra Johnston has spent the last three decades helping people see better in the physical world. But now she is on a new mission to offer clearer vision of a different sort: a broader perspective about religion and spirituality than what the conventional world typically recognizes. Her book, Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind, was named the GOLD WINNER of the 2013 Nautilus Book Award in Religion/spirituality.

Dr. Johnston holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Arts (MA) degree in Education from the Catholic University of America; a Bachelor of Science (BS) and a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. She offers courses and speaks to groups on spiritual development. Margaret has two grown sons and lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.

Conference Agenda

8:30 - 9:00 am

Registration & Breakfast

9:00 - 9:30 am

Welcome & Waiting Worship

9:30 - 10:45 am

Session I: Introduction to Faith Development

10:45 - 11:15 am

Break with light refreshments

11:15 am - 12:30 pm

Session II: Why the church Should Support Movement Beyond Belief

12:30 - 1:30 pm

Lunch & free time

1:30 - 1:45 pm

Centering time

1:45 - 2:45 pm

Session III: Should We, Could We, How Can We?

2:45 - 3:15 pm

Break with light refreshments

3:15 - 4:30 pm

Session IV: The Way Forward

Cost: $40 per person and free for students with a valid ID - see top of the page for online registration link. 
For more information contact Mandy Ford, Director of External Relations, at fordma@earlham.edu or call (800) 432-1377.

Event Date: 
09/29/2014 - 8:00am - 5:00pm