Lutheran Studies Conference

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Justice in Society: Lutheran Sources of Social Change

PLU 2020 underscored the ancient mandate to act with justice and resist evil, but what “justice” might actually mean remains an open and disputed question. While children growing up in this country repeat the words, “with liberty and justice for all” in the pledge of allegiance, the nation’s history offers another story in which women, immigrants, persons of color, refugees, sexual minorities, and the land itself have been deprived of freedom and justice.

Martin Luther, the progenitor of Lutheran higher education, argued that God’s justice is a life-giving justice for all persons regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, social or economic status – a justice that should suffuse human relationships and the education of future leaders in society. Indeed, he was among the first of his generation to protest business, banking, and religious practices that favored the wealthy few and impoverished the many. And yet Christian/Lutheran history is also marked by the refusal to heed the ancient call to act with justice, exchanging that more difficult task for charitable endeavors or stoic silence in the face of oppression.

This year’s conference has expanded to a full day, one in which we welcome a variety of speakers and panelists who will lead participants to consider different facets of the contemporary quest for justice in society: the ancient and contemporary call to seek justice; the vocation of promoting justice; university and church support for engaging climate change and food insecurity; singing the music of justice; resisting structural evil; and embodying justice in daily life.


8:30 Registration begins in Anderson University Center

9:30 The Vocation of Promoting Justice
PLU students Andrew Allen, Hannah Anderson, Andrew Larsen,
and Christian Wold

These four students are PLU seniors who hold records of academic distinction, service to PLU, global study, and social engagement. Andrew Allen has majors in Global Studies and Religion, Hannah Anderson in Religion, Andrew Larsen in Anthropology and Religion, and Christian Wold in History. Together, they have studied or worked in Italy, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Serbia, and Tanzania.

10:30 Break

10:45 Social Justice: A Biblical Principle in Contemporary Demand
Dr. Antonios Finitsis, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, PLU

Dr. Finitsis is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible and Chair of the PLU Religion Department. He holds the doctorate from the University of Chicago and has taught at both Chicago and Yale University. He is the author of Visions and Eschatology: A Socio-Historical Analysis of Zechariah 1-6 and the inspiring founder of Hebrew Idol, an annual and much-anticipated PLU event featuring student video productions of Hebrew Bible narratives.

11:45 Lunch in the University Center Dining Commons

12:30 Engaging Climate Change
Mr. Sean Horner, PLU Web Development

Mr. Horner holds the BS in Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and serves as Web Developer at PLU. He is a leader in western Washington church initiatives on climate change and divestment from fossil fuels and has lectured on this critical issue at PLU. He is the author of Fossil Fuel Divestment: A Primer.

1:30 Break

1:45 Singing Justice
Dr. Paul Westermeyer, Professor of Church Music Emeritus,
Luther Seminary, St. Paul

Dr. Westermeyer received the Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has been actively engaged in the academy and the church throughout his distinguished career as a professor, musician, historian, and Lutheran pastor. He is Professor of Church Music Emeritus at Luther Seminary in St. Paul and Director Emeritus of the seminary’s sacred music program with St. Olaf College. Dr. Westermeyer has published widely and is the author of Let Justice Sing.

2:45 Break

3:00 Who harvested these grapes? Food Insecurity in Washington State
Dr. Samuel Torvend, Professor of Church History, PLU

Dr. Torvend is Professor of the History of Christianity and holds the University Chair in Lutheran Studies at PLU. He also serves as Director of Vocational Reflection in the Center for Vocation and as Director of the Center for Religion and Culture in the PNW. He holds the doctorate from Saint Louis University. He is the author of Luther and the Hungry Poor: Gathered Fragments.

3:45 Break

4:00 Resisting Structural Injustice: Love’s Calling
Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Associate Professor of Theological and Social Ethics,
Seattle University

Dr. Moe-Lobeda is Associate Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Seattle University and teaches in its Department of Theology and Religious Studies and the School of Theology and Ministry. A theological consultant to the presiding bishop of the ELCA, she holds the doctorate from Union Theological Seminary New York. Among her many works, she is author of Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation.

5:00 Conference reception and banquet

7:00 Embodying Justice: Fighting for Health, Healing & Hope
Dr. Aana Marie Vigen, Associate Professor of Social Ethics,
Loyola University, Chicago

Dr. Vigen is Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Loyola University Chicago and has served as theological consultant on the ELCA Task Force on Genetics. Much of her research focuses on racial/ethnic and socio-economic inequalities, particularly as these impact women. Dr. Vigen completed her doctoral work at Union Theological Seminary New York. She is the author of Women, Ethics, and Inequality in U.S. Healthcare.

Current PLU faculty, staff and students are asked to register (free of charge); for all others, registration is $30. The optional conference banquet is $30 per person. Registration will continue at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 25 in the Anderson University Center.

For more information, contact Dr. Samuel Torvend, University Chair in Lutheran Studies

Promoting the intellectual gifts of the Lutheran tradition