Attendees of this year’s Big Tent celebration in Baltimore will have an opportunity to engage in in depth Bible study. Dr. William P. Brown, the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, will be leading.
“For me, the place where I find the most joy in sharing and studying the Bible is together with those who read the biblical text differently than I do,” said Brown. “Being in conversation and fellowship together in common study: that’s where renewal and transformation take place, and I can’t think of a better place than at Big Tent. The bigger, the better! I think there’s no better place to discern what Scripture is telling us in such a time as this.”
As he has studied, researched, and taught the Bible, Brown says the greatest moments of joy and transformation occur in conversation with others.
“I can only do so much in studying Scripture in the privacy of my study or at the library or archaeological site, but when I do it conversation with others, that’s when the real stuff happens, that’s when true understanding comes about and that’s what I find most fulfilling in the work that I am blessed to do,” he said. “That’s where it all comes together. When we come together to the table and talk honestly, that table turns into a banquet feast of insight, transformation, and vitality.”
In addition to Columbia, Brown has taught at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond and Emory University. He has authored several books on the Bible and his teaching and writing have explored the intersecting issues of justice, creation care and hope from a biblical and theological perspective.
For Big Tent, Brown says he will build his study around the conference’s Scripture reference, Romans 12:2.
“I will focus on what it means to be transformed according to Paul, and I hope to correct certain misunderstandings about this text as well as dig deeply into what Paul is saying between the lines,” Brown said. “When Paul, for example, says, ‘Do not be conformed to this world,’ he’s actually referring to the ‘age’ in which we live, not to the world that God so loves. We will explore what it is about this ‘age’ that we should not be conformed to, that we should, in fact, resist. How shall we describe this ‘age’ of polarizing fear, suspicion, and hatred, this ‘age’ of wall-building? Paul challenges us to respond in ways that, in his words, are ‘good and acceptable and whole,’ in ways that flip the script of this ‘age.’”
Brown says one of the wonders of the Bible is that it is persistently relevant.
“The Bible is timely, full of words that are on target. There may be passages in Scripture that are more applicable to one age or the other, but I see Romans 12 as very timely for today,” he said. “The power of Scripture lies in its riveting testimony to God’s redemptive work throughout history and creation, what I call God’s ‘Immanuel Movement,’ which continues today. ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ continues to be written and told as we live our lives transformed by the ‘power of God for salvation’ (Romans 1:16).”
Big Tent will be held in Baltimore, August 1-3. The theme is “Called to a Movement Beyond Institution.” Other speakers include the Rev. Dr. Amaury Tañón-Santos, Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, Rev. Amantha Barbee, the Rev. Dr. Renita J. Weems and the Co-Moderators of the 223rd General Assembly (2018), the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann and Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri.
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