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Elon hosts conference on Jewish-Christian relations

A dozen leading scholars of religious studies visited Elon on Nov. 17 for the inaugural Elon University Conference on Jewish-Christian Relations.

The Sunday, Nov. 17, conference featured a dozen leading religious studies scholars and was held in the McBride Gathering Space in Elon University's Numen Lumen Pavilion.

The Conference on Jewish-Christian Relations brought together students, scholars and members of the general public for an in-depth look at the history of the relationship among the world’s Jewish and Christian communities and offering an outlook for how that dynamic can be improved. 

"This conference provided a powerful learning experience,” said Geoffrey Claussen, Elon’s Lori and Eric Sklut Emerging Scholar in Jewish Studies. "Some of the scholars who shared their work exposed just how terrible the relationship between Jews and Christians has often been, and others illustrated just how much potential for good there is in this relationship." 

Claussen and Jeffrey Pugh, Elon’s Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies, organized the event – the latest demonstration of Elon’s ongoing commitment to fostering spiritual exploration and understanding on campus. 

"Elon is a natural host for the kinds of conversations that we'll be entering into over the course of the afternoon," Claussen told the crowd as he welcomed them to campus. "The idea for this conference began as Dr. Pugh and I began to develop a new course that we've been team-teaching this semester focused on Jewish-Christian relations in general and Jewish-Christian dialogue in particular." 

The session featured speakers from Elon University, Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual. 

Topics for their presentations included perspectives on the Biblical passages of Genesis, defining Jewish identity, Evangelical-Jewish relations, Jewish and Christian feminist ritual innovation and the future of Jewish-Christian dialogue. The conference’s keynote session was a dialogue between two world-renowned theologians, Peter Ochs and Stanley Hauerwas. 

The conference was held in the Numen Lumen Pavilion, Elon's multifaith center that opened last spring as a resource for Elon’s expanding programs focused on spiritual thought and exploration. It is the home for Elon's Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society. 

"This place was constructed to be a place of interfaith dialogue, relations and understanding – and we're proud of that mission here at Elon," Elon University President Leo M. Lambert said in his welcoming remarks. "Our work in religious and spiritual life at Elon, I think, is pretty simple in concept. We're hoping that every student who comes to Elon will find a spiritual home … a spiritual family here. In addition to that, we believe it should be a hallmark of an Elon education to engage in interfaith dialogues [and] to advance understanding and promote peace." 

Claussen believes the conference helped achieve that mission. "There was enormous creativity and thoughtfulness on display," he said, "and I'm proud that Elon could host such a dynamic set of conversations." 

Sponsors for the program included the Elon College Fund for Excellence; the Eric and Lori Sklut Emerging Scholar in Jewish Studies Program; Elon’s Department of Religious Studies; the Department of History and Geography; the Women's/Gender Studies program; the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society; and the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.

Philip Jones,
11/19/2013 11:40 AM