A Crossroad for Reflection and Academic Exploration

Finding the intersections between one’s faith and vocation needn’t be a solitary task. At a yearly conference sponsored by the Lilly Fellows Program in the Humanities and the Arts, faculty from Christian institutions work through nuanced issues together — each refining their personal sense of how their faith relates to their teaching, their scholarly work, and relationships with colleagues. In 2018, this conference took place at Hope College for the first time.

“It’s an enriching environment, because you’re talking to people at different kinds of institutions and other disciplines and learning how they think about their faith,” says Professor of Religion Dr. Steve Bouma-Prediger, who was among the Hope faculty and staff who brought the event to fruition. “More people have likely thought about faith and teaching than about faith and scholarship, but the lights are going on.”

The meeting drew about 200 Christian college faculty and administrators to Hope from a broad range of Christian colleges and universities. Some of the 101 institutions in the Lilly network are nondenominational; others are affiliated with a specific denomination. The keynote speakers were equally diverse: a Westmont College art historian from the Reformed tradition, a Roman Catholic scholar from Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and a Baptist theology professor from Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina. Interacting about the conference theme “Robust and Receptive Ecumenism,” participants considered how to work at genuinely understanding others’ perspectives, and how to speak willingly and openly from their own Christian perspectives within academia.

In July, Hope will host another Lilly conference — this time for Lilly Graduate Fellows, grad students who are exploring various issues in Christian higher education through a multi-year Lilly program. Other conferences taking place in 2019 on the Hope campus include gatherings of chemists, teacher accreditation specialists and philosophers.