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Lilly Fellows Program 2005 National Conference

Keeping the Faith:

Four Religious Perspectives on the Creation of Tradition

A comparative dialogue about how different religious confessions approach tradition, and about what the implications of these approaches are for pedagogy and mission.



Conference Presenters


Alan J. Avery-Peck is Kraft-Hiatt Professor of Judaic Studies and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts. Prior to coming to Holy Cross in 1993, he taught at Tulane University, where he was professor of Classical Studies, Director of the Tulane Jewish Studies Program, and served for two years as Acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Avery-Peck’s specialty is Judaism in the first six centuries C.E., with particular attention to the literature of Rabbinic Judaism. He is the author of many articles and monographic studies on Rabbinic law, including Mishnah's Division of Agriculture, A History and Theology of Seder Zeraim (2nd edition, Brill, forthcoming, 2005), and he is, most recently, a co-author and editor, with Jacob Neusner, of The Encyclopaedia of Judaism (2nd edition, Brill, forthcoming, 2006), The Routlege Dictionary of Judaism (Routlege, 2004) The Blackwell Companion to Judaism, and The Blackwell Reader in Judaism (Blackwell, 2000). He is editor of The Review of Rabbinic Judaism. Ancient, Medieval and Modern (Brill). At Holy Cross, he teaches a range of course on Jewish history and religion, including a seminar on theological responses to the Holocaust.

John E. Thiel is Professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University where he has taught for twenty-nine years. He has served as Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Fairfield and currently is Director of the University Honors Program. He is the author of five books, including Senses of Tradition: Continuity and Development in Catholic Faith (Oxford University Press, 2000) and God, Evil, and Innocent Suffering: A Theological Reflection (Crossroad, 2002). His articles have appeared in Theological Studies, The Heythrop Journal, New Theology Review, Horizons, Philosophy and Theology, and The Month. Twice a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1989-90, 1997-98), Dr. Thiel currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Catholic Theological Society of America. He is a member of the American Academy of Religion and serves on the Fundamental Theology Advisory Board of the international journal Concilium.

Margaret Lamberts Bendroth is Executive Director of the American Congregational Association. From 1998 to 2004 she was Professor of History at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, and from 1995 to 1998 she co-directed the Women and Twentieth-Century Protestantism Project, sponsored by the Pew Foundation. She holds an A.B. in History from Cornell University, an M.A. in Church History from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in American History from The Johns Hopkins University. Her publications include: Fundamentalists in the City: Conflict and Division in Boston’s Churches, 1885-1950 (Oxford University Press, 2005); Growing Up Protestant: Parents, Children, and Mainline Churches (Rutgers University Press, 2002); Women and Twentieth-Century Protestantism, (co-edited with Virginia Brereton ), (University of Illinois Press, 2001), winner of the Choice Award, Outstanding Book of 2002; Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present (Yale University Press, 1993); Faith Traditions and the Family (co-edited with Phyllis D. Airhart). (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1996); Outreach and Diversity, Volume 5 of the Living Theological Heritage Series for the United Church of Christ (co-edited with Robert Schneider and Lawrence Jones) (Pilgrim Press, 2000).

William J. Abraham, Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies and University Distinguished Teaching Professor, Southern Methodist University, where he teaches at Perkins School of Theology. A native of Northern Ireland, he holds a B.A. from Queen’s University, Belfast, an M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary and a D.Phil. in Philosophy of Religion from the University of Oxford, England.

A philosophical and systematic theologian in the Wesleyan tradition, Professor Abraham has authored numerous articles in philosophy, theology, and evangelism. In 1991 he wrote a major review article on “The State of Christian Theology in North America ” for the Encyclopedia Britannica’s Great Ideas Today. His books include: The Divine Inspiration of Holy Scripture (Oxford, 1981), Divine Revelation and the Limits of Historical Criticism (Oxford, 1992), The Coming Great Revival: Recovering the Full Evangelical Tradition (Harper and Row, 1984), AnIntroduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Prentice-Hall, 1985), and The Logic of Evangelism (Eerdmans, 1989); Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology (Clarendon: 2000) The Logic of Renewal [Eerdmans, 2004]. He has also co-edited with Steven W. Holtzer, The Rationality of Religious Belief, Essays in Honour of Basil Mitchell (Clarendon: 1987).

Abraham has lectured and preached in United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Singapore, and Australia. Over several summers he has traveled to Karaganda, Kazakhastan to teach at the Central Asian Evangelical School of Theology.

Beyond his academic endeavors and achievements, he has served as a Methodist minister in Ireland. Abraham and his wife of 36 years, Muriel, have three children, Timothy, Siobhan, and Shaun. They live in Richardson, Texas, and attend Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, where he is an enthusiastic teacher of scripture on Sunday mornings.