BANGOR, Maine — The Old Testament will be the focus of Bangor Theological Seminary’s 104th annual convocation to be held Monday through Wednesday at Hammond Street Congregational Church.
A rabbi from Toronto and two Old Testament scholars will be guest speakers and preachers at this year’s meeting, titled “The Scriptures We Share.” It was chosen to honor Ann Johnston, who has taught classes on the Old Testament at the seminary for 21 years, the Rev. Kent Ulery, president of the seminary, said last week.
“In a world in which there is so much misunderstanding of Hebrew scripture in Christian pews, and so little understanding of how the great monotheistic faiths interpret these sacred texts through different lenses, the theme for Convocation 2009 certainly is timely,” he said.
Ulery, who began his tenure as president in July, will be inaugurated during convocation at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Julia M. O’Brien will deliver two sermons — “Between Wilderness and Promised Land” and “Wrestling: Human and Divine” — and a lecture titled “To Have Without Holding: the Prophets and the Authority of the Bible” at convocation.
O’Brien is the professor of Old Testament Studies at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pa. O’Brien regularly writes for Bible dictionaries, commentaries and journals. She is interested in issues of violence and how Christians might ethically and respectfully respond to what she calls “the difficult” parts of the Bible.
“As someone who spends much of her life teaching and writing about the Old Testament, I have two primary goals in regard to these texts,” O’Brien wrote in her most recent book, “Challenging Prophetic Metaphor: Theology and Ideology in the Prophets,” published last year. “One is to help people value, even enjoy, the Old Testament, to move beyond negative stereotypes of this collection as difficult, nasty or just plain boring.
“The other goal,” she continued, “is to challenge readers to acknowledge the violence, sexism, and other ‘problems’ of the Old Testament and of the Bible as a whole. I want them to see — really see — how much all parts of the Bible are shaped by assumptions about people and about the world that many of us spend our energies and our money to combat.”
Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, director of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, will bring a feminist perspective to the program. She has published four books in the field of feminist Bible scholarship and has been involved in Jewish adult education for 18 years.
Her two lectures are “Feminist Methodologies of Biblical Interpretation” and “What is Jewish Exegesis?” Exegesis is the act of interpreting or explaining the meanings of passages of Scripture, according to the “Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms.”
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan is the associate professor of Old Testament and director of the Certificate of Ministry Studies program at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. His academic work focuses on ancient Near Eastern, including Israelite, history and on Asian and Asian American biblical interpretation. Kuan is an ordained elder in the Chinese Community United Methodist Church in Oakland, Calif.
His lectures are titled “Biblical Interpretation and the Rhetoric of Violence and War” and “Reading Race Reading Rahab: Toward an Asian American Reading of the Story of Rahab.” Rahab’s story is told in the book of Joshua. She was a prostitute in the city of Jericho who sheltered two spies sent by Joshua, according to the Web site www.jewishencyclopediacom. She hid them from the king. At the conquest of the city by the Israelites, Joshua ordered Rahab and her family to be spared.
The public is invited to attend the worship services free of charge. Those who also want to attend lectures and workshops are asked to register. The registration fee is $125. On-site registration will be available.
For more information, visit www.bts.edu.