The 2020 January Adventure Speakers

Brian McLaren


Brian McLarenBrian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is a passionate advocate for “a new kind of Christianity” – just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good. He is an Auburn Senior Fellow and a leader in the Convergence Network, through which he is developing an innovative training/mentoring program for pastors, church planters, and lay leaders called Convergence Leadership Project. He works closely with the Center for Progressive Renewal/Convergence, the Wild Goose Festival and the Fair Food Program‘s Faith Working Group. His most recent joint project is an illustrated children’s book (for all ages) called Cory and the Seventh Story.

Born in 1956, he graduated from University of Maryland with degrees in English (BA, summa cum laude, 1978, and MA, in 1981). His academic interests included Medieval drama, Romantic poets, modern philosophical literature, and the novels of Dr. Walker Percy. In 2004, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity Degree (honoris causa) from Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and in 2010, he received a second honorary doctorate from Virginia Theological Seminary (Episcopal).

From 1978 to 1986, McLaren taught college English in the DC area, and in 1982, he helped form Cedar Ridge Community Church, an innovative, nondenominational church ( He left higher education in 1986 to serve as the church’s founding pastor and served in that capacity until 2006. During that time, Cedar Ridge earned a reputation as a leader among emerging missional congregations.

Brian has been active in networking and mentoring church planters and pastors since the mid 1980’s, and has assisted in the development of several new churches. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings – across the US and Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. His public speaking covers a broad range of topics including postmodern thought and culture, Biblical studies, church leadership and spiritual formation, pastoral survival and burnout, inter-religious dialogue, and global crises.

He is primarily known as a thinker and writer. His first book, The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix, (Zondervan, 1998, rev. ed. 2000) has been recognized as a primary portal into the current conversation about ministry in a postmodern context. His second book, Finding Faith (Zondervan, 1999), is a contemporary apologetic, written for thoughtful seekers and skeptics. (It was later re-released as two short books, “A Search for What Makes Sense” and “A Search for What is Real.”) “More Ready Than You Realize” (Zondervan, 2002) presents a refreshing approach to spiritual friendship. “Adventures in Missing the Point” (coauthored with Dr. Anthony Campolo, Zondervan, 2003) explores theological reform in a postmodern context. “A Generous Orthodoxy” (Zondervan, 2004), is a personal confession and has been called a “manifesto of the emerging church conversation.”

His first work of teaching fiction (or creative-nonfiction), “A New Kind of Christian” (Jossey-Bass, 2001), won Christianity Today’s “Award of Merit” in 2002, and has become one of the pivotal texts for what is increasingly called “Emergence Christianity.” It was followed by “The Story We Find Ourselves In” (Jossey-Bass, 2003), which seeks to tell the Biblical story in a fresh way. Brian concluded this trilogy with “The Last Word and the Word After That” (Jossey-Bass, 2005), a book that reopened the question of hell and final judgment.

His 2006 release, “The Secret Message of Jesus” (Thomas Nelson), explores the theme of the kingdom of God in the teachings of Jesus. “Everything Must Change (Thomas Nelson, 2007) traces critical ways in which Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God confronts contemporary global crises. In “Finding Our Way Again” (Thomas Nelson, 2008), Brian draws resources from ancient traditions and practices to enrich spiritual formation today.

In “A New Kind of Christianity” (HarperOne, 2010), Brian articulated ten questions that are central to the emergence of a postmodern, post-colonial Christian faith. His 2011 HarperOne release, “Naked Spirituality,” offers “simple, doable, and durable” practices to help people deepen their life with God.
Brian’s “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World)” was the premier release of Jericho Books (September 2012). It explores the intersection of religious identity, inter-religious hostility, and human solidarity.

His 2014 release, We Make the Road by Walking, marks a turn toward constructive and practical theology. And his 2016 release, The Great Spiritual Migration, has been hailed as his most important work to date.
In 2017, he rewrote We Make the Road by Walking as a daily devotional called Seeking Aliveness, and he helped create study resources (readers guide, leaders guide, video) for The Great Spiritual Migration called Way of Life. 

His 2018-2019 releases include Cory and the Seventh Story, an illustrated children’s book for young readers (ages 6-10, and grown-ups too), and an adult companion book, The Seventh Story: Us, Them, and the End of Violence. Later in the year, The Galapagos Islands: A Spiritual Journey will be released … an eco-spiritual travel memoir.

Brian’s books have been translated into many languages, including Korean, Chinese, French, Swedish, Norwegian, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. He has written for or contributed interviews to many periodicals, including Leadership, Sojourners, Tikkun, Worship Leader, and Conversations. He is an active and popular blogger, a musician, and a songwriter, offering a variety of resources through his website,

A frequent guest on television, radio, and news media programs, he has appeared on All Things Considered, Larry King Live, Nightline, On Being, and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. His work has also been covered in Time, New York Times, Christianity Today, Christian Century, the Washington Post, Huffington Post,, and many other print and online media.

He has taught or lectured at many seminaries and at denominational and intefaith gatherings. Visit his website.

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Dr Wil Gafney


Dr Wil GafneyThe Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney
Education: BA Earlham College, 1987; MDiv Howard University School of Divinity, 1997; Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies, Duke University, 2000; PhD in Hebrew Bible, Duke University, 2006.

The Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney is Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth, TX where she teaches masters and doctoral students in initial and advanced degree programs including MDiv, ThM and PhD. She is currently working on a Women’s Lectionary under contract with Church House Publishing.

Dr. Gafney is the author of Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne (Westminster/John Knox), a commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah for the Liturgical Press Wisdom series, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel and co-editor of (Prophets and the Deuterocanonical Writings/Apocrypha) The Peoples’ Bible and The Peoples’ Companion to the Bible, (Fortress), and commentary on Judges in the CEB Women’s Bible. Her most recent essays include: “A Womanist Midrash of Delilah: Don’t Hate the Playa Hate the Game” (Womanist Interpretations of the Bible: Expanding the Discourse, Society of Biblical Literature), “A Womanist Midrash on Zipporah” (I Found God in Me: A Womanist Biblical Hermeneutics Reader, Cascade Press), “It Does Matter If You’re Black or White, Too Black or Too White, but Mestizo is Just Right” (Re-Presenting Texts: Jewish and Black Biblical Interpretation, Society of Biblical Literature) and “A Queer Womanist Midrashic Reading of Numbers 25:1-18” (Leviticus and Numbers: Texts @ Contexts). Visit Dr. Gafney’s Amazon author page here.

Other projects include series of bible studies in Genesis in the Abingdon Pastor’s Bible Study, Volume III, an exploration of motherhood in messianic genealogies in “Mother Knows Best: Messianic Surrogacy and Sexploitation in Ruth” in Mother Goose, Mother Jones, Mommie Dearest: Biblical Mothers and their Children (Brill), and a commentary on Ruth and article on “Responsible Christian exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures” in The Africana Bible(Fortress). Dr. Gafney has also contributed to the Lutheran Study Bible, (Fortress). She also has an essay on transformative teaching practices, “Intoxicating Teaching as Transformational Pedagogy” in Transforming Graduate Biblical Education: Ethos and Discipline published by the Society of Biblical Literature.

Dr. Gafney’s sermons have also been published in Those Preaching Women and The Audacity of Faith, both by Judson Press, in Preaching as Resistance (Chalice Press), and on She has also provided lectionary commentary for Sojourners. A number of Dr. Gafney’s sermons in Jewish and Christian congregations are posted in her blog. In most cases, the translation of the scriptures is her own. Dr. Gafney has also contributed to the Huffington PostReligion Dispatches, and Working Preacher.

Dr. Gafney’s courses include Introduction to Interpreting the Hebrew Bible, an advance seminar translating and interpreting Exodus, masters-level seminar on Exodus and Accordance Bible Software supported exegesis of the Hebrew Bible from the Hebrew text. Her doctoral seminars on Exodus, Judges, and Womanist Biblical Interpretation are characterized by attention to translating the text from multiple manuscript traditions including Masoretic, Septuagint, Qumran, Samaritan and Targumic with rabbinic commentary. All levels include womanist, feminist post-colonial and queer commentary. Her course, The Bible and Black Lives Matter, examines the core claims and commitments of the Black Lives Matter movement in light of the biblical text with an eye to preaching and teaching the scriptures in response to the extra-judicial killings of black women and men.

Her approach to teaching the Hebrew Scriptures includes emphasizing archaeology, comparative ancient Near Eastern literature, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Other courses she has created include Suffering in Job and the Holocaust, introductions to Rabbinic Literature and the Dead Seas Scrolls, Exodus in African and African American Exegesis, The Bible in the Public Square, Heroines, Harlots and Handmaids: the Women of the Hebrew Scriptures with sections on “Cosmic Herstory,” “Carnal Knowledge” and “Postcolonial Musings,” and Prophetic Constructions, which explores prophets who do not have canonical books attributed to them, including better-known prophets such as Miriam and Nathan, Elijah and Elisha, along with lesser-known prophets such as the woman with whom Isaiah fathered a child.

Among her research interests are feminist biblical studies, rabbinic studies, and issues in translation. Her interest in the ancient Near Eastern and biblical portrayals of Lilith and other night-stalking creatures led to her participation in two HBO documentaries on the origin and evolution of vampire mythologies, True Bloodlines: Vampire Legends and True Bloodlines: A New Type in 2008, airing before the series premiere of True Blood.

Dr. Gafney, an Episcopal priest, remains a member of the historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, PA as she is canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. Founded in 1792, it is the first Episcopal church in the U.S. founded by and for African Americans. She is a former member of the Dorshei Derekh Reconstructionist Minyan of the Germantown Jewish Centre, in Philadelphia. She remains actively engaged in inter-religious work and is particularly interested in how Jews and Christians interpret the texts they hold in common. She is also licensed in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Dr. Gafney is a former US Army Reserve chaplain who served the Thompson Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church as pastor before joining the Episcopal Church. Visit Dr Gafney's website.

Photo credit of Dr Gafney goes to Misty Keasler

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Buddy Sullivan


Buddy SullivanBuddy Sullivan - Friday Morning Event Speaker
Buddy Sullivan has researched and written about the history, culture and ecology of coastal Georgia for 35 years. He is the author of 25 books and monographs and is in frequent demand as a lecturer on a variety of historical topics. He is a recipient of the Governor’s Medal in the Humanities from the Georgia Humanities Council in recognition of his literary and cultural contributions to the state. Sullivan’s books include Sapelo: People and Place on a Georgia Sea Island, Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater, and Georgia: A State History. He was manager of the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve from 1993 to 2013 and is now an independent writer and historical consultant.

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