Faculty and Students Represent Southwest at Biblical Literature Conference

The annual gatherings of the regional American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature met in Irving, Texas, March 4-6. Dr. Anthony Baker hosted a group of Master of Arts in Religion students (Micah Williams, Dwight Gray, Mary Freiberger, and Polly Harris), as well as MDiv senior Becca Cooper.

“Becca did a masterful job organizing the trip.,” said Baker. “Our students had an invaluable opportunity to engage with scholars from the region about texts and ideas. One of our students managed to keep an entire panel in the room for 90 minutes past the end time, right through the lunch hour, because he had ‘a few more questions.'”

The Rev. Dr. Dominique Robinson waves while gathering with Southwest students and colleagues.

Besides this group, faculty members the Rev. Nancy Frausto, the Rev. Dr. Jeehei Park, and the Rev. Dr. Dominique Robinson also attended. Dr. Park gave a well-received presentation on systemic racism in search and hiring processes in Biblical Studies. “Jeehei challenged us to break down a distinction between what the Bible ‘actually’ says, and what it says from a minority group’s perspective,” shared Baker. “Identifying our points of view as interpreters is simply a matter of self-awareness, and it’s an odd situation if “self-awareness of any sort is taken as a threat to academic rigor in our discipline.”

The Rev. Dr. Jeehei Park

On Sunday, Dr. Robinson offered a response to a new lectionary by Womanist biblical scholar and Episcopal priest Wil Gafney. “In her appreciative critique of Gafney’s groundbreaking work, Dominique addressed new questions that arise from her own perspective as a millenial Womanist homiltecian,” said Baker. “How can we ask the right question of the text,” she asked, “so that our interpretations can be heard by new listeners?”

Finally, Baker added that the nearby conference allowed not only for robust attendance, but stoked the good-natured rivalry among Southwest’s nearby sister seminary: “Our cohort made a bit of a splash at the conference, asking lots of questions, bringing powerful insights, and cheering each other on. When Austin Presbyterian Seminary’s Margaret Aymer got up to begin her presentation, she said, ‘Welcome, Seminary of the Southwest. And all the rest of you.’ She then tried to throw a little shade, suggesting that while we may have been ‘winning’ at the conference, that did not wipe out our dismal Polity Bowl record of 1 win in 20 years. We corrected her: that’s 2 wins, thank you very much.”*

The Southwest Cohort at American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature Conference.