Jesus Seminar on the Road
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Next Program

In Co-Operation with the Westar Institute,
SPAFER will host a Jesus Seminar on the Road
in Birmingham, AL, on April 17th and 18th, 2015.

All Lectures will take place at:
UU Church of Birmingham, 4300 Hampton Heights Drive, Birmingham, AL 35209

Topic for the weekend - Jesus in the First and Twenty First Centuries

Lecture Topics:
     1. How To Live in Empire – Then and Now
     2. The Wisdom of the Pre-mythic Jesus
     3. Jesus Among the Platonists
     4. Jesus and Democratic Discourse
     5. Where does this conversation lead us?

Friday Night:
     • Lecture #1 – 7:30 - 9:00 PM, followed by Reception

Saturday Morning:
     • Lecture #2 – 9:30 - 10:30 AM
     • Break
     • Lecture #3 – 11:00 - Noon
     • Lunch Break 12:00 to 1:30 PM

Saturday Afternoon:
     • Lecture #4 – 1:30 - 2:30 PM
     • Break
     • Lecture #5 – 3:00 – 4:00 PM

For Information about the speakers and to Purchase Tickets:

To download/print fliers or posters for this event, please use the links below:
Download or Print Flier  •  Download or Print Poster


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Future Speakers

To be announced.

Brian McLaren - September 19th and 20th, 2014
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Past Speakers


All Lectures at:
Canterbury United Methodist Church
350 Overbrook Road
Mountain Brook (Birmingham), AL

Theme: Emerging Christianity in a 21st Century World

Friday Night – September 19th – 7:00 PM
Session 1: Reading the Bible in a 21st Century World

Saturday Morning – September 20th – 9:00 AM until 12:30 PM
Session 2: Christian Identity in a 21st Century World
Session 3: Christian Mission in a 21st Century World

About Brian D. McLaren

Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is an ecumenical global networker among innovative Christian leaders.

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, this one from Virginia Theological Seminary (Episcopal).

From 1978 to 1986, McLaren taught college English, and in 1982, he helped form Cedar Ridge Community Church, an innovative, nondenominational church in the Baltimore-Washington region ( 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, evangelism, leadership, global mission, spiritual formation, worship, pastoral survival and burnout, inter-religious dialogue, ecology, and social justice.

He is primarily known, however, 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 postmodern ministry. 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)" is the premier release of Jericho Books (September 2012). It explores the intersection of religious identity, inter-religious hostility, and human solidarity.

Brian's books have been translated into many languages, including Korean, Chinese, French, Swedish, Norwegian, German, 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, and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. His work has also been covered in Time (where he was listed as one of American's 25 most influential evangelicals), Christianity Today, Christian Century, the Washington Post, Huffington Post,, and many other print media.

He has taught or lectured at many seminaries and has served on a number of boards, including Emergent Village (, Sojourners (, Mars Hill Graduate School (, International Teams (, and Off The Map (, and he is a founding member of Red Letter Christians (

Brian is married to Grace, and they have four adult children. His personal interests include wildlife, ecology, fishing, hiking, music, art, and literature.

Thomas Moore - May 2nd & 3rd, 2014
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Past Speakers

Co-Sponsored by Friends of Jung-South and the Southern Progressive Alliance for Exploring Religion

ThomasMoore ThomasMoore-AReligionOfOnesOwn-banner
A Religion Of One's Own

518 19th Street North • Birmingham, AL

May 2, 2014
Friday night 7-9 pm

Lecture and Q & A:
"A Religon of One's Own"

Dr. Moore will be speaking from his newly released book, A Religion of One's Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World. Book signing to follow.

Please scroll down to order tickets online,
or by mail with a check.

May 3, 2014
Saturday 9 am - 1 pm

Workshop: "Shaping Spiritual Practices into a Religion of One's Own"

Taking specific lessons from C. G. Jung, Georgia O'Keefe, Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau, we will explore treating ordinary daily practices as elements in one's own religion.

Thomas Moore is the author of the bestselling book Care of the Soul and fifteen other books on deepening spirituality and cultivating soul in every aspect of life.

He has been a monk, a musician, a university professor, and a psychotherapist, and today he lectures widely on holistic medicine, spirituality, psychotherapy, and the arts. He lectures frequently in Ireland and has a special love of Irish culture.

He has a Ph. D. in religion from Syracuse University and has won several awards for his work, including an honorary doctorate from Lesley University and the Humanitarian Award from Einstein Medical School of Yeshiva University.

Three of his books have won the prestigious Books for a Better Life awards. He writes fiction and music and often works with his wife, artist and yoga instructor, Hari Kirin.

He writes regular columns for Resurgence, Spirituality & Health, and The Huffington Post and has recently published Writing in the Sand: The Spirituality of Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels, Care of the Soul in Medicine, and The Guru of Golf and Other Stories about the Game of Life. Much of his recent work has focused on the world of medicine, speaking to nurses and doctors about the soul and spirit of medical practice.

Fred Plumer - September 27 & 28, 2013
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Past Speakers

"Progressive Christianity - What Is It?"

FRIDAY evening @ 7 PM:
"Everything Changes - It Either Evolves or Dies"

SATURDAY morning @ 9 AM:
"The Christian Church - Is There a Future?"

SATURDAY morning @ 11 AM:
"A New Christian Paradigm for the 21st Century."

After an extensive background in building management, real estate development and restaurant ownership and management, Fred Plumer made a career shift in 1981. He earned his M.Div. degree at the Pacific School of Religion while doing work in an inner city community center. In 1984 Rev. Plumer was called to the Irvine United Congregational Church in Irvine, California to lead a UCC new start church. The church became known throughout the denomination as one of the more exciting and progressive mid-size congregations in the nation.

Rev. Plumer served on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC) for five years, and chaired the Commission for Church Development and Evangelism for three of those years. In that time the Southern California Conference put in place one of the most aggressive church development plans in its history. Rev. Plumer regularly gives workshops on church growth.

He became a member of the Executive Council for The Center for Progressive Christianity in 1995 and has written The Study Guide for TCPC’s “eight points.” He has had several articles published on church development, building faith communities and redefining the purpose of the enlightened Christian Church.

Always interested in the latest and best scholarship, Rev. Plumer has been involved with the Jesus Seminar since his graduate work in the early eighties. Rev. Plumer was the executive producer of a video and workbook on the Open and Affirming process in the UCC. This highly acclaimed video, "A Journey of Faith," has now been used in five countries and in thousands of churches of several denominations as a teaching tool for those interested in studying the subject of the church and sexual orientation issues. In 1990 he was the recipient of ECCO’s Humanitarian Award for his work in this area.

Rev. Plumer has been active in the inter-faith dialogue since his seminary years. In 1989 under his leadership the UCC church agreed to host a small group of Jews who wanted to start a Reconstructionist Synagogue. The congregations shared space, operating expenses, teaching forums, mission outreach projects, special services and meals for over 15 years. The synagogue became one of the fastest growing congregations in the nation with nearly five hundred families when they found it necessary to build their own facility. The unique relationship between the two congregations was the subject of numerous newspaper articles and radio talk shows providing Rev. Plumer many opportunities to speak of the importance of inter-religious dialogue. In 2000 with the support of the synagogue, a Mosque joined in this unique mix of religious traditions sharing space and ideas. The new relationship was covered by numerous newspapers, two talk shows and was a special feature that ran on CNN news, Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

In September of 2004 Rev. Plumer retired from the Irvine church so he could devote more time to writing and his passion - reclaiming the message of Jesus. In January of 2006 after Jim Adams, founder of TCPC retired as President, Fred was elected as the new President.

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Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow - April 12 &13, 2013
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"Soulful Science: Evidential Inspiration and Realistic Hope"

FRIDAY evening @ 7 PM:
"The Sacred Side of Science: Big History, Human Nature, Death" - Michael Dowd

SATURDAY morning @ 9 AM and 11 AM:
1) "How Religion Is Failing Our Youth — and What We Can Do About It" - Connie Barlow
2) "How Religion Betrayed God — and Atheists Became Prophets" - Michael Dowd

Please click here to download the flier for this event.

THE REVEREND MICHAEL DOWD is a former pastor, veteran sustainability activist, and big history / big integrity evangelist. An outspoken religious naturalist, he is the author of the bestselling bridge-building book, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World (Viking 2008 / Plume 2009), which was endorsed by 6 Nobel Prize-winning scientists and other science luminaries, including noted skeptics, and by religious leaders across the spectrum.

Michael and his wife, Connie Barlow, an acclaimed science writer and gifted evolutionary educator, permanently travel North America and have addressed more than 1,500 religious and non-religious groups since 2002 — ranging from Unitarian Universalists and secular high school, college, and university students, to Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical Christian churches, to New Thought, New Age, and Integral groups. They show how the science-based history of everything and everyone can be interpreted in ways that inspire people to cooperate across political and religious differences in service of a just and thriving future for all.

In December 2010 Rev. Dowd hosted the acclaimed conversation series (now a digital audio educational series), "The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity", and in June 2011 he and Connie launched a 5-week online course titled, "Evolutionize Your Life".

Celebrated by liberals and conservatives alike and uniquely gifted at building bridges between believers and non-believers, Michael shares "The Great Story" — humanity's common creation story — in ways that uplift and expand heart, mind, and soul. His passion is showing how a sacred view of death, human nature, and the trajectory of big history can inspire and empower each of us to live with greater integrity, joy, and zest for life.

Michael and Connie are co-creators of the leading Religious Naturalism / Epic of Evolution educational website:

CONNIE BARLOW is an acclaimed author of popular science books and articles, and developer of THE GREAT STORY website. Connie's most recent book, The Ghosts of Evolution (Basic Books), was's top-recommended science book for several months in 2001. Her previous books, Green Space, Green Time: The Way of Science (Copernicus Books), Evolution Extended: Biological Debates on the Meaning of Life (MIT Press), and From Gaia to Selfish Genes: Selected Writings in the Life Sciences, all explore the nexus of science, spirit, and meaning.

Barlow, an evolutionary humanist and Unitarian Universalist, is also a well-known developer of curricula for children's religious education that highlight our shared evolutionary story. Since 2002, she and her husband (Rev. Michael Dowd) have lived entirely on the road as "America's evolutionary evangelists" — which is also the title of the couple's occasional podcast. She posts videos on evolutionary themes on YouTube under the name "ghostsofevolution".

She is founding member and webmaster of Torreya Guardians, an internet community of botanists, naturalists, and others dedicated to ensuring the continuing persistence in the wild of America's most endangered conifer tree: Torreya taxifolia. In the 1990s she contributed articles to Wild Earth magazine toward encouraging others in conservation to develop "deep-time eyes" by way of learning the history of evolutionary change and paleoecological interactions — culminating in her contributions to "Pleistocene Rewilding" advocacy.

Dr. Joerg Rieger - September 21 & 22, 2012
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Past Speakers

Joerg Rieger • Canterbury United Methodist Church • September 21st & 22ndJoergRieger

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Joerg Rieger, is Wendland-Cook Professor of Constructive Theology at Perkins School of Theology, SMU. For more than two decades he has worked to bring together theology and the struggles for justice and liberation that mark our age. His work addresses the relation of theology to public life, using tools from cultural studies, critical theory, and religious studies, and reflecting on the misuse of power in politics and economics.

Rieger has lectured throughout the United States, as well as internationally, including presentations in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.
He is on the steering committee of the Dallas Area Christian Progressive Alliance, on the steering committee of Jobs with Justice in North Texas, and he is co-founder of the Workers' Rights Board in the Dallas area. For more information on his work, see

Internationally recognized for his prolific and visionary writing, a selection of his books includes Traveling (2011), Grace under Pressure (2011), Globalization and Theology (2010), No Rising Tide: Theology, Economics, and the Future (2009), Beyond the Spirit of Empire: Theology and Politics in a New Key (2009, with Néstor Miguez and Jung Mo Sung), Christ and Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times (2007, German and Portuguese transl.); God and the Excluded: Visions and Blindspots in Contemporary Theology (2001); and Remember the Poor: The Challenge to Theology in the Twenty-First Century (1998).

"Empire, Economics, & Christ: Does Christianity Still Make a Difference?" Lectures

Friday, September 21, 2012

Session 1: "Christ and Empire: The Radical Christian Heritage"
7-9pm Lecture, Q&A, Reception

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Session 2: "Economics as Religion: What Does Jesus Have to Do with Wall Street?"
9 – 10:30 am, Lecture, Q&A

Session 3: Economics and Resistance: Reshaping Desire From the Bottom Up
11 am – 12:30 pm, Lecture, Q&A

Canterbury United Methodist Church
350 Overbrook Road in Birmingham

Friday - Lecture, Q&A , Reception - $20.00

Saturday - Two Lectures - $20.00

Advance purchase of Weekend Ticket to include Friday & Saturday Lectures - $35.00

Special Student Pricing!
Students with a valid Student I.D. Card will be admitted at the door for $5.00 each day.
No advance purchase required, but bring your Student I.D. Card.

Dr. Robin R. Meyers - April 13 & 14, 2012
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Past Speakers

RobinMeyers Please click here to download the flier for this event.

Dr. Robin Meyers, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC), a tenured professor in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University, an author, a syndicated columnist, and an award-winning commentator for National Public Radio. He has been the Senior Minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC church of Oklahoma City, the fastest-growing UCC church in the Kansas-Oklahoma conference, since 1985.

Dr. Robin Meyers was born in Oklahoma City, and grew up in Wichita, Kansas. After graduating from Wichita State University (1975), he received his MDiv from the Graduate Seminary of Phillips University (1979) and his Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey (1981). In 1991 he was awarded a PhD by the University of Oklahoma's Communication Department, for his work in the area of persuasion and preaching.

Meyers is the author of five books, a textbook on preaching entitled: With Ears to Hear: Preaching as Self-Persuasion; Morning Sun on a White Piano: Simple Pleasures and the Sacramental Life, endorsed by Bill Moyers; The Virtue in the Vice: Finding Seven Lively Virtues in the Seven Deadly Sins, endorsed by Desmond Tutu; Why the Christian Right is Wrong: A Minister’s Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, and Your Future. And his newest book, Saving Jesus From The Church: How To Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus.

Please click here to download the flier about his latest book.

Friday, April 13th, 2012
Session 1:   "How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus"
Time: 7 pm

Saturday, April 14th, 2012
Session 1:   "Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus"
Time: 9 am

Session 2:  "The Church of the Future and How We Get From Here to There."
A discussion lead by Dr. Meyers.
Time: 11:00 am


Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham
4300 Hampton Heights Drive, Birmingham, AL

Bishop John Shelby Spong November 4-5, 2011
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Past Speakers


Please click here to download the flier for this event.

Please note that the date of Bishop Spong's lecture series has changed  to the weekend of November 4th & 5th.  Out of town visitors should consider making room reservations as soon as possible, because there are Samford and Birmingham Southern football games on this weekend. 

The weekend lectures were held at South Side Baptist Church located at 1016  19th Street South in Downtown Birmingham, AL.

BIRMINGHAM -- Overall Title: Eternal Life

Friday night at 7:00 PM

Developing a New Angle of Vision -- The old symbols are based on pre-suppositions no longer widely believed.  We must separate the quest for eternity from those symbols.

Saturday morning 9:00 AM until 12:30 PM

The Interconnectedness of Life and the Birth of Self-Consciousness -- From a single cell of life we have journeyed in our evolving history into self-consciousness.

Jesus - A Step Beyond Self-Consciousness into a Universal Consciousness -- Entering the mystical experience at the heart of life and meeting eternity.

TUPELO -- Overall Title: "Jesus for the Non-Religious"

Sunday Afternoon - The Link Centre - November 6, 2011
2:00 PM --   "Human Life: Fallen or Incomplete?"
4:00 PM --    "Salvation: Rescue from a Fall or Expansion of our Humanity?"

Dr. Wayne Flynt - Birmingham, March 4-5, 2011
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Past Speakers

DrWayneFlyntEighteenth Lecture - The South's Battle Over God - Dr. Wayne Flynt - Birmingham, March 4-5, 2011.

Barbara Brown Taylor- Birmingham, September 24-25, 2010.
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Past Speakers

3_BarbaraBrownTaylorSeventeenth Lecture - Body and Soul: What the Body Knows About God - Barbara Brown Taylor- Birmingham, September 24-25, 2010.

Bernard Brandon Scott - Birmingham, March 26-27, 2010
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BernardBrandonScottSixteenth Lecture - The Resurrection: Ancient and Modern - Bernard Brandon Scott- Birmingham, March 26-27, 2010.

Martin Marty - Birmingham, October 23-24, 2009
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MartinMartyFifteenth Lecture - Exploring the Paradoxes of American Religion - Martin Marty - Birmingham, October 23-24, 2009.

Bernard Brandon Scott, - Birmingham, April 3-4, 2009
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BernardBrandonScottFourteenth Lecture -Re-imaging the World in Parables - Bernard Brandon Scott, - Birmingham, April 3-4, 2009.

Hal Taussig, Ph.D. - Birmingham, October 26-27, 2008
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HalTaussigThirteenth Lecture - A New Look at Old Scripture in Two Sessions - Hal Taussig, - Birmingham, October 26-27, 2008.

Eleanor DelBene - Birmingham, October 26-27, 2007
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UrsulaGoodenoughTwelfth Lecture - Exploring the Wonder of the Creation - Ursula Goodenough, and The Cosmic Walk, Eleanor DelBene - Birmingham, October 26-27, 2007.

James M. Robinson, Birmingham, March 9-10, 2007
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JamesMRobinsonEleventh Lecture - The Lost Gospels of Christianity: Q - The Gospel of Jesus' Own Disciples, The Four Nag Hammadi Gospels - James M. Robinson, Birmingham, March 9-10, 2007.

Delwin Brown, Birmingham, November 3-4, 2006
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DelwinBrownTenth Lecture - Progressive Christianity: A Direction for the Future? - Delwin Brown, Birmingham, November 3-4, 2006.

Amy Jill Levine, Birmingham, May 5-6, 2006
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AmyJillLevineNinth Lecture - Jesus and Judaism: Why the Connection Matters - Amy Jill Levine, Birmingham, May 5-6, 2006

Bart Ehrman - Birmingham, Oct. 28-29, 2005
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4_BartErhmanEighth Lecture - Truth & Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Early Christianity - Bart Ehrman - Birmingham, Oct. 28-29, 2005

John Dominic Crossan - Birmingham, May 6-7, 2005
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JohnDominicCrossanSeventh Lecture - Paul Then and Now - John Dominic Crossan - Birmingham, May 6-7, 20051

John Cobb and Gary Dorrien, Birmingham, July 8-10, 2
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Sixth Lecture - Let Justice Flow Like a Mighty River: Awakening America to God's Demand for Justice - John Cobb and Gary Dorrien, Birmingham, July 8-10, 2004

John Shelby Spong - Birmingham, March 10-11, 2004
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1_BishopJohnShelbySpongFifth Lecture - Using the Bible as a Doorway to God, Not as a Weapon to Undergird Prejudice - John Shelby Spong - Birmingham, March 10-11, 2004

Marcus Borg - Birmingham, November 7-8, 2003
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2_MarcusBorgFouth Lecture - The Heart of Christianity: Seeing the Christian Life Again - Marcus Borg - Birmingham, November 7-8, 2003

Dr. David Bains - Cheaha State Park Alabama, August 16-17, 2002
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SPAFER Two-day Retreat -- Two-day Retreat - Seeing God Through the Eyes of Another Person: World Religions: Same Questions, Different Answers, or Different Questions, Different Answers? and Religious Diversity in the U.S.: What Difference Does it Make? - Lead by Dr. David Bains - Cheaha State Park Alabama, August 16-17, 2002.

John Shelby Spong - Birmingham, March 6-7, 2002
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1_BishopJohnShelbySpongThird Lecture - The Courage to Move into the Future and Rethinking Human Sexuality - John Shelby Spong - Birmingham, March 6-7, 2002

Hal Taussig, Ph.D. - Birmingham, Dec. 7-8, 2001
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HalTaussigSecond Lecture - The Search for Authentic Spirituality: Opening Hearts and Minds - Hal Taussig, Ph.D. - Birmingham, Dec. 7-8, 2001

Stephen J. Patterson, Ph.D. - Birmingham, June 1-2, 2001
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StephenJPattersonFirst Lecture - Stephen J. Patterson, Ph.D.: Faith in the Real World.

SPAFER's first lecture weekend was at Pilgrim Congregational, which at the time was the Blue Roof church on Montclair Road, in Birmingham, AL. (they have since sold that property). The date was June 1st and 2nd, 2001.