Various religious backgrounds will be represented as people from all over the U.S. and Canada travel to John Brown University to attend the Paradosis Conference.
The conference will be held September 15 through 17 at Simmons Great Hall.
This event brings scholars from different theological backgrounds to the University. Its main purpose is to “bring together Christians from Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical backgrounds to have meaningful theological exchanges centered on Scripture,” according to the Paradosis Center’s website.
In this event, six Orthodox,six Catholic and six Evangelical leaders come together to discuss topics from the book of Acts. This event is free for JBU students.
Chad Raith, professor in biblical studies, is the director of the Paradosis Center.
“This conference will communicate to the world that we are willing to have discussions with people different than us.
We are not hiding intellectually or pushing back different ideas. We recognize our differences, and rather than sweeping them under the carpet we are willing to engage them with honesty, respect and conviction,” Raith said.
Molly Devine, senior intercultural studies, did her senior ethnography project on what it is like to be a Catholic on campus and found that this semester there are roughly 30 Catholics attending the University.
“Catholics on campus as a minority do not have much of a voice,” Devine said.
“We are all very proud of our Catholic roots and we feel like we need more space to open up and be understood about that. That is why I think this conference is a good thing,” she said.
Devine has never attended the Paradosis conference. She explained that she was aware of this event but has never had the opportunity to go.
“I avoided them because I’m Catholic and I tend just to keep that quiet here on campus because a lot of people have misunderstandings about what that means,” Devine explained.
According to her report this is not uncommon. Divine said her report “unearthed that Catholic students may experience a perceived bias against them.”
She said some, “feel isolated or uncomfortable with taking communion in Chapel, feel like there are misunderstandings and misconceptions of what they believe within their theology classes, and experience unnecessary division and false perceptions of Catholicism within their social lives.
She said all of those who participated in her study wanted “unity and for people to understand that division between Evangelicals and Catholics is unnecessary. They also agreed that Catholics need a place to connect with one another and find solace in community here on campus.”
Astrid Rodriguez, junior in marketing, shared her opinion as a Latin American Catholic.
“I do feel like a minority, but I do not feel excluded because we are all here for the same purpose, that is to learn about God,” Rodriguez said.
Devine said she hopes the Paradosis conference will give Catholics on campus an opportunity to be heard.
Besides the conferenc every other year, the University organizes on going events throughout the year. One example is the monthly “Caffeinated Theology” sessions held at Pour Jons where participants dialogue over controversial issues within Christianity.
“Both administrators and faculty are highly supportive of discussing a variety of issues related to Christianity. Nothing is really off the table to discuss, as long as we do so intelligently and respectfully,” Raith explained.
Devine and Rodriguez recognize the effort that JBU is making to welcome their beliefs into the campus, but Devine also believes that there is a long way to go in order to fully be open to all denominations.
“We as Catholics love Jesus. Our worship looks a little bit different from evangelicals
but there is no need for division,” Devine said.