Nov 26 2008

Student Feature: Karl Kroger

Reflections from Karl Kroger, Third Year MDiv student from North Dakota.

As a Candler student one of my hopes has been that we would seek social justice together as a community. What would it look like for Candler to live out Micah 6:8, not just in our individual ministries, but as a community? What kind of impact could we have in Atlanta if we collectively worked on issues like sex trafficking, homelessness, or the death penalty?

During the past two months I have had the pleasure of being able to see my hope and dream become a reality. The Candler community has been actively working to stop the execution of Troy Davis. Troy Davis was convicted of killing a police officer, however he has a strong case of innocence. Despite poor evidence and the recanted testimonies of the majority of witnesses, as well as opposition from pro-death penalty advocates, the state of Georgia has attempted to execute Troy Davis three times. Each time, growing numbers of the Candler community have been fighting to save Troy’s life. Staff and faculty have signed letters to the governor. Students have organized vigils, attended rallies, and marched in the streets. Students have also collected petitions, hung banners, and strategized other non-violent tactics. Working together with lawyers, faith leaders, college students, other seminaries, Amnesty International, and Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Candler students have been actively seeking justice.

As I write, Troy’s fate on death row remains uncertain. Because of Troy’s faith in God, his ultimate destiny is known. Shortly before his execution in September, Troy wrote, “I can’t wait to stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form. I will one day be announcing, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!’” I give thanks to God for Troy’s life and the inspiration he has been to the Candler community. Troy has helped us be more faithful to God.

For more information about Troy and the status of his case visit

Karl Kroger (
pictured top) is a third year MDiv student at Candler School of Theology. He is currently the chair of the Social Concerns Network and is a member of the Candler Singers,one of Candler’s choirs. His blog,, features social justice news, video resources, and advocacy opportunities. Karl was recently selected as the Student Leader of the Month by Emory’s Office of Student Leadership and Service.

Nov 19 2008

Jimmy Carter Lectures at Candler

(Photo courtesy of Myron McGhee)

Reflections from Maria Presley, MDiv 2011 (below, left):

It’s not every day that topics like violence in the Sudan, the peace process in the Balkans, and the conflict transformative tools inherent in the world’s religions are topics of casual conversation. However, Dr. Tom Flores’ class, Sacred Ambivalence: Violence, Peacebuilding, and Interfaith Dialogue makes these issues come to life and examines the religious dimensions of personal and international conflict. Class readings include works by peace theorists like John Paul Lederach, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, and the many on-the-ground peacekeepers involved in religion and conflict resolution.

On Wednesday the 12th, our class was host to a surprise guest lecturer who has combined theory, policy, and on-the-ground peacekeeping for over 30 years as both the President of the United States and the founder of an NGO dedicated to election reform and conflict transformation. President Jimmy Carter spoke to our class about his life and experience, including about his personal faith convictions and his break from the Southern Baptist Church; the geographical and physical divide that separates Christians on issues of homosexuality, abortion, and gender; and the separation of church and state as discussed in his book, Our Endangered Values. At the end of his lecture, he took questions from the class and discussed topics ranging from The Camp David Accords to the role of religion in the global community. Throughout the discussion, students engaged President Carter on issues relating to class material, and sat in a state of amazement as one of the top peacemakers of our time intimately discussed the role of faith in his life’s work. In the span of an hour and a half, President Carter summarized many of the religious and political issues the class has grappled with and left us incredibly grateful that he took the time to lead discussion and give us a memory that won’t soon be forgotten.

Reflections from Jojo Ledgister, MDiv 2009 (above, right):

When was the last time you were greeted by secret service officers while going to class? Never? Well until Wednesday, November 12, my answer would have been the same. I was headed to Sacred Ambivalence: Violence, Peacebuilding, and Interfaith Dialogue, a class in which we have been studying violence and peacebuilding, and how religion both fuels and promotes violence and peace. Dr. Tom Flores gave us a vague warning that we would have a guest lecturer in our class, and told us to wear something nicer if we wanted to take pictures with our guest. Considering the amazing faculty at Candler and the wonderful connections we knew Dr. Flores has in the field of interfaith peacebuilding, he could have invited anyone! But no one expected to see President Jimmy Carter, one of the most prominent figures in peacebuilding, standing in our classroom just to give us, a group of seminary students, his perspective on religion and violence. We were thrilled!! President Carter gave us a brief summary of his background, and how his Christian faith has informed and shaped his desire to see peace in the world, and particularly in the Middle East. He kept his talk short to allow us time for questions, and hands eagerly went up. I was amazed at the breadth of questions, and the desire of our class to get clarity on concepts that we had argued over during several lectures.

Although President Carter answered most of our questions to our satisfaction, time flew by and we were left with the feeling that we should have asked so many more questions! However, it was still a valuable experience, and having President Carter in class was truly a demonstration of Dr. Flores’ commitment to grounding the principles we study in class to the realities that are lived out in the world. This lecture is yet another reason why I am so excited and fortunate to be a Candler student!

Nov 14 2008

Blogging from the AAR

From Kimberly Knight:

Each year Candler School of Theology offers sponsorship opportunities to students participating in professional conferences and educational events that support the School’s mission of “educating faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world.” One such conference that students at Candler attend is the American Academy of Religion’s (AAR) Annual Conference. The AAR’s 2008 Annual Conference was held in Chicago, Illinois on November 1-3, 2008.

The AAR’s mission statement begins:

In a world where religion plays so central a role in social, political, and economic events, as well as in the lives of communities and individuals, there is a critical need for ongoing reflection upon and understanding of religious traditions, issues, questions, and values.

The AAR promotes such reflection through excellence in scholarship and teaching in the field of religion. This year, 2nd Year MDiv Student Ann Lister (below) received a Leadership Development Grant from Candler’s Office of Student Programming in order to attend the AAR meeting in Chicago. Ann is our contributing blogger today.

My AAR Experience
by Ann Lister

The opportunity to attend the American Academy of Religion Conference was a blessing. The energy at the conference was surreal. There was excitement in every session that I attended. The conference was everything I expected and more. While the sessions that I attended were very interesting, I was especially inspired by the consultation of the Black Religious Scholars Group (BRSG), on Friday evening. This event was held at the historical Trinity United Church of Christ and what a joy it was to be surrounded by African American scholars whose books I had read, especially Dr. Renita Weems. She was being honored as the 2008 BRSG Distinguished Religious Scholar and the whole evening was powerful. Dr. Weems shared her story of pain and struggle with the audience while rejoicing about the goodness of God.

Additionally, Dr. Weems reminded us of how the ancestors were rejoicing at the possibility of the first African American President; it was electrifying. I am grateful for my alma mater, Spelman College and the Leadership Development fund at Candler, for affording me this great opportunity. As a result of AAR, I returned to Atlanta with a fresh new outlook on my life as a seminarian. In the words of song-writer, Edwin Hawkins, “I feel like going on; though trials come on every hand, I feel like going on.”

Nov 7 2008

What the Torture Debate Reveals about American Christianity

On Wednesday, November 5, 2008, Candler was proud to host a talk and discussion with Dr. David Gushee and Abbas Barzegar (Dr. Gushee left below; Abbas Barzegar right) about torture and American Christianity and how this issue shapes the impression of the United States in the Muslim world. Dr. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. Abbas Barzegar is a PhD candidate in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion and is teaching Introduction to Islam at Candler this semester. The lunch-time gathering drew about 55 Candler faculty, staff, students and visitors.

Dr. Gushee is an Evangelical Christian, a recognized scholar in the field, a highly visible public figure in the torture debate, as well as President of Evangelicals for Human Rights. Gushee began by stating that the revelation of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was a symbolic, triggering event that brought out Church leaders to speak out against the U.S. government’s use of torture. Gushee went on to say that he, as an Evangelical leader, worked with other Christian leaders on drafting a pan-Christian resolution straightforwardly repudiating the use of torture by the United States. Yet some major Evangelical Christian leaders, such as James Dobson and Charles Colson, refused to join in the call.

Gushee was critical of the moves by the Bush Administration to, among other things, redefine what is and is not torture, to institute “new interrogation protocols” (code for expanding the number of cruel techniques that the U.S. government can use on detainees), and finally to block the release of information regarding the practices that the United States uses to interrogate detainees.

Among Gushee’s recommendations to the leadership of this country regarding torture, I found the two to be most simple and yet most powerful. First, to remind our government that Torture is a Moral Issue. Simple as that. Second, The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) suggests that the United States adopt an position called The “Golden Rule” principle, which states simply: “We will not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.” As Christians, even in difficult times and in dire straits, we need to stick to our Christian Principles and “do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” (Matthew 7:12 ; Luke 6:31) even regarding interrogation techniques!

Abbas Barzegar gave some wonderful reflections on how the United States’ use of torture has affected the Muslim world and the Middle East. Barzegar stated that the pictures that emerged from Abu Ghraib unfortunately confirmed the fears that many Muslims and Middle Easterners already had about the United States. Namely, that, while speaking about moral leadership in the world and seeming to champion democracy and human rights, the US was acting in deeply and horrifically hypocritical ways. On a hopeful note, though, Barzegar relayed that the Muslim world is willing to believe in the ideals of America and that America can once again be a leader in human rights. The hope is that the torture, deceptions, and cover-ups that have taken place under the Bush Administration will be part of an isolated, though dark, chapter in American history never to be repeated.