Participants at the Covenant Conference, November 5-7 at Central Presbyterian Church in Denver, will be able to choose two workshops from among a superb lineup, which is listed in detail below.


Friday Morning Session


Q&A with the Keynote Speaker
Clifton Kirkpatrick

After hearing Cliff Kirkpatrick’s keynote address, participants can meet with the speaker for more informal conversation about the Belhar Confession, reconciliation and justice, and other matters covered in his presentation.


The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick is a leader in both the PC(USA) and the ecumenical movement. For most of the past decade, he served as President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. He is currently Professor of World Christianity and Ecumenical Studies at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and is Stated Clerk Emeritus of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), having served from 1996-2008. His service as Stated Clerk was preceded by fifteen years of service as the Director of the Worldwide Ministries Division of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). More recent engagements include his service as co-moderator of the General Assembly Special Committee on the Belhar Confession and as a board member of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians.

The State of the PC(USA)
Gradye Parsons

In this interactive workshop, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Gradye Parsons reflects on the state of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He’ll assess current successes and challenges in the congregations and mid-councils of the church and respond to participant questions.Gradye Parsons

The Rev. Gradye Parsons has served as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly since 2008, and recently announced that he will conclude his service next summer. He is the senior ecclesiastical officer of the church. Previously he served as an associate stated clerk, a presbytery executive, and a pastor.


Love Binds Everything Together in Perfect Harmony … Mostly:
Having Congregational Conversations about Marriage
Michelle Bartel

We all know difficult and even contentious congregational conversations are nothing new. Nor will they fade away until all things in heaven and on earth are reconciled to God in Jesus Christ. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer would actually suggest that conflict has the capacity to reflect the imago Dei as individuals strive together to seek and do the will of God. This workshop will present various considerations, theological and practical, that will equip us for at least some of these complex discussions about marriage.michelle_bartel

The Rev. Dr. Michelle Bartel is coordinator for theological education in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. She holds a Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary and was previously adjunct professor of theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. She has also served as a supply pastor and college chaplain.


Inclusive Marriage Services: A Wedding Sourcebook
Kimberly Bracken Long & David Maxwell

Hot off the press!  Find out more about this just-released resource for inclusive weddings that features new liturgies, marriage services from the global church, essays, and more. This book includes services that can be used with both gay and straight couples and offers options for a range of life situations. The Kim Longbook’s co-editors will present the book’s highlights and answer questions about its development.

The Rev. Dr. Kimberly Bracken Long is Associate Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.  She is also the author of
The Worshiping Body: The Art of Leading Worship (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2009), and The Eucharistic Theology of the American Holy Fairs (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011), as well as editor of the six-volume Feasting on the Word Worship Companion (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2012-2015). Kim serves on the board of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians.

DavidMaxwellThe Rev. Dr. David Maxwell is a Presbyterian minister and an editor at Westminster John Knox Press.  A native of Oklahoma, David attended seminary at Yale Divinity School, worked at an ecumenical street ministry in New York City with Latin American refugees in the 1980’s, and taught at a seminary in Chile in the 1990’s. He is celebrating his 25th anniversary with his Chilean husband this year. They got legally married in New York City two years ago, where he realized the need for an inclusive wedding service firsthand!


Dreaming the Dream Forward
Paul Timothy Roberts & Kenneth E. Kovacs

Did you hear about the Dr. King’s Unfinished Agenda teach-in held at Montreat last August?  More than 900 attended this remarkable event that commemorated Martin Luther King’s visit to Montreat in 1965.  Paul Roberts, who chaired the conference planning committee, and Ken Kovacs will share what it was like to attend this event.  Then they’ll turn to dreaming the dream forward. What has emerged or is in the process of emerging in our denomination as a result of this historic conference?

Paul Roberts

The Rev. Paul Timothy RobertsSr., is President of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA, a position he has held since the spring of 2010. Under Paul’s leadership, the seminary tripled enrollment, expanded and reorganized its trustee board, and brought its finances under control. In April 2014 with Paul’s advisement, the JCSTS Board of Trustees voted to disaffiliate from the Interdenominational Theological Center, effectively severing a 45-year relationship with the consortium. The decision, prompted by dramatic shifts in higher education and congregational demographics of the Presbyterian Church, repositions the seminary to deliver quality theological education that is affordable, justice-oriented, and relevant for a 21st century reality.

Ken KovacsThe Rev. Dr. Kenneth E. Kovacs is a member of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary board of trustees and the board of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. He is pastor of Catonsville (MD) Presbyterian Church and the author of The Relational Theology of James E. Loder, Encounter and Conviction. Ken has served churches in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Mendham, New Jersey. He studied at Rutgers College, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and received his Ph.D. in theology from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.


Pastoral Care for People who are Transgender
Susan Barnes & Meghan Foote

Susan and Meghan will use a gender spectrum model to discuss current ideas on gender identity, explaining current definitions, vocabulary, and acronyms so participants will be able to use language that is helpful, not hurtful. Learning about transgender issues will help cis people (those who identify with the gender assigned them at birth) demonstrate the love of Christ to those who are often persecuted.  They will discuss concerns of people who are transitioning and have transitioned: gender markers on legal documents; name-changing issues; problems finding medical providers; housing and job discrimination; and violence. There will be ample opportunity for people to ask questions without being judged.

Meghan Foote

Meghan Foote, M.Div., is a 2006 graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary, a ruling elder and active member of Family of Christ PC(USA) in Greeley, CO, and a participant in House For All Sinners and Saints ELCA in Denver. In October of 2005 Meghan came out as transgender; not too long after that the presbytery where she was under care as an inquirer voted to drop her from their rolls. She is currently considering her options for continuing her ordination journey. Meghan is Operations Manager for Channelinsight, a software company with headquarters in downtown Denver. She is proudly non compliant.

Susan Barnes

The Rev. Susan Barnes has served churches in Oregon, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Montana since she graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1989. She serves as pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Billings, Montana. She is secretary of Not In Our Town, Billings, attends the Montana Gender Alliance, volunteers on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and likes to quilt.  She has been married for 35 years to Mike Ferguson, a journalist who has volunteered with the Presbyterian News Service.


The Dance of Spirituality and Justice
Bill Calhoun

An honest look at spirituality moves … which at their core hunger for justice moves. Our work for true and transformative justice is birthed and grounded in how you and I are deeply birthed and grounded in God’s Presence, Spirit, Word, and love.


The Rev. Bill Calhoun is a retired minister member of the Presbytery of Denver, having served three congregations across the nation in upstate New York, Iowa, and nine years at Montview Church in Denver. He has been active in mission ministries across the nation and the world, and in community ministries from affordable housing to interfaith dialogues to advocacy work for social inclusiveness and health care reform.  Bill loves to walk in the mountains, cultivate deep silence, and create small circles of listening conversation. He coached high school football for 23 years in three states, and is a former member of the board of the Covenant Network.


Congregational Vitality
Ann Philbrick

80% of all American congregations are plateaued or declining in numbers and engagement.  Come explore the dynamics of congregational development that help us understand what might be going on when churches are struggling or not as vibrant as they once were, as well as give us some clues as to the attitudes and actions that can help them find new energy and life again.

Ann Philbrick

The Rev. Dr. Ann Philbrick is currently serving as the Associate for Church Growth and Transformation for the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PC(USA).  She received her M.Div. from Princeton and her D.Min. from McCormick.  She has served churches in Wisconsin and western Pennsylvania and as presbytery staff in Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD.  Many years of independent consulting have taken her all over the country as she has supported, trained, and equipped local church leaders. 


Friday Afternoon Session


Q&A with the Keynote Speaker:
J. Herbert Nelson

After hearing J. Herbert Nelson’s keynote address, participants can meet with the speaker for more informal conversation about unity, justice and reconciliation, and other matters covered in his presentation.

J Herbert NelsonJ. Herbert Nelson, II, serves as Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness (OPW) in Washington, DC.  The Office of Public Witness is a prophetic office of the denomination and implements the social justice agenda of the General Assembly of the PC(USA) through advocacy with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. The OPW also engages in a broad range of activities with Presbyterian congregations and structures, providing constituency education materials and arranging briefings and conferences. Dr. Nelson is a third generation Presbyterian pastor, who, before coming to Washington, served as founder/pastor of Liberation Community Presbyterian Church (LCC) in Memphis, TN, an African-centered congregation committed to evangelizing the poor to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and as pastor of St. James
Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC. He is a former board member of the Covenant Network.


Finding Our Voice / Reclaiming Our Witness
Mark Achtemeier 

Many of us associate “traditional” Christian teaching on sexuality with a stance that is negative, judgmental, and thoroughly out of touch with today’s issues. The result has all too often been a church that has little to say to young people and others who look to the Christian community for wisdom and guidance on sexuality-related issues. Dr. Mark Achtemeier will help us explore how a truly biblical understanding of sexuality can help the church find its voice again, providing opportunities for a positive and life-affirming witness in the context of today’s culture.Achetemeier_Mark_2009

The Rev. Dr. Mark Achtemeier is an speaker, theology professor, teaching elder, and the author most recently of The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart. He is also featured in a four-part video series “Same Sex Marriage and the Bible,” produced in 2014 by the Covenant Network as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) considered the issues.


Swimming Upstream: Progressive Ministry in a Conservative Context
Patti Snyder

Sometimes it’s a progressive church in a conservative city, sometimes a liberal pastor in a hesitant congregation, or perhaps an open congregation with a fearful pastor. Whatever the specifics, many of us find ourselves in places where we constantly seem to be swimming upstream.  But you don’t have to Patti_Snyderdrown. Join the discussion as we explore ways to find your way in a world where “welcoming” is still a bad word.

The Rev. Patti Snyder is a member of the Covenant Network Board of Directors and has been the senior pastor of University Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, LA (arguably the only progressive mainstream congregation in the city) since 2002.  Before that she served congregations in Memphis, Rochester (NY), and Atlanta.


Talking with Children and Youth About Inclusion
Lucy Strong

For a long time, the church just didn’t talk with kids about sex or sexuality — much less about the reality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people in the church’s life. Today, most agree these are essential topics for conversation with children and youth — but how do we do it? This workshop explores the why and how of discussing welcome, inclusion, and affirmation with the church’s youngest members.LucyStrong (2)

The Rev. Lucy C. Strong serves as campus pastor for UKirk Agnes Scott and the Greater Decatur Area. UKirk Agnes Scott strives to be an inclusive, faithful, challenging, and comforting place for students during their college years.  A graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary, Lucy also serves as Associate Recruiter for Admissions at CTS. 


Bisexuality Basics: Honoring the Bi in Pres-Bi-Terian
Layton Williams

This workshop offers an introduction to anyone who would like to learn more about what bisexuality is and how to be inclusive of bisexual people in ministry. Layton will cover basic definitions about bisexuality as well as some common misconceptions. She will describe some of the particular challenges that confront the bisexual community, and some of their particular ministry needs. The workshop will also propose some ideas for how to be more inclusive of bisexual people in church communities, and offer some insights into what bisexual Christians can teach the church. The style of this workshop will be interactive and conversational. Layton will share about her own particular experiences as a bisexual pastor and allow plenty of space for questions and dialogue. It should be fun, informative, and helpful to any seeking to understand more about this important part of the LGBTQ world!


The Rev. Layton E. Williams is a teaching elder in the PC(USA) and currently serves as the Pastoral Resident at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia (B.A.) and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (M.Div.). In seminary, her studies focused particularly on queer and feminist theologies, as well the impact of these theologies on practical ministry. She is passionate about the intersection of faith and justice, as well story-sharing as a path to reconciliation. Her ministry at Fourth Church focuses on young adults and the Jazz Worship community.


Leading in the Midst of Anxiety
Carol McDonald & Landon Whitsitt


In times of conflict, controversy, scarcity or grief, church leaders of all kinds find themselves stretched. In this workshop, two experienced mid-council and congregational leaders lead a conversation on offering sound leadership during difficult days for a community. With a focus on the conference themes of unity, justice, and reconciliation, they offer a vision for effecting meaningful change.

The Rev. Carol McDonald is executive emerita of the Synod of Lincoln Trails and a member of the Covenant Network board of directors. She currently is chairing the General Assembly Stated Clerk Nomination Committee.

The Rev. Landon Whitsitt is executive/stated clerk of the Synod of Mid-America and was recently elected chair of Presbyterian Mission Agency Executive Director Search Committee. He served as Vice Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010).



Millennials and -isms: How young adults think about race, sexuality, and spirituality
Libby Shannon

In this workshop we will explore the elusive millennial — what they say they think, what they actually think, and what that means for their place in the world. There are more millennials than any other generation, including baby boomers; understanding the cultural landscape and attitudes contributing to their emerging adulthood cannot be dismissed. Participants in this session will leave with a better understanding of the nuances of the most studied generation in history, and hopefully with a better understanding of how to respond as a church.

Libby Shannon

The Rev. Libby Shannon serves as Associate Director of the Center for Spiritual Life and Associate Chaplain at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, where she also teaches Women and Gender Studies. She is in her fifth year serving as co-moderator of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. When not finding ways to be a professional activist, she enjoys all the important “B” words: baseball, books, bikes, and beers. She is working on claiming the identity of “runner.”



The Confession of 1967 and the Presbyterian History as a Reconciling People
Beth Hessel

Reflecting on the pending passage of the Belhar Confession, and the adoption nearly half a century ago of the Confession of 1967, we will engage and reflect on specific ways the Presbyterian communions have approached the call to reconciliation in times past. By wrestling with our history, we may gain fresh vision of the ways in which God may be using our corporate life toward the reconciliation of the world to Beth HesselGodself.

The Rev. Dr. Beth Hessel is the new executive director of the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. A teaching elder who has served both PC(USA) and Disciples of Christ congregations in California, Kansas, Virginia, and Texas, and served on the board of Covenant Network, Beth holds a Ph.D. in History from Texas Christian University. Her research focuses on transnational and ecumenical movements for racial justice.


Find more information and the registration form here.
Join us in Denver for these important conversations!

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