2015 Covenant Conference

Unity Matters: Living Into God’s Future … Together

The national gathering of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians

November 5-7, 2015Unity Matters logo
Central Presbyterian Church
Denver, Colorado

[To make a hotel reservation at the Grand Hyatt at conference rates (while availability remains), click here.]

It’s a new day in the church. LGBTQ people are able to be ordained. Same-gender marriages are permitted. But we are not all together.

Lines of race, ethnicity, gender, economic status and more separate us, even—especially?—in the church. Theological differences define and divide us. And even with the progress we have seen, there is still much work to do to ensure LGBTQ people are fully welcomed in every part of our denomination.

The 2015 Covenant Conference will explore the fullness of the unity of the church. Inspired by the Confession of Belhar—which has been approved by the presbyteries and will likely become part of the Book of Confessions next year—we consider how the church can fulfill its call to justice and reconciliation. How can we understand our mission and ministry differently and live differently to become the truly inclusive church God is calling us to be? Challenging keynotes, powerful preaching, and the warm fellowship of partners in this journey will all be part of this biennial event.

The conference will take place at the historic Central Presbyterian Church, a welcoming and inclusive congregation serving Denver’s downtown community for more than 150 years. Worship and plenary sessions will happen in its historic sanctuary, with workshops and meals elsewhere in the fully accessible building.

The Covenant Conference was held annually from 1998 to 2011. Since then, national gatherings have alternated with years with eight to ten regional conferences, bringing the Covenant Network’s work into communities of church leaders and members around the country.

As the Covenant Network undertakes a new season in its life and mission, join with us for learning and fellowship, joyful celebration of our past, and serious conversation about our future—and the future of the Church.

Pre-Conference Event

Beginning Thursday morning, November 5, join us for one of two theological conversations:

1. Inclusive Wedding Services

As ecclesial and legal landscapes change, churches need liturgical resources that can be used for the weddings of all couples. In this pre-conference workshop, we will examine current denominational wedding services and explore newly-emerging models for inclusive wedding liturgies. In doing so, we will consider how scripture has shaped the church’s understanding of marriage to date and how a broader range of biblical texts might inform contemporary views.

Kim Long

Kimberly Bracken Long is Associate Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.  She is co-editor, with David Maxwell, of Inclusive Marriage Services: A Wedding Sourcebook, to be published by WJK in the fall of 2015.  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).

2. Radical Reconciler:  Reading the Bible as the Word of God

We say the Bible is “the Word of God.”  We also say we are “People of the Book.” But what do we mean when we say these things, particularly when we do not believe the Bible is inerrant and do not think it should be read literally?  The Bible itself claims that the Word of God “divides soul and spirit; joints and marrow.”  How, then, can we possibly understand it to reconcile us when we disagree about issues such as ordination and marriage? In this workshop, we will explore ways of reading the Bible that ask the Word of God to re-make us at our very core, drawing us into new and dynamic relationships with God and one another.

Cynthia L. Rigby, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

 Challenging Keynotes

brought to us by leading voices in the church

CindyRigbyCynthia Rigby will offer a lively theological foundation for seeking a true, lasting, and demanding unity among all God’s people.

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Rigby is the W.C. Brown Professor of Theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is a sought-after speaker who enjoys lecturing and teaching for academic, church, and denominational events both domestically and internationally. She is also the editor of Insights, the faculty journal of Austin Seminary, and is actively engaged with congregations, teaching adult education classes and leading church conferences. Dr. Rigby’s special area of interest is setting Reformed theologies in conversation with theologies of liberation. She is the author or co-author of numerous books and articles.

CliffClifton Kirkpatrick
will draw on his experience championing the Belhar Confession to cast a powerful vision for reconciliation and justice in the church today.

The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick is a leader in both the PCUSA 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, where he teaches courses in ecumenism, world Christianity, Presbyterian and Reformed studies, and religion and foreign policy.

Dr. Kirkpatrick 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.

J Herbert NelsonJ. Herbert Nelson will challenge us to live out our deep theological commitments through public witness and active engagement in church and society.

The Rev. Dr. J. 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 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 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, Tennessee, 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, North Carolina.

Daily Worship

with powerful preaching from across the church

Kim_ClaytonThe Rev. Kim Clayton is Director of Contextual Education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. She works with students, pastors, congregations and non-profits organizing internships and ministry opportunities. Before coming to Columbia, Kim served as Associate Pastor and Pastor in churches for 21 years, including Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and Grace Covenant in Asheville. She still preaches regularly around Atlanta and beyond and has been privileged to write essays included in Feasting on the Word and Feasting on the Gospels; and was one of seven primary liturgy writers for the Feasting on the Word: Worship Companion, Volumes 1-6.


Paul RobertsThe Rev. Paul Timothy Roberts, Sr. 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.

Marci Auld Glass
The Rev. Marci Auld Glass is in her first year as co-moderator of the Board of Directors of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, on which she has served since 2014. She is pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, ID, and a leader across the denomination, serving on the boards of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Ghost Ranch Conference Center. A renowned writer and blogger, her work appears regularly at the Huffington Post and on her own blog, “Glass Overflowing,” which addresses matters of religion, freedom of religion, feminism and adoption.

Living History

The Presbyterian Historical Society will be present to interview participants for their Living History film project. We have been making history in the PC(USA)!  To schedule an opportunity to share your story, contact Samantha Piccolo.

The Schedule

(updated 10/16/15, subject to change)

Thursday, November 5

8:30 a.m.                              Registration opens for pre-conference workshop participants

9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.       Pre-Conference Workshops

12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.      Registration open

3:00 p.m.                             Conference Begins ~ Plenary Gathering

Keynote Address: Cynthia Rigby

5:00 p.m.                              Social Hour

5:45 p.m.                              Dinner (Central Presbyterian Church)

sponsored by the Presbyterian Historical Society

7:00 p.m.                              Opening Worship
                                                 Preacher: Paul Roberts

8:30 p.m.                              Celebration! All-conference gathering for fun and fellowship (Grand Hyatt – Pub 17)

Friday, November 6

7:45 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.       Registration open

7:45 a.m.                              Continental Breakfast/Community Time

sponsored by Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

8:30 a.m.                              Plenary Gathering

Keynote Address: Cliff Kirkpatrick

10:00 a.m.                            Fellowship

10:30 a.m.                             Workshops (Details here)

12:00 p.m.                            Lunch (on your own at local restaurants)

2:00 p.m.                              Plenary Gathering

Keynote address: J. Herbert Nelson 

3:30 p.m.                               Fellowship

4:00 p.m.                              Workshops (Details here)

6:00 p.m.                              Dinner (Central Presbyterian Church)

sponsored by the Presbyterian Foundation

7:30 p.m.                               Worship

Preacher: Kim Clayton

9:00 p.m.                               Social Reception (Details TBA)

Saturday, November 7

8:00 a.m.                                Continental Breakfast/Community Time

sponsored by Columbia Theological Seminary

8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.           Plenary Gathering

Conference Reflections, Updates on the Covenant Network and Issues at the General Assembly

10:30 a.m.                               Closing Worship

Preacher: Marci Auld Glass

12:00 p.m.                    Conference Ends


Registration                                                          $200

Pre-Conference Workshop                                     $35

Students                                                              FREE

In addition to free registration, the Covenant Network encourages participation by seminary students through the Daniel Vigilante Conference Scholarship for Seminarians, which helps towards travel expenses.  The deadline for this was October 1.


Reserve your room at the conference hotel, the Grand Hyatt Denver, which is just an eight-minute walk from the church.
Reservations at a special group rate of $149/night may be made through the hotel’s website.

If you would like to share a room, contact [email protected] for names of others seeking a roommate.



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