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Montreat Conference Center's Better Angels Conference

Better Angels

Using the Power of Community to Change the World

October 8 - 11, 2018

When we look at the intersection of today’s headlines and God’s concern we see topics like racism, #metoo, immigration, and violence. In each of these discussions, the common thread is power. It’s the same when we look at the topics of spirited discussion in our churches, like the budget, mission, stewardship, and recruitment of leaders. And yet power is something we rarely talk about, analyze, or organize around, even though we’re dealing with it, using it, or finding ourselves without it, all the time.

This conference will examine the biblical, theological, and sociological understandings of power and the church’s relationship to it. When do we build power for the gospel, and when do we resist the powers that oppose it? How is power necessary for congregational leadership, and when does it divide? How do we wield power in the church in unifying ways without diminishing Jesus’ radical call to discipleship?

Areas of Emphasis

Better Angels invites you to enter the discussion of power where you find it most relevant, by choosing one of seven areas of concentration: click a topic to expand.

The March is Over…Now What? Power Analysis for an Emerging Network

Newly-energized networks of people are eager to challenge systems of oppression. The organization may be new, but the impulse is not: the Hebrew midwives also seized their power to create change and resist evil. What does the biblical story have to tell us about identifying power and using it to create just communities? How can an individual use knowledge of power dynamics to effect change in their lives, in their churches, and in their communities?

Gender and Power in Church Settings: Insights Into Achieving Equity in the Church

Despite decades of a polity that affirms women and men in all forms of church leadership, the actual terrain of church life remains one in which the remnants of sexism are plain to see. They are not only in the dearth of female heads of staff, but also in lingering gender-role expectations and patterns among church leaders. How does a leader best create an environment in which power can be equally claimed?

Feeling Overexposed to Logics and Systems of Supremacy: Begin a 12-step journey toward healing…

Author and facilitator Melvin Bray describes beloved community–a metaphor for power used rightly–as “more of a twelve-step program than a semester-length seminar.” It’s easy to “know all the right stuff and never get around to practicing it.” Discover a path that both individuals and organizations can take through the important milestones of critical analysis, self-awareness, and cultural competency, into the goal of better practices. Explore how one can rewrite the supremacist stories and scripts (ways of thinking and doing) that have shaped how we show up in the world. Though we may not achieve beloved community over the three days we are together, we can leave well on our way.

Leading the Mission Committee Beyond Charity: Identifying the Congregation’s Power to Create Systemic Change

Part of our DNA as Reformed believers rouses our desire to be more than writers of checks to worthy causes or short-term volunteers; recent awareness of terms like “toxic charity” has increased our desire to leverage congregational power in authentic, relational ways in our own neighborhoods. We want to “do good better.” An understanding of power and how to use it can help any congregation to do good better, beginning with listening to our neighbors’ needs.

Advanced Topics in Understanding Power: For Leaders Ready to Be Held Accountable for Their Outcomes Instead of Just Their Activity

Building power for long-term change requires more than just the right message. It requires the ability to get to the table where decisions are made. This is as true for internal church change as it is for community leadership. Leaders from the Industrial Areas Foundation, the country’s oldest and largest community organizing affiliate, will work with participants in learning and exploring long-lasting campaigns for change with insights in such areas as understanding the importance of transforming unwieldy problems into actionable issues, dealing with oppositional power, the limits of activism for long-term change, and the importance of understanding the difference between leaders and position-holders when it comes to moving an issue. Emphasis will be placed on understanding how change actually happens within church and community.

What If We Are The Next Charlottesville? Understanding the Power Dynamics of Race in Church and Community

The language of white supremacy, which has been used by many to describe everyday life, has moved into the vocabularies of those who thought it was a historical relic or part of society’s fringe. Power dynamics based on racialized ideas are part of our cultural fabric; gaining a deeper awareness of the power of these categories can help people of faith subvert ideas – particularly the unconscious ones – that deny the full humanity of all God’s people.

Can Understanding Power Make Preaching More Powerful? Reading the Word with a Hermeneutic of Power

Seminary gave us lenses for reading the biblical text: who is named? who speaks? what ideas are repeated? what’s the literary context? the historical context? the religious context? What can we learn by adding a lens of power analysis to our reading of a text? How might considering power empower our preaching? Might this hermeneutic also aid a church leader in reading the dynamics present in governing bodies and other working groups?

You can also find these descriptions in the Workshops tab.

Registration Information

Click on the Rates & Registration tab above for more information about conference registration, accommodations, and child care!

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Rates & Registration

Special Group Incentive for the Better Angels Conference!
When you bring your spouse or a friend – or a whole group of friends – with you to this conference, take advantage of our special group incentive rate. The first registration from a church group or presbytery team will be at the full comprehensive or commuter rate. Any additional registrations (all the friends and colleagues who come with you!) from the same church group or presbytery team will be reduced by $25 per registration. Two or more people constitute a group, and there is no limit to the number of people in your group who may take advantage of this offer. (When registering online, you may use the “Comments” section to notify the registrar of any additional people in your group. Some discounts may be applied separately by the registrar.)

Comprehensive Rates

Comprehensive rates below include conference fee, room in Assembly Inn or the Winsborough (Monday through Wednesday night), meals in the Galax Dining Room (Monday supper through Thursday breakfast), plus a $3 community services fee per adult for public services provided by the Town and the fire district. Rooms are assigned on a first come, first served basis. Rooms in Assembly Inn have either private baths or connecting baths. Rooms in the Winsborough have mostly connecting baths.

After August 27, 2018, these rates will increase by $75 per person.

Assembly Inn:
$467.50 single occupancy
$640.00 double occupancy (includes “group” discount)

Winsborough:
$317.50 single occupancy
$490.00 double occupancy (includes “group” discount)

Meals for Children:
$84.50 for children 12-15
$42.25 for children ages 5-11
no charge for children under 5

Commuter Rate

Commuter rates below include the conference fee plus a $3 community services fee per person for public services provided by the Town and the fire district. Rate does not include housing or meals.

Conference Only Rate:
On/before August 27: $113 per person ($201 with spouse)
After August 27: $188 per person ($276 with spouse)
Daily Rate – $75 per person/per day (when registering online, enter “daily rate” and the date you wish to attend in the “Comments” section)

Meals for Commuters:
Please check out the Black Mountain Chamber of Commerce as well as our Business Patrons web page for a list of restaurants in Black Mountain.

Refund Policy

Cancellations must be received by August 27 in order to receive a full refund less a $25 service charge. Cancellations received after August 27 but on or before October 1 will receive a 50% refund of the conference fee and payments made toward room and meal charges (if applicable) less $40. No refunds will be issued after October 1. All requests must be in writing and received via email, fax, or U.S. mail.

Child Care Information

Child care is available for this conference for an additional charge. Pre-registration is required. Enrollment is limited. The cost is $150 for the first child, and $75 for each additional child.  If you have questions about registering for child care, email the registrar at SusanA@montreat.org. If you have general questions about the child care program, please email the child care coordinator at childcare@montreat.org.

Contact the Registrar

If you have any questions about the registration process, please email the registrar at SusanA@montreat.org or call 828.419.9829.

Key Leadership

Montreat Conference CenterChristena Cleveland, Keynoter
Christena Cleveland is a social psychologist, public theologian, author and professor. She is an associate professor of the practice of organizational studies at Duke Divinity School and the author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart. She attended Dartmouth College where she double-majored in psychological and brain sciences and sociology, and UC Santa Barbara, where she earned a Ph.D. in social psychology. Recently named one of “5 online shepherds to follow” by JET magazine, Christena has devoted much of her vocation to teaching in higher educational institutions as well as serving the Church and broader society by regularly writing, speaking and consulting with organizations. Now at Duke Divinity School, Christena teaches classes on race, reconciliation, and conflict, and leads a research team that is investigating self-compassion as a buffer for racial stress.

Montreat Conference CenterEric H. F. Law, Keynoter and Workshop Leader
Eric Law, an Episcopalian priest, is the founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscope Institute, the mission of which is to create inclusive and sustainable churches and communities. For more than 25 years, he has provided transformative and comprehensive training and resources for churches and ministries in all the major church denominations in the United States and Canada. He writes a weekly blog called The Sustainist: Spirituality for Sustainable Communities in a Networked World. Eric is the author of 9 books including The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb, and his latest, Holy Currency Exchange: 101 Stories, Songs, Actions and Visions of Missional and Sustainable Ministries.

Montreat Conference CenterJonathan Walton, Preacher and Workshop Leader
Jonathan L. Walton is an acclaimed author, social ethicist and religious scholar. He is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church of Harvard University, as well as a member of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Religion and Society at the Harvard Divinity School. He is the author of Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism (NYU Press 2009) and A Lens of Love: Reading the Bible in Its World for Our World (Westminster John Knox Press 2018). Walton earned his PhD in Religion & Society and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. He also holds a BA in Political Science from Morehouse College in Atlanta. He serves on several professional boards and committees, which include the Board of Trustees at Princeton Theological Seminary, and the National Advisory Board of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Montreat Conference CenterDavid LaMotte, Workshop Leader
David LaMotte is an award-winning songwriter, speaker and writer. He suspended his eighteen-year music career at its peak in 2008 to pursue his other passion by accepting a Rotary World Peace Fellowship to study International Relations, Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. As part of that study, he also spent time in rural Andhra Pradesh, India working with a Gandhian development organization. He is also a consultant on Peace and Justice for the North Carolina Council of Churches, and recently completed his sixth and final year on the AFSC Nobel Peace Prize Nominating Task Group. His books include Worldchanging 101: Challenging the Myth of Powerlessness and White Flour, which tells the true story of a creative and whimsical response to a Ku Klux Klan rally in Tennessee by a group called the Coup Clutz Clowns.

Montreat Conference CenterDiane J. Johnson, Workshop Leader
As founder and president of Mmapeu Management Consulting, Rev. Dr. Diane J. Johnson Ph.D. works at the intersections of community transformation, diversity and inclusion, social change and faith, organizational capacity expansion, and leadership development. In 2015, Rev. Diane joined the Atlanta-based Center for Progressive Renewal offering executive coaching, organizational development consulting and leadership development for clergy and denominational leaders. She is the author of several books, including Proud SistersThe Wit & Wisdom of African-American Women, Mother Love, and The Cultural Diversity Fieldbook. An avid dancer, gourmet chef, jazz aficionado, lay leader in her various spiritual communities, and a West African drummer, Diane exhibits a unique joie de vivre, integrating humor, enthusiasm, and intellectual rigor in her trainings, technical assistance, and conference proceedings.

Montreat Conference CenterKaroline M. Lewis, Workshop Leader
The Rev. Karoline M. Lewis is the Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary and she previously taught at Candler School of Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary, and Augsburg College. Lewis is the author of SHE: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Ministry (including an accompanying facilitator guide, participant guide, and DVD) and John: Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentaries, as well as numerous articles for The Christian CenturyFeasting on the WordFeasting on the GospelsCurrents in Theology and MissionLutheran ForumWord & WorldAbingdon Preaching Annual, and Odyssey Network’s ON Scripture. Ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Lewis holds degrees from Northwestern University (B.A.), Luther Seminary (M.Div.), and Emory University (Ph.D., New Testament Studies and Homiletics). She has served as Treasurer of Academy of Homiletics and Regional Coordinator for the Upper Midwest Region of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Montreat Conference CenterMelvin Bray, Workshop Leader
Melvin Bray is an Emmy® award-winning storyteller, writer, educator and social entrepreneur embedded with his wife and three kids in the West End neighborhood of Southwest Atlanta. He is an active member of several vanguard networks working to cultivate more sustainable approaches to faith and civic engagement. Melvin is co-editor/co-producer of Faith Forward. Melvin is the author of the book BETTER: Waking Up to Who We Could Be and lead facilitator for the consultancy firm Collabyrinth, which helps communities of goodwill design better systems and structures, policies and practices, that transform persistently inequitable outcomes into equitable ones.

Montreat Conference CenterAndrew Foster Connors, Workshop Leader
Andrew Foster Connors is the Senior Pastor of the Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD. He serves as clergy co-chair of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), a local affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and Maryland’s largest citizens power organization. Andrew is a native of Raleigh, N.C. He attended Duke University as a B.N. Duke Scholar where he received a B.A. in History with a focus on contemporary social movements. He holds a Master of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. He was the 2001 recipient of the prestigious David H.C. Read Preaching Award and has preached at numerous conferences and events around the country. He is an organizing member of NEXT Church, a national movement among Presbyterians excited about the future of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He currently serves as co-chair of the organization.

Areas of Emphasis

The March Is Over… Now What?
Power Analysis for an Emerging Network
Newly-energized networks of people are eager to challenge systems of oppression. The organization may be new, but the impulse is not: the Hebrew midwives also seized their power to create change and resist evil. What does the biblical story have to tell us about identifying power and using it to create just communities? How can an individual use knowledge of power dynamics to effect change in their lives, in their churches, and in their communities? Led by David LaMotte and Diane Johnson

Gender and Power in Church Settings
Insights Into Achieving Equity in the Church
Despite decades of a polity that affirms women and men in all forms of church leadership, the actual terrain of church life remains one in which the remnants of sexism are plain to see. They are not only in the dearth of female heads of staff, but also in lingering gender-role expectations and patterns among church leaders. How does a leader best create an environment in which power can be equally claimed? Led by Karoline Lewis

Feeling Overexposed to Logics and Systems of Supremacy
Begin a 12-step journey toward healing…
Author and facilitator Melvin Bray describes beloved community–a metaphor for power used rightly–as “more of a twelve-step program than a semester-length seminar.” It’s easy to “know all the right stuff and never get around to practicing it.” Discover a path that both individuals and organizations can take through the important milestones of critical analysis, self-awareness, and cultural competency, into the goal of better practices. Explore how one can rewrite the supremacist stories and scripts (ways of thinking and doing) that have shaped how we show up in the world. Though we may not achieve beloved community over the three days we are together, we can leave well on our way. Led by Melvin Bray

Leading the Mission Committee Beyond Charity
Identifying the Congregation’s Power to Create Systemic Change
Part of our DNA as Reformed believers rouses our desire to be more than writers of checks to worthy causes or short-term volunteers; recent awareness of terms like “toxic charity” has increased our desire to leverage congregational power in authentic, relational ways in our own neighborhoods. We want to “do good better.” An understanding of power and how to use it can help any congregation to do good better, beginning with listening to our neighbors’ needs. Leader TBA

Advanced Topics in Understanding Power
For Leaders Ready to Be Held Accountable for Their Outcomes Instead of Just Their Activity
Building power for long-term change requires more than just the right message. It requires the ability to get to the table where decisions are made. This is as true for internal church change as it is for community leadership. Leaders from the Industrial Areas Foundation, the country’s oldest and largest community organizing affiliate, will work with participants in learning and exploring long-lasting campaigns for change with insights in such areas as understanding the importance of transforming unwieldy problems into actionable issues, dealing with oppositional power, the limits of activism for long-term change, and the importance of understanding the difference between leaders and position-holders when it comes to moving an issue. Emphasis will be placed on understanding how change actually happens within church and community. Led by Andrew Foster-Connors, Terrell Williams, and Cheryl Finney

What If We Are The Next Charlottesville?
Understanding the Power Dynamics of Race in Church and Community
The language of white supremacy, which has been used by many to describe everyday life, has moved into the vocabularies of those who thought it was a historical relic or part of society’s fringe. Power dynamics based on racialized ideas are part of our cultural fabric; gaining a deeper awareness of the power of these categories can help people of faith subvert ideas – particularly the unconscious ones – that deny the full humanity of all God’s people. Led by Eric Law

Can Understanding Power Make Preaching More Powerful?
Reading the Word with a Hermeneutic of Power
Seminary gave us lenses for reading the biblical text: who is named? who speaks? what ideas are repeated? what’s the literary context? the historical context? the religious context? What can we learn by adding a lens of power analysis to our reading of a text? How might considering power empower our preaching? Might this hermeneutic also aid a church leader in reading the dynamics present in governing bodies and other working groups? Led by Jonathan Walton

More Information

Available Scholarships
We have limited scholarships available for program fee only.  Download the application form.

Child Care Information
Child care is available for this conference for an additional charge. Pre-registration is required. Enrollment is limited. The cost is $150 for the first child, and $75 for each additional child.  If you have questions about registering for child care, email the registrar at SusanA@montreat.org. If you have general questions about the child care program, please email the child care coordinator at childcare@montreat.org.

CEU’s
Continuing education units are available for this conference.

Private Housing
The following is a list of private rentals for individuals and groups:

Meals for Commuters
Please check out the Black Mountain Chamber of Commerce as well as our Business Patrons web page for a list of restaurants in Black Mountain.