- The Annual Meeting of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies Concurrent with the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting San Diego, November 2019Powerful Resources for Victims of Sexual Violence and for Dual Religious Practitioners
The highlight of Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies (SBCS)'s 2019 annual meeting was our extremely powerful sessions. The Friday session was "Buddhist and Christian Resources for Addressing Sexual Violence." All the panelists focused on violence in sanghas or churches in which they'd been engaged. Each panelist in the Saturday session, "Buddhist-Christian Dual Practice and Belonging," described dynamics in their own dual practice, sometimes linking these dynamics with data on the overall phenomenon.
I won't summarize each paper this year, since we are hoping to publish all of them in the journal and since past president Kristen Largen has commented on the Friday papers on our blog at: https://www.society-buddhist-christian-studies.org/topics.
What made these sessions powerful—and useful—were:
a. the careful, practical way each panelist drew on their long term, on the ground engagement with the issue under discussion;
b. the practical resources each paper provided to help listeners become more helpfully engaged with the issue themselves: resources that could be passed on to students and others;
c. the Friday panelists' use of their tradition's scriptures and founding rituals as powerful, practical resources.
The papers exemplified scholarly depth and precision, but none was merely an academic exercise. Each one struck me as an exercise in passing on hard-earned wisdom to help heal this planet.
In her SBCS blog post about the Friday panel, Kristin wrote: "Frankly, it was hard to process all of the information by the end, and we didn't allow enough time for conversation and reflection [that's on us]." None of the papers went overtime, and [End Page 485] current president Leo Lefebure, who pulled together this brilliant panel, moderated it brilliantly, too. Instead, the problem was that, unlike most years, none of "us" on the board arranged a Friday evening dinner gathering. Nostra culpa; mea culpa! Jonathan Seitz has often organized these, but he was unable to attend in 2019.
Reflecting on Kristin's comment reminded me that, when I have asked long-term members how the SBCS has strengthened their teaching and other vocations, they have often mentioned past SBCS international conferences that offered:
• powerful, experience-based presentations,
• time and space for listeners to reflect upon, and then discuss together, how to apply in their own contexts the resources these presentations offered.
I don't think the SBCS should, or could, organize a face-to-face conference now! But perhaps we could consistently organize, during our annual meeting, Friday post-panel dinner gatherings, and/or Saturday post-panel lunches. If we need to move our annual meeting online due to the COVID-19 epidemic, we could schedule, after each panel, or perhaps after them all, a video-conferenced reflection period. During these gatherings we could "process" together the resources the panelists offer us with an eye toward application in our academic teaching and our religious communities. Since academic scholars in religion and theology are working more hours for less pay (often with no travel allowance) and since few monastic scholars in our fields can travel much, perhaps we should also consider sometimes streaming or recording SBCS gatherings in venues without steep conference media fees, even if we have no epidemicdriven gap in meeting with American Academy of Religion (AAR).
The past conferences, annual meeting panels, and journal articles of the SBCS have documented—and in some cases shaped in positive directions—many local and global religious phenomena and the ways these phenomena have been researched. SBCS members have deeply shaped the field of comparative theology to highlight the current relevance of disparate ancient texts reflecting seemingly similar wisdom. One of our founders, Rita Gross, helped reshape the field of religious studies to value the work of both women scholars and practitioner scholars. She drew on conversations within the SBCS as she clarified the ways the research perspectives of religious insiders and outsiders can mutually inform each other in socially beneficial ways.
Our planet is experiencing increasing environmental instability...