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  • Balancing Depth and Breadth in Our Conversations:Denver 2022 SBCS Annual Meeting
  • Sandra Costen Kunz

In 2020 and 2021, due to the corona virus pandemic, the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies (SBCS) held its annual board meeting, members meeting, and paper sessions online. This year, in 2022, we were delighted to meet face-to-face again on November 18–19 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Because we are an AAR "related scholarly organization," all of our events were scheduled through, and publicized by, AAR's staff. President Mark Unno not only presided at the board's table but also graciously ran a video conference, primarily to accommodate board and committee members who were outside the United States or dealing with travel-prohibiting health issues.

The 2020 and 2021 fully online governance meetings, led by then-president Leo Lefebure, had been well organized, well run, highly effective, and a lot of fun. But as I watched the attentive eyes around the table this year and listened to the laughter, empathetic sighs, and plans for follow-up conversations, it seemed to me that meeting in person, in some ways, more powerfully supports the society's aim to foster in-depth Buddhist-Christian dialogue and comparative studies. Mark, then vice president, had organized the 2020 and 2021 online paper sessions carefully for online audiences. We were thrilled that these beautifully crafted and moderated presentations drew audiences that were amazingly broad in terms of both size and diversity. Planned as emergency extensions of the society's efforts to create, through our blog and Facebook page, safe online spaces for Buddhist-Christian dialogue and comparative studies, these sessions drew an international audience whose breadth astounded us! Conversations that had begun in these sessions could not, however, be quickly continued over a meal or coffee. In some ways, they did not appear to me to spark the same depth of ongoing conversation that the SBCS has prompted in our four decades of face-to-face meetings.

As the board continues to discuss how to balance our desires for both depth and breadth of conversation among our board, our members, and nonmembers who attend our events, we sincerely welcome the wisdom of members and other readers. You can submit suggestions to: [End Page 263]

board of governors meeting

President's Opening Remarks

Calling this year's board meeting to order a little past 9 a.m., Mark Unno said that he sensed that his father, Taitetsu Unno, "is with us, encouraging and congratulating the society on how far we've come in the past forty years." He recalled his father's participation in the Cobb–Abe dialogues and the network that evolved into the SBCS, and that these initial conversations were often highly theological—and testy—and often involved a translator. Mark is convinced, however, that this early debate was a necessary foundation for developing a more robust mutual learning community. Describing two significant ways the society is modeling collaborative learning, he said:

  1. 1. We're providing a model of interreligious engagement for other people in our various traditions.

  2. 2. Although we do have impacts on scholars and general audiences through our AAR sessions, journal, and online resources, our greatest impacts as board members have been on each other! Furthermore, any impact of lasting value will come through our embodiment of deep dialogue and mutual learning.

Mark explained that we'd begin with the online European Network report, move to the Japan Society's report, and then to the treasurer's and secretary's reports, both of which would be presented online.

International Advisor Report from Europe

Elizabeth Harris, representing the European Network of Buddhist Christian Studies, explained that since its formation in the 1990s, its main work has been to hold a conference every other year and publish the papers. EOS Verlag has now published the papers that she and Perry Schmidt-Leukel edited from the 2020 conference titled "A Visionary Approach: Lynn A. de Silva and the Prospects for Buddhist-Christian Encounter." The 2022 conference titled "Euro-Buddhism and the Role of Christianity," whose papers are now being edited...