Archived Adult Studies Classes

2019 Summer Series Logo

The Adult Education Committee invites you to take a seat in our seminary classroom (a.k.a. OAC Lobby/Atrium) each Sunday this summer beginning June 2. Learn from some of the Atlanta area’s outstanding professors as you experience what you would learn about if you attended a seminary. Your seat will be waiting for you each Sunday in the OAC Lobby/Atrium at 9:45. Seat belts are optional.

June 2  |  Dr. Leanne Van Dyk

Welcome to Seminary in 2019!

Theological education is experiencing very profound changes that are fundamentally shifting the training and formation of ministry leaders. Come and learn about what seismic changes are occurring and why it matters to congregations like Central Presbyterian!  Leanne Van Dyk is President of Columbia Theological Seminary.

June 9  |  Karen Scheib

A Narrative Approach to Pastoral Care: Becoming Story Companions

As a narrative practice, pastoral care attends to the inseparable interconnection between our own life stories, others’ stories, the larger cultural stories, and God’s story. As a ministry of the church, pastoral care is an ecclesial practice that derives its motivation, purpose, and identity from the larger mission of the church to bear witness to and embody God’s mission of love that extends beyond the church for the transformation of the world. As a theological practice, pastoral care is grounded in God’s love story. By close listening to the stories of others we become story companions in the ongoing and mutual process of growing in love Karen Scheib is professor of pastoral care and pastoral theology, Candler School of Theology.

June 16  |  Christine Yoder

Introduction to the Old Testament in Seminary

This session considers the design and goals of an introductory course in Old Testament in a seminary context. We will explore how the classroom has changed in recent years and how that shapes our pedagogy; specific ways we seek to develop our students’ interpretive skills and hermeneutical awareness; recurring questions about the nature of biblical authority, truth, inspiration, and so on; and ways the class engages  the significance and vitality of the Old Testament for Christian faith, proclamation, and mission.  Christine Yoder is Professor of Old Testament Language, Literature, and Exegesis, Columbia Theological Seminary.

June 23  |  Melissa Browning

The Importance of Context

When we train students in ministry we know that only so much can be learned in the classroom. This is why contextual education is so important! When students serve in congregations and communities as part of their seminary experience, they are able to better discern their call to ministry while sharing their gifts with local congregations. In this session we’ll talk about the importance for “contexts” and theological reflection, not just for seminarians, but for anyone seeking to connect their gifts with the communities and congregations to which God has called them. Melissa Browning is Interim Director and Visiting Assistant Professor of Contextual Education.

June 30  |  Stan Saunders

Performing the Gospels: Telling, Hearing, and Doing the Good News

 The early Christians likely heard the Gospels performed as wholes, then grappled with how to live into the stories themselves. Can we still “hear” the Gospels today? How do we let them get under our skin?

Stan Saunders is Associate Professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary

July 7  |  Gary Rowe

Digital Media, the Bible and Theology

Based on courses he taught at McAfee School of Theology, Central member Gary Rowe will discuss the impact of digital media on seminary education, his work on the world’s first multimedia biblical translations for the American Bible Society and a surprise filmmaker who is doing theology.

July 14  |  Mark Douglas

We’re Just Talking Here

What is “justice”? How does it matter?  And why, if it matters so much to so many people, is it so hard to achieve?   Mark Douglas is Professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary.

July 21  |  Martha Moore-Keish

Teaching Resurrection

In this class we will explore what it means to teach “systematic” theology today. What is theology anyway, and what is “systematic” about it? After brief methodological reflections, we will unpack a central theological claim of Christian faith: that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. What could this claim possibly mean for reasonable Christians today?  Martha Moore-Keish is J. B. Green Associate Professor of Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary.

July 28  |  Ryan Bonfiglio

Teaching the Old Testament as Christian Scripture

This session will explore what it means to teach the Old Testament as Christian Scripture in the context of a seminary curriculum (at Candler School of Theology). The discussion will address topics such as: the difference between the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible in content and organization; whether the OT explicitly refers to Jesus; why the OT is so often ignored in Christian theology; and how specific themes in the OT can directly inform and shape various ministries of the church today.  Ryan Bonfiglio is Assistant Professor in the Practice of Old Testament at Candler School of Theology.

August 4  |  Rod Hunter

Doing Theology in a Practical Mode: The Emerging Field of Practical Theology

Theology is not just a head trip; and theology is not just learned from books, but from our attempts to live out the meaning and implications of our faith by actually practicing it in the real world.  How then can theology be seriously taught, learned, and developed through experience and practice, as well as through biblical knowledge and conceptual and historical learning?  This is the question that the newly emerging field of “practical theology” attempts to answer.  It expands and challenges the traditional seminary curriculum and its ways of teaching and learning theology and ministry, and it seeks to enable theological students, ministers, and lay Christians alike to become truly “practical theologians” in every situation in which they live and serve.  Rod Hunter is Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Theology in the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and a long-time clergy affiliate at Central.

August 11  |  William Yoo

Why American Church History is Powerful, Painful, and Productive

In her 1997 Presidential Address to the American Historical Association, Joyce Appleby observed history is important because we live with “its residues, its remnants, its remainders and reminders.” This class explores how the history of Christianity in the United States is powerful and painful because we find a mixed record of courageous witness, inspiring faith, terrible violence, and harmful discrimination. In addition to looking closely at specific historical moments that illustrate this complexity, the class aims to provide methods and tools for how we may productively apply lessons from the past to better understand our present. William Yoo is Professor of American Religious and Cultural History  at Columbia Theological Seminary.

August 18  |  Lisa Weaver

Christian Initiation:  The Journey into the Christian Life

Many Christians are baptized as infants and don’t remember their baptism.   However, adult baptism was the norm in the early church.  Come and learn how adults were prepared to become a part of the family of God.  Lisa Weaver is the Assistant Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary.

August 25  |  Anna George Traynham

The Seminary and the Church: Leadership for a New Day

Without the church, there is no need for a seminary. Without the seminary, we would have a hard time staffing our churches! The Presbyterian Church and our seminaries lean on each other, learn from each other, and sustain each other. In this session, associate pastor Anna George Traynham will teach us about what she learned in seminary, what she wished she could have learned in seminary, and the trends she is seeing among young pastors and seminary students.

Fall 2018 Adult Sunday School Classes

Fatal Discord, Erasmus, Luther and the Fight for the Western Mind, by Michael Massing | an Issues in Theology Class

Michael Lloyd, Convenor | Location: Central OAC Art Room (ground floor of the Oglesby Building)

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times | A Keystone Class

Mary Amos, Convenor | Location: Taylor Conference Room

Continuing their examination of current and historical mystics, the Keystone Class will be reading and discussing Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times by Matthew Fox. Eckhart, a profound 13th century mystic, becomes practical as author Fox connects Eckhart’s writing to a wide range of theological and philosophical thinkers.  For example, chapters like “Meister Eckhart meets Buddhism via Thich Nhat Hanh” and “Meister Eckhart Meets Carl Jung.” Members of the class will be asked (but not required) to choose one of the post-13th century mystics in the book to present to the class.

BUSY – Restoring Connection to an Unhurried God | A Sojourners Class

Ed Carwile, Convenor | Location: The Brotherhood Room (off Tull Hall)

We continue our study from the Darkwood Brew curriculum. Jesus says “ Come to me, all you that are weary with heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” . . . (Matt 11: 28-30) How does being weary from your busy life affect your connection to God?

2018 Summer Series

2018 Summer Studies Logo

Begins Sunday, June 3  |  9:45 a.m.   |  Rand Chapel

Growing out of our explorations during the Summer Series of 2017 on “reformations” and the Martin Luther quincentenary, our Summer Series this year will amplify our consideration of the Civil Rights Movement as our most important modern reformation.  The Ministry of Learning invites you to consider our past, the issues we confront now, and to look forward.  Central must play a role in making sure the Movement is not a thing of the past.  How do we do that? Let’s discover our role together.

June 3  |  Are Truth and Justice the American Way? Reflections on Race and Reconciliation in Fraught Times 

Societies that endure over time do so, in part, because the majority of their citizens believe their society aspires to virtues like truthfulness, justice, and neighborliness.  Entrenched racism undermines the quality and depths of those beliefs.  What, then, is a society like ours to do—and what role, more specifically, might the church play in such a society?

Presenter:  Mark Douglas, Professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary. Click here to view the PowerPoint slide show presentation.

June 10   |  The Bible Speaks Out for Civil Rights

While many Christians throughout the centuries have used the Bible to support slavery, subordination of women, and rejection of strangers and foreigners, there are strong voices for freedom from slavery, women as co-leaders and special care of strangers and foreigners within communities of God’s people on earth.  This session will especially explore New Testament letters written from prison and statements in Gospels that renew assertions by prophets in the Old Testament to hear voices speaking out for civil rights in our world today.

Presenter:  Vernon K. Robbins, Professor of New Testament and Comparative Sacred Texts in the Department and Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University.

June 17  |    Is Georgia Leading the Way in Criminal Justice Reform?

During the summer of 2011 Central devoted the 13 Sundays to the theme of criminal justice.  What has changed in Georgia in the intervening years and, given the complex issues of criminal justice, can we measure improvements?

Presenters:  Marissa McCall Dodson who is public policy director at the Southern Center for Human Rights and Tiffany Williams Roberts who is community engagement director at the Center.

June 24   |  The Old Testament and the Civil Rights Movement

Both Civil Rights leaders and white supremacists quoted the Old Testament in the 1950s and 1960s to support their agendas, but during this session we will engage in a close reading of the Mosaic covenant and prophetic texts, which reveal that the overriding concern of the Old Testament is an abiding care for the marginalized.

Presenter: Dr. Brennan Breed is assistant professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.

July 8   |  Murder in the Family 

Harris County, Georgia, 1912, the sheriff’s nephew is murdered.  The sheriff sanctions the lynching of a woman and three men, all African-American, all innocent.

Presenter:  Karen Branan, author of The Family Tree: a Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets and My Search for the Truth.  She is a widely published journalist, a writer for newspapers, magazines, stage and television.  Her book is the product of 20 years of investigation to uncover the truth about her family heritage.

July 15   |   Paul Zwier  The Rise and Fall of the Legal Doctrine of Affirmative Action

This session will review the origins of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta in the 1880s— 90s, and the era of new hope during the 1970s with people like Andrew Young and President Carter, and will describe the impact of affirmative action on Atlanta.

Presenter:  Paul Zwier, Central member and  professor of law at Emory University.

July 22  |  How the Past Imagined the Future

W.E.B. Du Bois and the Niagara Movement met at Harpers Ferry in 1906 to honor would be liberator John Brown.  How did the men and women there begin the modern Civil Rights Movement and how did they begin to change America?  This presentation will rely on research, musings, and lyrics from an opera in progress.

Presenter: Gary Rowe, a media producer, who is writing a libretto based on their stories.

July 29   |  Let’s Talk About Race and Faith

How are attitudes about race acquired?  How is racial prejudice overcome?  How does our faith impact our views about race?

Presenter:  Central member Rev. Oscar McCloud who was active in the civil rights movement as a pastor and mission executive, executive director of the Fund for Theological Education, and associate pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

August 5   |   Central in the City: The Church in our Evolving Urban Environment

Central may be the “Church that Stayed,” but it’s the city that has moved on.  The rapid changes going on around us call for an examination Central’s ongoing role in this new urban environment.

Presenter:  Jerry Miller, Central member, founder/principal of Fabric Developers, and one of the early pioneers of the Intown Atlanta renaissance.

August 12   |   Hope and Imagination: Consider the Children

Atlanta’s future is already incubating in our nurseries, kindergartens, and schools.  The key to better education is early intervention.  As our ministry to children through the Child Development Center (CDC) affirms, “early childhood experiences greatly influence a child’s self-esteem, ability to trust, and attitude toward learning.”  We cannot overlook where our future begins.

Presenter: Lynn Schnitzer, Executive Director of the CDC.

August 19   |   Valedictory: An Interim Pastor’s Departing  |  Observations About Central’s Past, Present and Future.  

As he begins his last week at Central, our interim pastor David Cozad shares his insights into Central’s present identity and aspirations, with specific focus on this church’s long relationship with efforts at racial reconciliation.

August 26     Central Members   It’s Your Turn — What Should Central Do?

This session will feature a focused and directed discussion of Central’s past, present and future in Civil Rights.  We welcome as discussion leader Reverend Billy Honor, faith leader, public theologian, and cultural critic whose progressive and compelling insights have made him a sought after preacher, lecturer, and social commentator.  Billy is currently the organizing Pastor of Pulse Church in downtown Atlanta.

 Click here for archived classes

Adult Classes April – May 2018

Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times | a Keystone Class

The Keystone Class will be reading and discussing the book, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times – Unleashing her Power in the 21st Century, by Matthew Fox. One reviewer of the book on says, “This book does an excellent job in applying Hildegard’s insights for both the scholar and interested lay person wanting to learn more about spirituality and its historical role in religion AND its practical application for today.“ Both the artistic (e.g., musical compositions) and conventional media through which the 12th century nun Hildegard spoke will be studied and explored.

Teacher: Mary Amos                                           Convener: Jean Ellen Jones
Location: Taylor Conference Room

Philosophy for Understanding Theology | an Issues in Theology Class

The Issues in Theology class will discuss the book, Philosophy for Understanding Theology, by Diogenes Allen and Eric O. Springsted.  Dr. Allen is Stuart Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at Princeton University. Dr. Springsted is former Senior Pastor, Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York; Librarian, The Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton University; and author of six books on theology. Philosophy for Understanding Theology is a very readable, solid foundation for the study of theology.

Teachers: various class participants                 Convener:  Michael Lloyd
Location: OAC “Art Room” (off of the Oglesby Atrium, basement level, Oglesby building)

Take This Bread | a Sojourners class

What is the meaning of the Eucharist? Is it more than a sacramental reminder of Christ’s death to save us? Reading Sara Miles’ memoir, Take This Bread, we will explore Miles’ belief and practice that the Eucharist, beyond being a Christian sacrament, is a model for God’s call to feed all God’s children. We will explore the history and theology of the Eucharist, and talk about Miles’ conversion experience when she, a lifelong atheist, unexpectedly wandered into an Episcopal church and was offered communion for the first time. We will hear about Central’s Courtyard Coffee Fellowship and the Central Outreach Center’s food co-op, and we will share our own communion experiences and how our faith and service have been shaped by them.

Teachers: Mark Borst and Ann Hunter            Convener: Ed Carwile
Location: Brotherhood Room

January 2017

This is Our Story: Listening Closely and Reaching Out

This is not a learning series about evangelism – or even grappling with evangelism. Instead, we will create a space which will allow everyone – including ourselves – to be seen. We will hear stories from others and learn to recognize value in our own stories as well. We know we are a church that can “get a lot done,” but without seeing gifts and hearing value in stories, we simply walk and talk past each other.

Each week we’ll have a combination of facilitated focusing, small group conversation, and theological reflection.

  • Jan. 8 | Fearing Less
  • Jan. 15 | Seeing More
  • Jan. 22 | Asking Hard Questions
  • Jan. 29 | Finding a Center in the Margins
  • Feb. 5 | Living the Questions

Sunday, 9:45 a.m. in the Atrium, Ground Floor, Oglesby Building

Sponsored by the Invitation Committee

November 2016

Pronouns, Potties & People: Transgender Studies 101

Film Screening | Nov. 5  at 5 p.m., Sanctuary

Class | Sundays 9:45 a.m., Nov. 6-27, OAC Atrium

Facilitator | Molly McGinnis

Film Screening: We will kick off our class with an exclusive screening of the new film, Out of Order, on Saturday Nov. 5 at 5 p.m.

Out of Order is a groundbreaking feature documentary revealing the complex and painful struggles faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) faith leaders as they confront entrenched bigotry and work to build loving support within their churches. The film follows the journeys of several PC (USA) ministers and people seeking ordination across the country.

Executive director of More Light Presbyterians and star of the film, Alex McNeil, will host a Q&A after the screening.

Class Description: Pronouns, bathroom laws, celebrities coming out! What’s this all about? And what does it have to do with our faith? In this 4-week series, we will explore some basics about gender identity, dip into biblical and theological interpretations, and discuss current issues coming up in our legislative session. The class will be facilitated by Molly McGinnis, as well as some special guests from other faith communities.

Updates from Kate Taber • Nov. 13, 9:45 a.m.

Location: To be determined

Description: Former resident pastor at Central, Kate Taber, will be returning to Atlanta from Israel/Palestine (where she has been doing mission work for some time) in November for the birth of her child, expected to happen in December. Come hear the latest about her work and catch up with a beloved former Pastor in Residence.

From Fear to Forgiveness: A Journey of Hope • Nov. 13, 12:30 p.m.

Presented by | Cindy McMahon

Location | Taylor Conference Room

Description: Cindy Henry McMahon’s family history is a slide show of the turbulent South: a thwarted lynch mob on a Georgia preacher’s front porch; the integration of Mercer University; Birmingham, 1963; Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march in Selma; Koinonia Farm and the germination of Habitat for Humanity; inner-city activism and counter-culture communities in the woods. Join Cindy for a reading and discussion of her memoir, Fresh Water from Old Wells, and her personal journey from fear and anger-through cities, small towns, and crossroads throughout the South-to a place of forgiveness.

Signed copies Cindy’s books will be available for sale. 

October 2016

Sojourners Class: Convenant Bible study • Sundays, Oct. 9 – Dec. 11

Class Convener | Ed Carwile

Location | Brotherhood Room

DescriptionThe Covenant Bible Study class, led by Beth Johnson, is for adults with all different levels of Bible knowledge.  Join us for a unique style of learning that will make your faith stronger.     

September 2016

Issues in Theology Sundays, Sept. 11 – Dec. 11

Class Convener | Michael Lloyd

Location | OAC Area Art Room, downstairs

Description: The Issues in Theology class will discuss the book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong

In these times of rising geopolitical chaos, the need for mutual understanding between cultures has never been more urgent. Religious differences are seen as fuel for violence and warfare. In Fields of Blood, Karen Armstrong amasses a sweeping history of humankind to explore the perceived connection between war and the world’s great creeds—and to issue a passionate defense of the peaceful nature of faith.

With unprecedented scope, Armstrong looks at the whole history of each tradition—not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism. Religions, in their earliest days, endowed every aspect of life with meaning, and warfare became bound up with observances of the sacred. Modernity has ushered in an epoch of spectacular violence, although, as Armstrong shows, little of it can be ascribed directly to religion. Nevertheless, she shows us how and in what measure religions came to absorb modern belligerence—and what hope there might be for peace among believers of different faiths in our time.

Sojourners Class: Jewish Festivals & the New Testament Sundays, Sept. 11 – Oct. 2

Class Leader | Lucy Baum

Location | Brotherhood Room

Description: We’ll read New Testament passages which make reference to Jewish festivals, especially Passover, the feast of  Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and the Feast of Weeks, and explore how Christian writers drew on Hebrew traditions to make theological claims about Jesus.

2016 Adult Summer Series • June 5 – August 14