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Big Tent Christianity Conference

January 24, 2011

Well, I’m making a reconnection of sorts in a couple of weeks… going to attend the Big Tent Christianity conference in Phoenix. If you’ve been reading this blog much, or read my bio, you may know that I have a long and deep background in Christianity. You may also know that I’ve not affiliated much there for a good 15 years now. But during this time, I’ve stayed in touch and in dialog (when possible) with Christian family members and friends, attended church services on occasion, or special church-sponsored events; and I’ve spent countless hours staying a bit in the Christian “loop” of developments, continued to study early Christian history and theology, psychology of religion, etc. 

Since I do interact with many Christians, and do feel I still share important experiences and values with many of them, I decided it’s time to more openly and proactively pursue ways of working with them, perhaps even accept being identified as a progressive Christian, tho I personally don’t feel a need to take on such a label.  But, after all, I’ve written about the importance of cooperative efforts among differing faiths and between religious and “spiritual but not religious” people.   Time to walk my talk, at a slightly elevated level, the best I can at the moment.

Anyway, in deciding to go, I didn’t give much consideration to the exact topics being covered. I don’t care much about the “keynote” presentations.  I’m sure both will be good.  They will deal with the “Big Tent” theme one way or another, trends of where Christianity is going, etc.   However, it is mainly meeting new people, the conversations I expect to have, and the general atmosphere that I think will be most of significance to me and perhaps to others.  

Though this is not Big Tent Christianity’s first conference (just the 2nd I think), this particular attempt, by a number of Christian leaders and lay people, to bridge long historical divides and do serious examination of what following Jesus means and should mean in various traditions, is pretty new. 

What is also significant is that this gathering brings into one setting, for serious discussions, people from various positions that are pretty far apart in that “historical divide” I mentioned.  Now, most or perhaps all of the Evangelicals present will reflect the more “liberal” or open aspects of Evangelicalism, to be sure.  But it is unusual and encouraging to see that there are Evangelicals who want to engage with even very progressive Christians (truly “liberal” tho not probably like “old-line” liberalism).  Being a part of that kind of important dynamic is one key reason I will be there, and hope to contribute to the conversation and actions that will hopefully follow. 

For information on the conference, visit

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2011 3:43 am

    Howard, I’ll be at Big Tent in Phoenix also! I’d love to meet you. Thanks for posting this.

    • Howard Pepper permalink
      January 25, 2011 6:43 pm

      Hi Steve,

      I’ve just had a moment to see who you are via your blog… will be looking more later; also would love to meet you at Big Tent. My web pics aren’t real recent or good face shots… I will have my thinning hair fairly short (to not look overly gray, which is coming fast :), but the Proverbs helps me out on that one). I have no idea how many will be attending… if you or someone does, let me know.

  2. January 25, 2011 3:59 am

    “Now, most or perhaps all of the Evangelicals present will reflect the more ‘liberal’ or open aspects of Evangelicalism”

    Welcome to the world of Humpty Dumpty language.

    • Howard Pepper permalink
      January 25, 2011 6:46 pm

      Not sure I follow your meaning, Ken. But thanks for posting, regardless. I did know a Silva at Biola and I think his first name was Ken… was that by chance you? And I certainly am very familiar with John MacArthur, who is featured at the site your name links to.

      • January 25, 2011 8:25 pm

        My meaning is liberalism was never part of historic evangelicalism and people like Brian McLaren are not evangelicals.

        I’m glad you’re familiar with Dr. John MacArthur, who is featured at Apprising Ministries along with many other solid Bible teachers.

        And no, you may have known Dr. Ken Silva; I didn’t go to Biola.

  3. January 25, 2011 4:11 am

    Howard, don’t let Ken Silva get you down. He likes to take shots at people in the comments on their blogs, but he won’t allow any discussion on his own site. He’s not interested in conversation. He just wants to be “right.”

    • Howard Pepper permalink
      January 25, 2011 6:48 pm

      Thanks, Steve,

      As my reply to him indicates, I may have known him many years ago, tho not closely, if it was him.

  4. January 25, 2011 5:27 pm

    Howard, this is a provocative post; one in which I share your thoughts and concerns. Unfortunately, my husband, David R. Dykes, and I will not be attending the BIG TENT CHRISTIANITY event due to other commitments, but are encourage by its offerings and opportunities for dialogue. The D.L. Dykes, Jr. Foundation supports events such as this where people are encourage to dignity all that is life-promoting.

    • Howard Pepper permalink
      January 25, 2011 6:57 pm

      Hi Deborah,

      So glad you left a comment… I’ve just had time to take a quick look at the Faith and Reason site, and it looks exciting. I somehow had missed its existence I think, and that of your father-in-law and you and your husband. Maybe a regional issue: I’m much better up on what is happening on the West Coast than the South and East. But the Internet is fast changing that! (And I’m thrilled.) I definitely will be looking further at your site, and imagine/hope we will be in further contact soon!

  5. January 25, 2011 5:38 pm

    Hello, Howard. Our organization, The Progressive Christian magazine, is a co-sponsor of Big Tent Christianity. We agreed to co-sponsor, and I to represent us in Phoenix, for the same reasons you write about: a desire to meet new people and determine where our points of convergence are. I know some of the presenters, but not all, and I look forward to hearing what they have to say. I hope we can connect with one another while you’re there. Safe travels!

    Cynthia Astle

  6. Howard Pepper permalink
    January 25, 2011 10:42 pm

    Hi Cynthia,

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my post. I have had just a few moments to look at a couple of your articles and your bio. I was particularly interested in your remarks about Brian McLaren in one article. I have read “Everything Must Change” and appreciated your thoughts on it and your interview with Brian. It will great to meet you at the Big Tent conference, which I will make a point to do. At this point I have no idea how hard that may be, because I don’t know if the conference will have a few hundred or less, or maybe many hundreds in attendance. But you will definitely be on my list.


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