Advancing religious literacy

Fall 2014 Meeting: Scripture at the Crosshairs of Culture Wars


Westar Public Lectures

Politics, Patriarchy and Power, Raheel Raza
A New New Testament, Hal Taussig

Westar Academic Seminars

Christianity Seminar
Seminar on God and Human Futures

AAR/SBL Program Highlights

Register online

Sign up for lectures only


Westar Public Lectures

Raheel Raza

Politics, Patriarchy and Power
When the Word of God Goes Wrong

According to activist Raheel Raza, the combination of politics, patriarchy and power is a toxic force for many Muslim majority societies. The Qur’an, as the word of God for Muslims, is difficult to comprehend as it was not compiled chronologically, but rather from longest to shortest verse. And it contains passages that can be, and have been, used to justify violence, slavery and the oppression of women. Added to the confusion is the fine line, in Muslim society, between culture and religion, which gets blurred in communities that are not literate in scripture or that lack a secular education. For the seventy-five percent of Pakastanis who are illiterate, religiosity becomes a potent force in their lives. Change and reform, urges Raza, has to come soon.

Raheel Raza, author of Their Jihad - Not My Jihad

Raheel Raza is the President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. A fierce advocate for human rights and gender equality and a frequent speaker at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Raza was featured in the award-winning documentary Honor Diaries. She is the author of Their Jihad – Not My Jihad (2005). Her many awards and honors include the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for service to Canada and the City of Toronto’s Constance Hamilton award and the Urban Hero award.

Sunday, 1–2, 2:30–3:30 pm


Hal Taussig

A New New Testament

Over the past century and a half, numerous lost scriptures have been discovered, authenticated and celebrated. These are not the work of shunned sects or rebel apostles, nor are they alternative histories or doctrines. They were part and parcel of the vibrant conversations that sparked the rise of Christianity.  In fact, many of these documents were every bit as important to shaping early Christian communities, practices and beliefs as those we have come to call the New Testament. Yet they are rarely heard in contemporary churches. Hal Taussig argues that we have a great deal to gain by bringing rediscovered documents back into conversation with the traditional New Testament, and hearing, once more, the fuller range of voices that formed the early Christian chorus.

Hal Taussig, author of A New New Testament

Hal Taussig (Ph.D. The Union Institute) is Professor of Early Christianity at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and an ordained United Methodist pastor on special assignment by his bishop. For the past fifteen years, he has served as visiting Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Taussig is the editor of the award-winning A New New Testament (2013), and author of fourteen books, including In the Beginning Was the Meal (2009), A New Spiritual Home (2006) and Jesus before God (1999).

Sunday, 9–10, 10:30–11:30 am


Westar Academic Seminars

Christianity Seminar

In sessions 1 and 2, Fellows and guest scholars will discuss and debate the viability of the category of Gnosticism for the study of early Christianity, taking as their point of departure Karen King’s monographs—What is Gnosticism? (2005) and The Secret Revelation of John (2009)—and their own books. Session 3 will feature additional and alternative views on this subject.

Friday, November 21, 2014
Session One: 1–2:45 PM

Hal Taussig, Union Theological Seminary in New York, author of A New New Testament
Topic: Overview of the scholarly positions concerning Gnosticism as a category

Denise Buell, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, author of Why This New Race? and Making Christians
Topic: The problematic label of Gnosticism, taking as a point of departure Karen King’s What Is Gnosticism? as well as her own books.

Session Two: 3:15–5 PM

Brandon Scott, emeritus, Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Topic: Review of Karen King’s What is Gnosticism? in the light of early orthodoxy and heresy debates

Maia Kotrosits, Denison University, Granville, Ohio
Topic: Review of Karen King’s Secret Revelation of John

Session Three: 6:30–8 PM

Michael Williams, University of Washington, author of The Immovable Race and Rethinking “Gnosticism”
Topic: A discussion of the usefulness of Gnosticism as a critical category for reconstructing Christian origins during the past two decades

David Brakke, Ohio State University, author of The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual and Diversity in Early Christianity
Topic: Should the Gospel of Judas change how we think about “Gnostics,” “Gnosticism,” and “Sethian Gnosticism”?

Seminar on God and Human Futures

In session 1, scholars from past Westar Seminars will discuss the following questions: (1) How does the research of your seminar open questions about God? (2) What is the implicit and explicit God of Jesus/Paul/Acts? (3) What theological assumptions lie in your research? (4) Did the research of the seminar challenge or change your theology? Session 2 will feature the discussion of papers on philosophy and religion.

Saturday, November 22, 2014
Session One: 9–11:30 AM

Bernard Brandon Scott and others
Topic: Open mic with the Jesus Seminar

Arthur J. Dewey and others
Topic: Open mic with the Paul Seminar

Dennis E. Smith and others
Topic: Open mic with the Acts Seminar

Session Two: 1–3:30 PM

John C. Kelly, University of Nevada, Reno emeritus
Topic: A look at options in philosophy and religion

Tom Sheehan, Stanford University
Topic: Continental philosophy and biblical criticism

Jarmo Tarkki, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks
Topic: Our cultural condition


AAR/SBL Program Highlights

A full Westar registration grants access to all AAR and SBL sessions—a practically inexhaustible smorgasbord of topics related to the study of religion—as well as to trips to local tourist attractions, including the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Art Museum, tentatively scheduled for Monday, November 24.

More information about the AAR/SBL sessions, along with finalized locations and times, will be posted when it becomes available. Meanwhile, here are a few familiar faces on the SBL program:

  • Jason BeDuhn
  • Pamela Eisenbaum
  • Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre
  • Karen King
  • Dennis R. MacDonald
  • Jodi Magness
  • Shelly Matthews
  • Elaine Pagels
  • Stephen Patterson
  • Richard Pervo
  • Dan Schowalter
  • Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
  • Paul Verhoeven
  • L. Michael White


Friday, November 21

1–2:45 pm
Session 1, Christianity Seminar

3:15–5 pm
Session 2, Christianity Seminar

Meal break

6:30–8 pm
Session 3, Christianity Seminar


Saturday, November 22

9–11:30 am
Session 1, Seminar on God and Human Futures

Meal break

1–3:30 pm
Session 2, Seminar on God and Human Futures

8:30–10 pm
SBL Reception


Sunday, November 23

9–10, 10:30–11:30 am
A New New Testament, Hal Taussig

11:30 am–1 pm
Meal break

1–2, 2:30–3:30 pm
Politics, Patriarchy and Power: When the Word of God Goes Wrong, Raheel Raza


Registration and Fees

Not a Westar member? You can add a Westar membership ($45) to your registration and register at the member price. Westar members receive a subscription to The Fourth R magazine (6 issues annually), discounts on national meeting registration, and 20% off Polebridge books & media. Learn more.

Already registered for the AAR/SBL meeting? Your AAR/SBL registration lets you attend Westar academic seminars. It does not, however, give you access to Westar public lectures. To sign up for the public lectures, see option 2 below.

Westar Fellows who registered through AAR/SBL may join in Westar academic seminars at no additional charge. But, in order to estimate how many places to set at the seminar table, we need you to fill out the Westar online registration form. Clicking on three boxes—(1) I have registered thru AAR/SBL, (2) I am an academic, and (3) I am a Westar Fellow—will let you tell us in which seminars you plan to participate. This is for planning purposes only.

Option 1
Register for full Westar Meeting

For a full meeting registration plus the option to register a partner just for one or both public lectures, choose Option 1. A Westar full meeting registration gives registrants—including Fellows—full access to the Westar meeting, including academic seminars and public lectures, and full access to the AAR/SBL program, including the exhibits and the reception, as well as to the convention hotel room block. This is an all inclusive registration.

Immediately on completion of your Westar registration, you will receive instructions for completing your AAR/SBL registration (at no additional cost) and gain access to the convention hotels. Learn more about hotel options.

Pre-registration (by August 14)*$180$220
Registration (August 15November 20)$210$250


*Links to the AAR/SBL program will be posted on the Westar Fall meeting page when it comes available. To have the option of receiving a hardcopy in the mail prior to the meeting, you must preregister by the August 14 deadline. Copies of the program will also be available for pickup at the meeting itself.

Option 2
Sign up for public lectures only

Those who do not wish to attend Westar academic seminars, the AAR or SBL programs, and who do not want access to the exhibits or the hotel room block, may sign up just for Westar public lecture(s) on Sunday, November 22nd.

Hal Taussig, A New New Testament$35$40
Raheel Raza, Politics, Patriarchy and Power$35$40


Meeting Location
All Westar events, along with Registration and the Exhibit Hall, will take place at:

San Diego Convention Center
111 W. Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA 92101

A name badge, which comes with a full registration only, will be required to access the Exhibit Hall and all sessions, except the Westar public lectures. Access to the public lectures will be at the door to the meeting room itself. We will post and distribute information about the specific location of the Westar lectures and seminars as soon as the room assignments are made.

Westar members with disabilities or any attendees who may have difficulty getting around the meeting are encouraged to note this during registration. More information will be posted as it comes available.

Seminar Papers are the basis for the discussions in the academic sessions. They will not be presented orally at the event. Persons wishing to follow the discussions should read the papers in advance. PDFs of papers for Westar seminars will be posted on the Fall Meeting page as they come available. There is no charge for the PDFs, but there is a $25 charge for those who want a hard copy mailed to them.



*Registration cut-off date & refunds
Full registrations must be received at the Westar office no later than Thursday, November 20. Walk-on registration is available for public lectures only. Refunds are available if requested by November 1, minus a $40 administrative fee. No refunds will be given after that date.

**Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available on request. Attendance at Westar events qualifies for CEUs for clergy and other educators. Full attendance at Westar’s Spring or Fall semiannual meetings earns 2 CEUs (.5 per day). Please notify us of your interest when you register, or fill out the CEU request form. During the event, applicants will be asked to check in with a Westar staff member each day on arrival and departure. A certificate will be sent immediately following the event. Please call 503-375-5323 with any questions. 


Full Registration Resources

Exhibit Hall
The Polebridge Press bookstore will be located in the Exhibit Hall, along with 150 other publishers featuring books on a wide spectrum of subjects from religious studies to hermeneutics to philosophy, often at deep discounts on cover price. A name badge, which you receive with a full registration only, is required to access the exhibits.

Exhibit Hall Hours:
Saturday, November 22, 8:30 am–5:30 pm
Sunday, November 23, 8:30 am–5:30 pm
Monday, November 24, 8:30 am–5:30 pm
Tuesday, November 25, 8:30 am–12:00 pm

Hotel Options
AAR/SBL has negotiated special conference rates at twelve luxurious and convenient hotels for meeting attendees. Please note that you can only get the special conference rate by booking through AAR/SBL as part of a full registration. Hotel room rates do not include the average of 12.5% percent hotel room tax. The single/double/triple/quadruple room designation denotes the number of room occupants, not the number of beds. A triple room means three people are sharing two double beds unless a rollaway bed is requested at an extra charge.

Hotel reservations are available from November 19 through November 26. There will not be any hotel shuttles. To reserve a room at the special conference rate, you will need to complete your registration with Westar. On receipt of your registration, Westar will send you a link to a page on the SBL website along with a code that will let you complete your registration for the AAR/SBL meeting, at no additional charge. This is an essential part of the process, as it not only gets you an SBL badge but also access to the hotel room block.

If you would like to view the hotel descriptions and prices available for the 2014 annual meeting prior to registering, see the Hotel Locator Map and Rates and Hotel Amenities Chart. These resources will be updated as hotels fill up.

Internet Access
A free Cyber Café is available inside the Exhibit Hall. The San Diego Convention Center will have complimentary Wifi located throughout the building, including the meeting rooms. All the hotels have Internet access available in their business centers or guest rooms. The hotels may charge a fee to access the Internet.

Restaurants & Sightseeing
Get discounts at SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Spanish Village Art Center, and a variety of restaurants just for showing your conference badge! Download a list of venues (PDF).

Visit the San Diego Convention Center restaurants page for more information on local dining options.

Child Care
AAR/SBL hosts a children’s program called Kiddie Corp. The program is for children ages 6 months through 12 years old and will be located at the Omni San Diego Hotel in San Diego, California. Snacks and beverages will be provided. Meals must be supplied by parents or purchased when checking your child in each day. Register in advance to guarantee a place. Advance registration deadline is October 24, 2014.

Download the printable information sheet and Kiddie Corp application form (PDF).


Travel Information

Air Travel Discounts
American, United, and Delta Airlines are the official carriers of the AAR & SBL Annual Meeting and Hertz is the preferred rental car supplier. For the benefit of our conference attendees, a discount is available and is valid a few days before and after the Annual Meeting ends, depending on carrier. To take advantage of these special discounted fares, you can call or make reservations directly through their respective websites listed below. Discounts do not apply to certain restricted fares and exclude sale fare inventories.

If you book through your own travel agency, be sure to give them the appropriate discount code below.

CarrierPhone NumberWebsiteDiscount Code
United Airlines1-800-521-4041www.ual.comZRME785857
Hertz Car Rental1-800-654-2240www.hertz.com04YY0001


Transportation from San Diego International Airport (SAN)
Metro bus service is available to go downtown, but your hotel might not be along the direct route. Many passengers will have to walk up to a mile after riding the bus. Please refer to the San Diego Online Trip Planner for reference and contact your hotel if you have any questions. For more information on the Metropolitan Transit System, call 619-557-4555 or visit

If you need a taxi, simply follow the signs leading to the Transportation Plazas. A Transportation Coordinator will place you with the first available taxi—unless you specify a particular taxicab company. An approximate fare to the Convention Center is $22.

Shared-Ride Vans
The AAR and SBL are partnering with Prime Time Shuttle this year. Shared shuttle service is available 7:00 am–11:00 pm for arriving flights. Shuttle service for departing flights is available 24 hours a day. They are offering a discount price of $6 per one way trip. There are two ways to book Prime Time:

  • Call 1-800-733-8267, hit 1 for reservations, and give the discount code 592216.
  • Go to the Prime Time Shuttle SBL/AAR website. You will most likely select Arrivals. On the next page, select the correct airport (note that it defaults to LAX) and input your flight information. Note that only AAR & SBL hotels are listed on this link.

Metro Bus
Public transit is available to and from the airport and downtown San Diego on the Metropolitan Transit System’s Route 992, which stops at Terminals 1 and 2 and the Commuter Terminal. To find the bus stop, walk directly outside of your terminal by baggage claim and look for the bus sign. The bus operates between 5:00 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends and holidays. A single ride is $2.25, and the bus service is wheelchair accessible.

San Diego Trolley
MTS’ San Diego Trolley is San Diego’s light rail transit network. Its three lines serve many popular areas and attractions, such as Downtown, the Convention Center, SDSU, Old Town, and the Mexican border. The Trolley does not stop at the Airport. However, the Trolley’s Blue and Orange Lines make convenient transfers with MTS Bus Route 992 at America Plaza station.

Parking at the San Diego Convention Center
On-site parking is available at the underground parking garage located below the building. Enter the parking garage on Harbor Drive between First Ave. and Fifth Ave. The daily rate is typically $15, although on special event days (within downtown San Diego) you will have to tell the parking attendant you are here for AAR & SBL to receive the $15 rate. Payment is due upon entry and there are no in and out privileges. No overnight parking is permitted.

Map of Underground Parking