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Montreat to host ‘Better Angels’ event

Conference encourages a conversation about power, church and community organizing

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Montreat Conference Center will host an event in October titled “Better Angels: Using the Power of Community to Change the World.” The conference will focus on understanding power and privilege and their relationship to the Gospel, society and daily living. Attendees will examine the power they hold institutionally, challenge the ways that power is used, look at the role that churches can play in public discourse and learn a variety of community practices that can be used to counter polarization.

Keynote presentations will be delivered by Christena Cleveland and Eric Law. Cleveland is a social psychologist, public theologian and an associate professor of the practice of organizational studies at Duke Divinity School. She is also the author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart. Cleveland teaches classes on race, reconciliation and conflict, and leads a research team that is investigating self-compassion as a buffer for racial stress.

Law is an Episcopalian priest and the founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscope Institute, the mission of which is to create inclusive and sustainable churches and communities.

The conference preacher is Jonathan L. Walton, an acclaimed author, social ethicist and religious scholar. He is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church of Harvard University, as well as a member of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and professor of religion and society at the Harvard Divinity School.

In addition to these leaders, workshops will be led by community activists and other leaders from around the country including Melvin Bray, Andrew Foster Connors, David LaMotte, Diane J. Johnson and Karoline Lewis.

The event is the next installment of Montreat’s Institute of Church Leadership, a yearly conference exploring topics that fall at the intersection of culture and spirituality.

“We are really excited about this conference lineup. We have had a great response to this choice of leadership and topic,” said Tanner Pickett, Montreat’s vice president for sales, marketing and communication. “The Gospel is the unifier of polarized communities. The Gospel calls on our ‘better angels’ to use our power in a way that builds up rather than tears down.”

Pickett said the event is intended for pastors, community and lay leaders, and anyone else interested in exploring topic of institutional power and learning more about more about harnessing it through practices like community organizing.

For more information and to get email updates about the event, please visit

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