Conference on Poverty Brings Together Diverse Voices
May 31–June 1, 2013 • On Campus • Summer Program
In keeping with its mission to serve Christ through theological research and its vision to be a premier center for Orthodox Christian scholarship, St. Vladimir’s Seminary brought together a diverse group of thoughtful and dynamic presenters at its Conference on Poverty last week. Speakers and panelists explored a variety of spiritual, socio-economic, legal, political, and cultural factors that can cause and cure impoverished conditions, and provided incisive discourse about wealth and scarcity, and money and morality.
“It is so very important to take a fresh look at the poverty questions: to challenge the status quo, to listen to diverse opinions, to gather and hear one another, and to strive to improve where we have failed,” noted seminary Chancellor/CEO The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, as he introduced the conference. “We are here to look at the human cost of poverty.” Father Chad organized the event, which was co-hosted with the Acton Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to “integrating Judeo-Christian truths with free market principles.”
The conference was offered as a tribute to Dn. John Zarras, seminary alumnus (M.Div. '06) and trustee, and president of St. Vladimir's Seminary Foundation, who fell asleep in the Lord in 2012. Dn. John himself had hoped to organize the conference on poverty, and in anticipation of it had selected Dr. Jay W. Richards as its keynote speaker.
Dr. Richards, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and author of Money, Greed, and God, indeed fulfilled Dn. John’s wish by opening the conference with a presentation titled “How to Alleviate Widespread Poverty.” In his talk, he outlined 10 necessary socio-economic conditions that he believes help create wealth and ameliorate poverty. He also emphasized, “Christians should take it as a non-negotiable tenet that we are supposed to be concerned about the poor: God cares and we should too. When we encounter those in need, we are encountering the Lord Himself.”
Other speakers included:
· Michael Matheson Miller, a Research Fellow at Acton Institute and Director of PovertyCure, who spoke about human trafficking and human rights violations, and about small-to-medium enterprises as a solution to poverty, in his talk “From Aid to Enterprise” ; and
· The Rev. Dr. Philip LeMasters, professor of Religion and Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Religion, McMurry University, and a St. Vladimir’s Seminary trustee, who presented a view from the church fathers about poverty in his lecture “Fasting and the Poor,” in which he encouraged Christians to embrace a more moderate lifestyle as a means of loving God and neighbor, and as a path to spiritual healing and purification.
A concluding presentation entitled “What Is Social Justice in the Orthodox Christian Context?” sparked lively discussion among participants, and was led by a panel of Orthodox Christians:
· Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, seminary alumnus, Three Hierarchs Chapel member, and coordinator of St. Vladimir's 2020 strategic plan, who also is Associate General Secretary for Faith and Order and Interfaith Relations of the National Council of Churches of Christ, USA;
· Seminary Trustee Dr. Nicholas Pandelidis, a physician with a special interest in the nexus between health care and poverty;
· Subdeacon Paul Abernathy, director of FOCUS (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve) Pittsburgh, with a special interest in urban outreach and Orthodox Christian dialogue with the spiritual tradition of African-Americans; and
· John Couretas, Acton Institute’s Director of Communications and member of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Grand Rapids, MI.
Listen to podcasts of the Poverty Conference in the Voices from St. Vladimir’s section of Ancient Faith Radio