What is Renewal?
The Renewal Conference is Iliff’s annual community gathering to share our work, hear timely messages from a variety of experts, and spend time in fellowship. Each year, we focus on a different overall theme which is relevant to our society in those moments, and each day provides content focused on part of the conference theme. In light of the challenges we are all facing, the theme for this year is “Justice.”
For 2021, we are moving the conference to an online event series to be held in the afternoon on the second Monday of each month, from January through June. For our event series, we will be partnering with faculty, staff, alumni, students, and community members to share how justice powers their work in the world.
Presenter details and registration information will be posted shortly. In the meantime, please save the dates! All events will be held from 1:00 – 2:30 (Mountain).
- Monday, January 25, 2021
- Monday, February 8, 2021
- Monday, March 8, 2021
- Monday, April 12, 2021
- Monday, May 10, 2021
- Monday, June 14, 2021
with Alires Almon and Dr. Philip Butler
Alires Almon is the Partner Director of the Iliff Artificial Intelligence Initiative and is the Director of Innovation at the Mental Health Center of Denver. Alires has a deep passion for the opportunities created by advanced science and technology. She feels it is important to ensure that the social and cultural impacts of technology are addressed as equally as the technical advancements themselves. Along with her work at ai.iliff, Alires is the Director of Innovation for the Mental Health Center of Denver and founder of Deep Space Predictive Research Group, LLC.
Dr. Philip Butler is the Assistant Professor of Theology and Black Posthuman Artificial Intelligence Systems at Iliff. As an academic, Dr. Butler brings an excellent teaching resume and cutting-edge scholarship that combines Black liberation theologies, neuroscience, spirituality and technology, particularly artificial intelligence. He is also the founder of The Seekr Project, which is a distinctly Black conversational artificial intelligence with mental health capacities, combining machine learning and psychotherapeutic systems.
In addition to his publications in the field of theology, philosophy, and science, Dr. Butler is also the author of Black Transhuman Liberation Theology: Technology and Spirituality (Bloomsbury, 2019) in which he investigates what might happen when Black people utilize technological advancements to enhance both Black spiritualities and Black bodies in the struggle of materializing liberating realities.
Moderator: Caran Ware Joseph
Julie Marie Todd is a scholar-activist living in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She is the John Wesley Iliff Senior Lecturer in Justice & Peace Studies at the Iliff School of Theology, teaching all of her courses in online and hybrid formats. A graduate of the DU/Iliff Joint PhD program, her dissertation is available as the book Struggling with (Non)violence. Her scholarship focuses on social change theory and praxis, violence and (non)violence, ecology and earth activism, and matters of privilege, oppression and solidarity across axes of difference. She is a published essayist and poet on matters of justice-seeking and the spiritual life. She is also the author of the books 50: thorns & blossoms and Nothing About Us Without Us: LGBTQ Liberation and the United Methodist Church. She is a trained herbalist and aromatherapist, and the owner of JustJulie.
Spencer LaJoye (they/them) is a folk/pop singer songwriter, violinist, and vocal loop artist in Denver, CO, who believes everyone is made of the good stuff. They make music to remember what it means to be human, to find connection in a time of disconnection, and to feel something in a world gone numbLaJoye was raised on classical music, musical theater, and jazz in Hastings, MI. Their first venture into folk music was an EP produced in Nashville, TN at the Contemporary Music Center. Their first studio album was a solo acoustic project, released with and for their community in Grand Rapids, MI, while earning their B.A. in Religion from Calvin University. Since moving to Denver, CO to be with their wife, LaJoye has written and produced three albums.
LaJoye has an Mdiv from Iliff School of Theology and works as the Artist-in-Residence at Lakewood United Methodist Church. LaJoye also curates a small live music listening room for songwriters called “The Chimney Place” and is passionate about creating sacred space for inspiring empathy through the arts.
Jim Chavez is the executive director of Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF). LAEF is a Colorado-based nonprofit, providing college assistance and guidance to Colorado’s Latino students and their families, including direct scholarship support. Established in 1949, LAEF is Colorado’s oldest Latino nonprofit. Jim has dedicated much of his professional life working for education related causes. As a board member and staff member of Colorado Student Obligation Bond Authority, Jim was instrumental in creating Colorado’s first prepaid college tuition program, which became known as CollegeInvest and then worked across the country to develop and implement numerous state college savings programs or Section 529 plans. Jim is an active member of the community, serving on the boards of many organizations, including Denver Housing Authority, Clayton Early Learning Center and Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Corporation and University of Northern Colorado.
Betsy Lay is the co-founder and owner of Lady Justice Brewing in Aurora, CO. After graduating from the University of Denver in 2004 she began her career working in education-based non-profits, including serving two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA, where she met Kate Power and Jen Cuesta. Together in 2014, the three friends founded the philanthropic Lady Justice Brewing Company. She also holds a Master in Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. In her time off from the brewery, Betsy can be found with a good whiskey, a good book, and a good dog.
Moderators: Rev. Zach Bechtold and Rev. Matt Franks, Bearded Theologians
Dr. Mark Freeland, (Sault St. Marie Anishinabek) Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies/American Indian Studies Program Coordinator at the South Dakota State University, is the first Tinker Visiting Professor for both the 2020-2021 and the 2019-2020 academic years. He regularly Iliff courses during the summer and mentors students and offers public education programs during the fall and winter quarters.
Dr. Amy Erickson is associate professor of Hebrew Bible and the director of the Masters of Theological Studies (MTS) program at the Iliff School of Theology. Erickson teaches a range of courses in biblical interpretation, including The Body and Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible, (Re-)Constructing Identity in the Persian Period, and The Afterlives of Jonah. Her research interests include Hebrew poetry, metaphor theory, theories of identity and constructions of the self, poetic and mythological texts in ancient Near Eastern literature, and the history of interpretation.
Erickson has written articles on Jonah, Job, the Psalms, Zechariah, and Amos for academic journals and edited volumes. She is a regular contributor to The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (de Gruyter), workingpreacher.org and the Huffington Post ON Scripture. She is currently writing a commentary on the book of Jonah and the history of its interpretation for a new series, published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, entitled Illuminations.
An active member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Erickson currently co-chairs the section Megilloth (“Scrolls,” which includes the book of Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther).
Sam Carwyn, Reproductive Health Rights and Justice Educator and Advocate at The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, has dedicated herself to serving her community with her entire professional career spent in the non-profit sector. Sam began her career responding to child abuse and neglect cases, then addressed behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse needs. She taught at the secondary level, primarily within the special education department. For twelve years, she worked part-time assisting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Sam earned a B.S. in child youth and family studies and later obtained an MA in teaching. She’s currently a third-year Masters in Divinity student with Social Transformation as her concentration at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. She is on the church leadership track at UTS and in care for ordination with the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. She is committed to being Christ-like, not just wearing the title of Christian.
Rev. Amanda Henderson joined the Institute of Religion, Politics and Culture at Iliff as its Director in January 2021 after serving more than six years as Executive Director of The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. She is an Ordained Minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a frequent speaker and writer on topics of interfaith understanding, advocacy, and civic engagement, and author of Holy Chaos, Creating Connections in Divisive Times. Amanda is a PhD student in the Joint Doctoral Program at Iliff and DU, with a focus on Religion and Politics.