2013 Annual Conference

February 19-21, 2013
Canterbury Retreat Center
Oviedo (Orlando), Florida

Keynote speaker Dr. Thomas G. Long is the Bandy Professor of Preaching at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he coordinates the Initiative in Religious Practices and Practical Theology.

Long spoke on "Preaching at the Intersections of Faith, Suffering, and Hope."
Long engaged attendees in dynamic interactive participation during five sessions.  As an early member of the Academy after seminary graduation in the early 1970’s, Long quickly connected with the experiences and interests of his listeners.

“We are like preachers in a windstorm,” Long suggested, as he characterized our era: hemorrhaging membership in our congregations, institutional structures under stress, clergy demoralized.  In just such uncomfortable times, Long invited his listeners to speak in a variety of tongues: the languages of disruption, of wisdom, of enchantment, of embodiment, and of hopeful lament.  “God is tearing us down in order to build something new,” he emphasized with positive tone.


The main heresy in American spirituality today is superficiality, Long contended.  The antidote is a gospel announcing the reign of God that challenges all of our orientations and assumptions.  Our preaching needs to encourage the exchange of allegiance from the kingdoms of this world to that of God.  Creeds become navigational beacons that can be signposts to deep wisdom.


We are preaching into multiple forms of secularity, Long said, which demand that we get more energetic about an eventful exegesis of the biblical text—nothing excites more than having something exciting to say, an eruptive, acoustical event such as Jesus modeling greatness by inviting a child into his inner circle (Matthew 18:1ff).


Like Augustine of Hippo, twenty-first century preachers do well to acquire and speak in multiple languages in the pulpit, Long encouraged.  A congregation is made up of multiple constituencies gathered in a single room: differing ages, genders, educational levels.  Try different modes of preaching even as you recall various moods of the gospel.  Against resistance to the ultimate disenchantment of our world, find and celebrate those places in life that spill over the top, that overflow.


What do listeners need to know as your sermon unfolds? Long asked.  Listeners need to know what the message is about; this clarification becomes a passive promise—something to listen for, as well as listen to.  They need to follow the logic of the sermon, to be able to follow the flow; transitions need to be like hinges. Listeners need illustrations: analogies, metaphors, stories. They need a sense of ending related to the sermon’s function: cognitive, affective, behavioral. They need variety for the sake of the whole people of God.