More blog con goodies

Over at the Progressive Faith Con Blog, we've just posted information about blog con scholarships (the short version: we have a limited pool of funds to disburse to bloggers who want to join us at the Progressive Faith Blog Con but can't afford to do so), so if this kind of thing is interesting to you, check it out.

Meanwhile, our attendee list is growing. Still smallish (our pipe dream is sixty; right now we're at about twenty) but every time someone signs up I get more excited. This is a crazy lot of work to put together, but I think it's going to be a lot of fun, too. Join us.

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Blog con news

The Progressive Faith Blog Con has a new website! Thanks to the css stylings of my friend Kate, the Prog Faith Blog Con has a whole new look.

We have a new FAQ page, which tackles questions like "where is the con again?" (Montclair, NJ) and "where should we stay?" (we have an official con hotel) and "how about bloggers who are shomer Shabbat and can't drive on Saturdays?" (we've arranged for some rooms on-campus for those who need them, and are also looking into homestays with local community members).

We also have a shiny new registration page where you can, as you might expect, register for the con! Two things are noteworthy there. The first is that you can choose which aspects of PFBC programming you want to help out with; we're actively seeking volunteers to help us shape the con, so if you're interested, let us know. The second is that we're asking a $25 advance registration fee (which will go up to $45 the weekend of the con -- incentive to register early.) That fee will cover conference meals (all but Saturday dinner) and registration packet and things like that.

We're maintaining a list of bloggers we know are coming -- so far it's a small list but a really cool one, including people like Reverend Chuck Currie, Mik Moore from JSpot, Pastor Dan from Street Prophets, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow from The Shalom Center.

The con website describes what we think the weekend will entail:

During the first annual Progressive Faith Blog Con we'll talk about the intersection of religion and politics; the roots and branches of our faith traditions; ecumenical and interfaith blogging engagement; and the challenges and blesssings of pluralism. We'll have breakout sessions around faith-tradition, and around meditation, liturgy, and scripture. We'll talk about justice and poverty, about progressive faith activism, and about the religious right...

The conference will be led by and for the community of progressive faith bloggers, and everyone who attends will have the chance to help shape it. Join us!

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Prog Faith Blog Con schedule update

Over at the Progressive Faith Con Blog, I've just posted the current draft of the weekend schedule for the Progressive Faith Blog Con: Conference schedule draft, v2.1.

If you've been wanting to get a sense for what the Progressive Faith Blog Con might look like, click on over! This draft includes our current thinking on what the panels and breakout sessions will be, the bios of the folks we know will be part of the Saturday evening roundtable, and spaces for several worship/prayer/meditation experiences rooted in the traditions of some of the bloggers we know will be there.

What this draft doesn't include, for the most part, are the names of bloggers who will be facilitating or moderating the panels and breakout groups, and creating/leading the prayer and meditation experiences. We'll be drawing on conference attendees to orchestrate these different pieces of programming; our hope is that as the weekend schedule becomes more definite, more bloggers will commit to coming, which will enable us to put the finishing touches on the plans.

So if you're coming and you'd like to help out with something on the schedule, let us know! And if you have thoughts, comments, or suggestions, drop 'em as comments on the PFCB post -- we welcome input of all kinds.

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Progressive Faith Con Blog!

The Progressive Faith Blog Con now has its own blog -- Progressive Faith Con Blog!

It's a group-authored blog; a handful of us on the planning committee will be posting there to keep folks apprised of conference plans. I imagine we'll also post sometimes about faith and politics and the places where they intersect -- and maybe other stuff too, eventually. Blogs tend to evolve.

David (one of my fellow planners, who works at Faith in Public Life) posted a draft panel schedule yesterday. Since then, emails have been flying fast and furious, and it's already a little out of date -- but still worth taking a look at. (For what it's worth, we're talking about swapping out one of these panels, and changing another one, so that our five panel spots will feature two religion-based panels, two politics-based panels, and one tech-based panel...though as David has noted, in an ideal world the divide between religion and politics panels will be a permeable one, because the two subjects inform each other.)

Anyway. Comments and conversation make blogs fun. So if you're thinking about coming to the PFBC, drop a comment and let us know what appeals to you! We'll post a new draft schedule soon; our hope is to have a full schedule -- including ecumenical worship, blogger dinners, panels, and roundtable panelists -- to post by May 1.

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Prog Faith Blog Con panel update

A while back I posted a call for panel ideas for the Progressive Faith Blog Con. I'm delighted with the response; we've brainstormed a terrific list of possible panels. They aggregate loosely into three categories:

Religion and ecumenism

  • Is our religious blogosphere open or closed? Is there communication and community across denominational (or faith) lines, or are we circling the wagons and conversing only with our own?

  • Deep ecumenism in the blogosphere: how can we ensure that our connections with one another go beyond blogrolling and into real dialogue? Do we agree that we want to broaden our religious worlds by connecting with bloggers of other traditions, and if so, how can we enact that in reality? How about connecting with bloggers who share our religious labels, but don't share our approach to our traditions?

  • Scripture study: Many of us use our blogs for scripture study and text discussion. How can we learn from and with one another?

  • Different ways of praying/knowing God; learning more about the rituals and traditions of other faiths.

  • Personal journeys. To religion. To blogging. To progressive politics. To wherever you are now.

  • How/if blogging affects one's career as a religious leader and vice versa.

  • What are some skillful means by which we can engage the "other?" In other words, we've done some talking about progressive bloggers and conservative ones. Our con has been planned as taking an oppositional stance to the (conservative) GodBlogCon. How do we bridge the gap? Is it possible? How do we build the kind of compassionate dialogue we need, or at least can we identify the common grounds/issues on which to start conversations?

  • Links between the progressive religious blogosphere and already existing progressive religious organizations, both new and old. Bloggers obviously need to keep their independence, but building up relationships with staffers at some of these activist organizations could be very fruitful for all involved.

Activism and politics

  • Getting larger, getting louder: Too often the blogosphere seems dominated by liturgical, theological, and political conservatives. How can we get more progressives blogging, and blogging in a way that makes a difference?

  • Religion and activism. How does faith drive political activism? The role of Jews and Christians in the American Civil Rights Movement, for example. Liberation theology in the campaign to end Apartheid in South Africa. Radical Islam as a force in world politics today. Hinduism and Gandhi's legacy. Buddhism and environmentalism.

  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seen through a religious lens. It would be challenging, but also potentially tremendously valuable, to have an interfaith dialogue on this topic.

  • Jeffrey Stout has a thesis that our society is not secularizing in the way fundamentalists fear, but rather that it is asking those folks to deal with the plurality of religious beliefs present in our society. Fundamentalist fears are primarily fear of being displaced, of losing their privilege. How do we observe this dynamic in the blogosphere? Is the dominance of conservative religious bloggers a strategic move to "colonize" as it were another space? How do we bring this issue of plurality and "democratic secularization" (no dominance for one religious tradition) to the broader blogosphere?

  • Religion and Politics - Religion could be viewed simply as those values that bind a community together. By what values are we bound together?

  • Providing a pathway to progressivism - There are many people I am connected to that have a sense something is deeply wrong, but they have no idea how to "get there from here." Further, they may have ideas about progressive politics that are rooted in their training and upbringing, and they would describe progressive thought as "liberal" or wrong morally. How can we provide a path to these women and men?

  • In it for the long haul - It took a particular group of people nearly 40 years (36, to be precise) to gain the lock on power that they now possess. How long are we willing to work? Are we willing to take a series of small, (ironically) progressive steps over several decades to gain a governing coalition?

Blogging and the con itself

  • Technical blogging topics. How to increase site traffic. What's new in blogging. Comparative software. Extending your blog's capabilities. Etc.

  • How to get my voice out there, how to get more exposure, and most of all, how to get paid for some of it!

  • Roundtable discussions for current users based on specific technical blogging topics: e.g., roundtables relating to specific blogging software; a roundtable on CSS; a roundtable on podcasting; etc.

  • How can our blogs, and our network, enrich themselves/itself from good theoretical models about networked communities? Lots of neat and good research on network communities -- how can we use it to enhance our own network of progressive faith bloggers?

  • Finally - it might be helpful to schedule some working groups as to transform energy into action - plan future conferences, develop strategies for collective action, perhaps create an organization of progressive faith bloggers.

As the schedule stands now, we have five panel slots. It'll be tough to limit ourselves to only five of these ideas! If you have more ideas for panels, drop 'em as comments here, soon; we intend to hammer out a rough schedule by the end of this month.

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Progressive Faith Blog Con Carnival!

Progressive Faith Blog-Con 2006 Carnival

It's been a fantastic week in the progressive religious blogosphere, and we've got a great carnival for you today: reflections on worship, practice, religious visibility, social justice, politics, poetry, and more. Here's a sampling of what folks in our extended community have been saying.

(A quick note on how this carnival post came together. Only a couple of people sent me links to posts, so I spent some time reading my aggregator and browsing the Progressive Faith Blog Con blogroll. I wound up choosing eighteen bloggers to highlight this week. In Jewish tradition, the number eighteen represents life; I wish long and happy life to all who read this! And if you'd like to be featured next time, don't forget to email a link to the carnival host...)


Nacho of Woodmoor Village considers watching the Oscars because of Jon Stewart.

Will of Think Buddha offers reviews of Alister McGrath's The Twilight of Atheism and Sam Harris's The End of Faith, "two diametrically opposed surveys of religion, morality and history."

The Feminarian reflects on the nature of Christian worship. "Two concepts in particular 'fence' Christian worship for me," she writes. "[I]t must be Trinitarian, and it must be about, to, and for God."

Reverend Mommy posts about wearing a cross: the whens, wheres, and hows.

This is the first full week of Lent for those in Christian traditions, and that manifested in several blog posts. Even though his post went live a couple of days before this week, I can't resist linking to Real Live Preacher's Ash Wednesday post, which describes how everyone in his church administered ashes to one another (and how his kids clowned around when the service was through). Beautiful and funny and wry.

On a related note, Chris of Even the Devils Believe posts his Homily for the First Sunday in Lent, which is beautiful. He has some powerful things to say about what to give up, and what not to give up, in order to open oneself to the radical teachings of the season.

And Beth of The Cassandra Pages posts about finding hot cross buns in Montreal, and the meaning of Ash Wednesday for her.

Poor Mad Peter of Another Country posts about feeding the hungry, and about need, in Of Hunger. Of Loss. And he continues to explore themes of worship experience, Biblical literalism, and liberal theology in in Strugglng, Part 2.  

Dave at Via Negativa explores litter, found objects, and the natural world in Why I Love Trash. Don't miss the photos that illustrate the post -- I especially like the one of the little toy pony.

Rev. Scott of Boy in the Bands explores Helping small non-Christian congregations with some hymnal suggestions.

The folks at No More Apples explore the increasingly common practice of claiming that God backs one politician or another in Speaking For God.

Andrew of celebrates the spread of progressive values with Jewish Voice for Peace Goes National. You'll find here his usual smart and cogent analysis of the Israeli/Palestinian situation, as well as excitement about the possibility of a new chapter of my neighborhood!

Junaid Afeef at An American Muslim Journal shares A Muslim Layer's Defense of Publishing the Muhammad Cartoons, which was also published at Beliefnet:

I am a Muslim. As a Muslim I am offended, disturbed and dismayed by the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that first appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 and subsequently in numerous European publications. I am also offended by the whole brouhaha that erupted after the cartoons’ publication... Despite my personal feelings about the cartoons, I am helping Acton Gorton, the young man who reprinted some of these same cartoons in the Daily Illini, a newspaper that serves the University of Illinois community in Champaign, Illinois. I am Acton’s attorney...

On a semi-related note, Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam posted recently (not quite within the last week, but it's a great post, so I'm happy to include it) about the Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoons Contest. "Why can’t we talk about it like we talk about any other subject that is important to us? Why can’t we poke fun at the anti-Semites using their own graphic weapons (big noses, horns, the works)? And most of all, why can’t we poke fun at ourselves as Jews have done for millenia?"

And over at Radical Torah, Daniel Burstyn's post Mitzrayim explores how modern liberal Jews can find resonance in the current string of Torah portions despite their challenging subject matter:

It might seem to us that they don't deal with anything having to do with us today, without a sacrificial cult. Most of us don't really pray for the restoration of that cult. It seems primitive, messy. Nevertheless, these parashot are Torah, so we must learn from them, we must find in them points to cling to, stepping stones, just one small outcropping that we can then stretch and shape, until we have found our way inside them and taken ownership. We must examine them until we have found something within them that speaks to us.

The folks at Healing Hagar have posted By the Rivers of Babylon, the latest installment in a series of essays about "recovering from fundamentalism."

Tiel Aisha Ansari of Knocking from Inside posts a poem she describes as "thoughts on the sufficiency of inspiration."

And of course, here at Velveteen Rabbi, I posted a call for panel ideas. If you have thoughts about what we should discuss at the Progressive Faith Blog Con, hop over to that post and let me know!


That's this week's Progressive Faith Blog Con Carnival; thanks for reading. Next week's iteration will be hosted over at Blue Texas, so if you've got posts to submit, let the Blue Texans know.

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Seeking panel ideas

I've just volunteered to be in charge of collecting panel ideas for the Progressive Faith Blog Con. We're working on roughing out a schedule for the weekend now; I'm guessing we'll probably have space for four or five 60- or 90-minute panels, and we'd like to ensure as much topical diversity as we can.

We're operating on the unconference model (here's a good definition); though we hope to put together a Saturday night roundtable with featured guests, most of the con will be planned, led, and created by we who attend. We're all bloggers, after all; we all have things to say, and we know the best conversations arise out of dialogue! Here are some of the panel ideas I'm planning to suggest:

  • Is our religious blogosphere open or closed? Is there communication and community across denominational (or faith) lines, or are we circling the wagons and conversing only with our own?

  • Deep ecumenism in the blogosphere: how can we ensure that our connections with one another go beyond blogrolling and into real dialogue? Do we agree that we want to broaden our religious worlds by connecting with bloggers of other traditions, and if so, how can we enact that in reality? How about connecting with bloggers who share our religious labels, but don't share our approach to our traditions?

  • Scripture study: Many of us use our blogs for scripture study and text discussion. How can we learn from and with one another?

  • Getting larger, getting louder: Too often the blogosphere seems dominated by liturgical, theological, and political conservatives. How can we get more progressives blogging, and blogging in a way that makes a difference?

Our aim is to collect as many panel ideas as we can, and then choose a handful of them to use at the con. So my question for you is, what would you like to discuss? What panels would make you want to be there? What sounds fun to you?

Submit panel ideas as comments on this post; or, if you'd prefer, submit them to me via email.  If you know you can't make it, feel free to chime in anyway. And if you think you might be willing to help moderate one of your suggested panels, let us know that too...

On a semi-related note: though the Progressive Faith Blog Con Carnival usually goes live on Sundays, this week's edition -- hosted here -- will go live tomorrow before Shabbat begins. I've been trawling the blogs on the PFBC blogroll for interesting posts, but if you have a post you want to include, email me soon!

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Prog Faith Blog Con miscellany

Good news; it looks increasingly likely that I will be able to attend the Progressive Faith Blog Con (which I blogged about last week). I'm really looking forward to seeing this idea turn into reality. So expect a handful of PFBC posts from me; now that we have a date and a venue (and I think I can make it), my excitement about the con has ratcheted up a few notches!

We'd like to make the conference free to participants (aside from the costs of room and board). With an eye to that goal, we're trying to raise $630 (the cost of the conference space and the free wifi we'll be making available to bloggers there over the weekend); if we can raise that money, the con can be free to all comers, which I think exemplifies the all-are-welcome, no-bar-to-entry ethos of the blogosphere.

If you'd like to donate toward that worthy cause, ping Thurman and let him know. We haven't jumped through the hoops of setting up a tax-exempt corporation for the con yet; if it's the success we're hoping for, and becomes an annual event (moving around the country; since Thurman and I are both expatriate Texans we're already contemplating holding the second one there in '07), we'll probably incorporate. For now, donations go to Thurman, who's handling the con's finances.

On a related note, there's a roving blog carnival attached to the Progressive Faith Blog Con, called (predictably) the Progressive Faith Blog Con Carnival. (Here's the current edition of the carnival; a list of previous installments is available here.)

I'm this week's host, so I'm collecting links to include in the next edition of the carnival (which usually goes live on Sundays, though my edition will go live on Friday before Shabbat begins). If you have a post you'd like to see included, email me by Thursday (with "carnival post" in the subject header.) Please include the post's title, URL, and a line or two of description; thank you!

Progressive Faith Blog-Con 2006 Carnival

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Progressive Faith Blog Con

Earlier this year there was a conference called GodBlogCon. I count myself a godblogger, so naturally, I was intrigued...until I poked around their website and discovered that it was focused solely on Christian bloggers. (It also sounds like the political slant of the conference was pretty conservative.) "Oh well," thought I. "Too bad there isn't something like that for people like me."

I'm not sure I would have given the matter much more thought had I not gotten a note a few weeks ago from Thurman Hart, who blogs over at XPatriated Texan. He's a liberal Christian blogger who, you guessed it, originally hails from my birthstate, and he had a question for me: would I be interested in working on a bloggercon for progressive bloggers of faith?

Would I ever!

We've been exchanging emails ever since, and we've gotten a few of our friends and colleagues involved in the early conversation -- Gordon Atkinson of Real Live Preacher, Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center, Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Baptist,  Andrew Schamess of Now we want to involve you, too.

Progressive Faith Blog Con is still in the planning stages, but here's what we know so far: we'd like to hold it in 2006, somewhere in New York or New England. We want to design something that will appeal to liberal bloggers from a variety of faiths and traditions. We're envisioning a weekend of events: optional ecumenical worship, a keynote speaker or two, and panel discussions led by progressive godbloggers, for progressive godbloggers, about subjects we can brainstorm together as the planning coalesces.

What we don't yet have is a place or a date. We've been talking about the weekend of March 3-5, but we're reluctant to set our hearts on any particular weekend until we have a place to congregate. But while we work on those logistics, we'd love to broaden the conversation; we want to know whether this sounds like fun to other folks, and if so, what those other folks want the conference to be.

If you want to learn more, tell us how to find you and we'll be in touch soon. Tell us what would make you want to be there. If this is exciting to you, please help us spread the word; feel free to repost this information far and wide. And hey, if you happen to know of a venue that might want to host something like this -- especially one that might be inclined to let us in for free, given the nobility of our enterprise -- do let us know.

Blogging has many joys, among them the opportunity to form connections across great distances and differences. If you're a liberal blogger of faith, help us create a chance to turn our virtual community into one that exists in the physical world too. I can't wait to see what we can build together.

Progressive Faith Blog-Con 2006

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