Announcing the 2017 Theme and Call for Papers

“Religion, Technology, and the State: Reformations & Transformations.”

At this annual gathering, we will explore the impact of invention and innovation on religion and state policy through the lenses of religious studies, ethics, theology, and history. In 2017, the year of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses and the year of the inauguration of Donald Trump, this theme provides an opportunity for creative, scholarly reflection on both the historic and present interactions between politics and theology, technology and spirituality, and God and national security.

Joining us as this year’s Distinguished Scholar will be the esteemed American religious historian, Dr. Sylvester Johnson, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Religious Studies at Northwestern University. He will present on the topics of “Spirit, Matter, and Machines: Religion and Humanity in a Technological Age” and “Religion and National Security.”

For the conference, we are seeking both individual scholarly papers as well as group panels of interactive discussion or interrelated papers that engage this theme in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:

  • The relationship between politics and religion and the way in which religion and the state have shaped one another at various historical moments

  • The role of technological advances and innovations in transforming religious landscapes

  • Unitarianism, Universalism, and Unitarian Universalism and its interactions with colonialism, conquest, and imperialism

  • As in past years, we welcome any papers or projects that engage your particular interest broadly related to the Unitarian Universalist movement and tradition.

We also welcome alternatives to these standard formats – for example: presentations such as music or art, or other creative work.

Presenters should submit a proposal online at by May 15, 2017. The proposal should include an abstract of 300-500 words and provide an overview of the presentation’s content. It should also include one or two sentences of biographical information about the presenter(s). Notification of whether or not a proposal has been accepted will be given by June 15, 2017. Upon acceptance, participants will receive information on uploading their abstract and information to the Collegium website. For questions, please contact the Program Chairs, Dana Stivers and Natalie Malter,


2017 Meeting

Please join us Thursday, October 19-Saturday, October 21, 2017 for our annual meeting at the Cenacle Retreat and Conference Center in Chicago. From formal papers and panels to informal conversations over meals, we will gather to learn from one another, support each other in our scholarship, and serve Unitarian Universalism. 

Please consider participating by submitting a paper proposal by May 15 or simply attend to listen and dialogue. Registration information coming soon.

Download Call for Papers

Please share the Call for Papers with colleagues, students and friends. You can download a copy here and/or share this link:

2017 Call for Papers

2017 Distinguished Scholar

Joining us as this year’s Distinguished Scholar will be the esteemed American religious historian, Dr. Sylvester Johnson, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Religious Studies at Northwestern University.

Dr. Johnson researches the intersection of religion, race, and colonialism in the Americas and throughout Atlantic geographies (Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas) over the past five centuries. His analysis of this material foregrounds the architecture of racial states and settler colonialism; the colonial formation of what scholars tend to name “modernity,” and the increasing role that the national security paradigm has played in shaping the relationship between religion and the state.

Dr. Johnson is author of three books. Myth of Ham in Nineteenth-Century American Christianity (2004), African American Religions, 1500–2000 (2015), and most recently, The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11 (2017). Dr. Johnson also co-edits the Journal of Africana Religions, which is devoted to publishing transnational, interdisciplinary research on religion within Africa and throughout the global Black diaspora.

Distinguished Scholar Papers

Dr. Johnson's first talk is entitled “Spirit, Matter, and Machines: Religion and Humanity in a Technological Age.” This talk will examine the role of Christian theology in shaping views of human ontology and the challenge that current technology is posing for ethics, religious experience, and human identity.

Dr. Johnson's second talk is entitled “Religion and National Security” and will examine the relationship between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and American Muslims and Christians. This talk will draw from his recent book The FBI and Religion: Faith and National security Before and After 9/11 (2017).