The Lenoir-Rhyne University Institute for Faith and Learning will open its 2019-20 speaker series with a presentation by Mary Elise Lowe Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. in Grace Chapel in Hickory. The event is free and open to the public.

A frequent lecturer and author of numerous articles and books, Lowe’s presentation titled, “A Queer Theology of Vocation,” will highlight how Martin Luther taught that every individual had a vocation to serve God and neighbor. However, she notes, many models of vocation often exclude LGBTQI persons because of traditional stereotypes about family, work and identity. Drawing from Lutheran theology, biblical studies and queer theory, Lowe proposes a more inclusive understanding of vocation that honors the calls and gifts of all persons.

An independent scholar, Lowe is associate professor of religion at Augsburg University in Minneapolis. Her teaching, research and writing focus on contemporary theologies, LGBTQI theologies, the theology of Martin Luther, and disability theologies. Lowe earned a doctorate from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, Calif., and a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

Richard Beck will speak Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, at 7 p.m. in Grace Chapel.

A professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Abilene Christian University, Beck is a sought-after speaker and an award-winning blogger and author. His most recent book is “Stranger God: Meeting Jesus in Disguise” and his next book “Trains, Jesus and Murder: The Gospel According to Johnny Cash” is set for release in November 2019. Every Monday evening, Beck leads a Bible class for 50 inmates at the maximum security French Robertson unit and has written and spoken extensively about his experiences working in a prison.

Beck earned a doctorate in experimental psychology from Southern Methodist University. He received both his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Abilene Christian University.

Eboo Patel will speak Thursday, April 23, 2020, at 7 p.m. at P.E. Monroe Auditorium.

As founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, a national nonprofit working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm, Patel is the author of “Acts of Faith,” “Sacred Ground,” “Interfaith Leadership,” and “Out of Many Faiths.” For more than 15 years, Patel has worked with governments, social sector organizations and college and university campuses to help realize a future where religion is a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division. Named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Patel served on President Obama’s inaugural Faith Council.

Patel holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship.

For more information, visit or contact Jonathan Schwiebert, LR professor of religious studies, at or call 828.328.7184.

The Lenoir-Rhyne University Institute for Faith and Learning speaker series invites prominent religious figures and authors to share their work and beliefs with audiences at LR and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. The IFL, in conjunction with the Academy for Faith and Leadership at LTSS, endeavors to provide programming that contributes to and enriches a culture of the intellect that is theologically based. Its programs are directed to Christians of all traditions.

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