What does the Bible and Lutheran theology have to say regarding boundaries, borders, walls—especially vis a vis humanity’s relationship with God, God’s creation, fellow Homo sapiens, and our own inner spirit/souls/selves?



Keynote speaker Dr. David Lose, President of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, will lead us into the deep well of biblical worldview and Lutheran theology as we consider challenges facing the planet, humanity, the church, college students, campus ministers, seminaries, and diverse communities in 2016.

As an introduction to his time with us, Dr. Lose recommends that conference participants read Andrew Root’s book “The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as the Way of Church.”


Iftikar photo

Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and senior editor of The Islamic Monthly magazine as well as a prominent media commentator on Islam and Muslims. His newest book is Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms.   President Jimmy Carter had this to say after reading Scapegoats:“… is an important book that shows Islamophobia must be addressed urgently. Violence or hate speech against any community based on their faith is un-American and is against our founding principles.”



Nicole Newman is a native the Washington DC area and a proud graduate of Trinity University (Washington DC)  with a degree in Political Science. She is also an AmeriCorps Vista Alumna. Nicole has spent time working at local non-profits getting hands on experience in providing services, building coalitions, coordinating volunteers, working in development and community organizing. She also co-founded a consulting group, called Power and People which helps organizations use the tools of community organizing to create more equitable people focused organizations. She trains and facilitates conversations for churches and groups and has developed a curriculum called “5 Tips to Respectfully Engaging Communities”. She is a poet and believes in the power of the arts to transforms lives and communities. 



 Andrew Steele’s passion for service was born while attending Wittenberg University and deepened during his YAGM (ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission) year. He worked as a Seniors Gifts Officer for the United Way and now serves as the Director for ELCA Global Church Sponsorship after serving as Manager of Donor Relations for the Campaign for the ELCA.  He  is responsible for a Campaign revenue goal of $33 million which includes support for missionaries, YAGMs, global projects and international scholars.  Andrew continues to serve United Way as a member of the Board of Directors for United Way North-Northwest and Chair of its Young Leaders Society Associate Board. He also serves as a member of the Wheat Ridge Ministries and Friends of Lesotho Board of Directors.  Andrew loves the outdoors, is an avid golfer and a fan of all Philadelphia sports teams.



Rev. Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen is the Dean of Gettysburg Seminary  She teaches a variety of theological loci courses, with a particular focus on soteriology. She also teaches comparative theology, and specializes in Buddhism and Hinduism. She is committed to the training of public theologians at Gettysburg Seminary, and believes strongly in the relevance of systematic theology both to one’s public ministry and to one’s personal faith life.

She is the editor of Dialog: a Journal of Theology, and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue.  She is the author of What Christians Can Learn from Buddhism: Rethinking Salvation (Fortress Press); Baby Krishna, Infant Christ: A Comparative Theology of Salvation (Orbis Books) and Finding God among Our Neighbors: An Interfaith Systematic Theology (Fortress Press).  She loves running, reading, and playing the harp. They have one very sweet Jack Russell Terrier, Henry.



Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard (Rt.) is Lutheran World Relief’s President and CEO.

A former U.S. Ambassador to Greece and Belarus, Speckhard has had a long and distinguished career in government service under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Ambassador Speckhard’s previous positions have included serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary General at NATO and Deputy Chief of Mission in Iraq; he has also served as a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Immediately prior to joining LWR, he was a senior advisor to Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley company at the forefront of using technology to drive innovative change across the government, commercial and non-profit sectors.

A descendant of a long line of Lutheran pastors, Ambassador Speckhard says his Lutheran upbringing instilled in him a strong core value of service to others, and a deep desire to contribute to alleviating poverty, suffering and injustice in the world.

A problem solver, a negotiator, a consensus builder and a visionary, Ambassador Speckhard brings to LWR deep experience working at the nexus of economic development, international security and political change, areas closely linked to LWR’s mission to serve people experiencing poverty and marginalization overseas.

Speckhard has a master’s degree in economics, a master’s degree in public policy and administration, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and started his career in government as a Presidential Management Fellow.



Bianca Vazquez has been at the Steinbruck Center at Luther Place since August of 2011 and serves as the Program Director. Bianca graduated from Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, MD. During her time there, she was active in Loyola’s Alternative Break Program and was left with the conviction that educational trips for students should benefit the communities that host them. She also serves as the Co-Coordinator for the ELCA Organizing for Mission Cohort, a professional development network for pastors who are using the arts of community organizing to engage in congregational development and neighborhood justice work. Bianca is committed to facilitating transformative service and educational experiences, reimagining what volunteering and community engagement can look like, and idea of churches as vital neighborhood institutions committed to economic justice and racial equity.