Friday, October 6, 2023 - 2:30pm to Saturday, October 7, 2023 - 7:30pm
Goodson Chapel, Duke Divinity School (Map)
Theology, Medicine, and Culture

The Theology, Medicine, and Culture (TMC) Initiative at Duke Divinity School will host its annual conference, Practice & Presence: A Gathering for Christians in Health Care. Practice & Presence helps health care practitioners imagine and engage their vocations with clarity, faith, and joy.

From Friday afternoon through Saturday evening, nurses, physicians, therapists, students, chaplains, and other health care practitioners will gather:

  • To tune their eyes and hearts to see how God is present in their work in health care
  • To engage scripture, theology, and Christian history—open to how their imaginations and practices might be transformed
  • To grow in friendship with one another in the context of shared meals, conversation, prayer, and worship
  • To restreflect, and respond to God’s love for them and for this world.

Why Theology Matters in Health Care

This year's theme for Practice & Presence is "Why Theology Matters in Health Care." When Jesus healed, he reversed disorder and decay, liberated people from hostile powers, and restored them to relationship in community. Modern health care tends to focus only on the first of these, seeking to reverse disorder through technical fixes. How might those who inhabit modern health care look towards Jesus’ pattern of healing, and to Christian theology more broadly, to enrich and renew their work? Participants will explore together why theology matters for health care and look to Jesus to renew their vocations to healing.

Visit the Practice & Presence website to learn more.

Plenary Conversations

Devan Stahl & Brett McCarty

Friday, October 6 at 3:00 p.m.

Devan Stahl is an Associate Professor of Religion and Bioethics at Baylor University. She specializes in bioethics and disability ethics and works as a clinical ethicist consultant for the Baylor, Scott, and White Health System. Her latest book, Disability’s Challenge to Theology: Genes, Eugenics, and the Metaphysics of Modern Medicine (Notre Dame Press) develops a Christian response to genetic technologies using the insights of disability scholars.

Brett McCarty is a theological ethicist whose work centers on questions of faithful action within healthcare. He is associate director of the Theology, Medicine, and Culture Initiative at Duke Divinity School, and he holds a joint appointment in the School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health Sciences. Professor McCarty is also a faculty fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics and a faculty associate of the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine. His publications include essays in The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, and the compilation Spirituality and Religion within the Practice of Medicine. His research and teaching interests occur at the intersections of bioethics, political theology, public health, and theological anthropology. His current research projects focus on competing conceptions of agency within the modern hospital, religious responses to the opioid crisis, and historical and contemporary connections between Christian bioethics and political theology.

John Swinton & Farr Curlin

Friday, October 6 at 6:15 p.m. 

John Swinton is Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care and Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen. For more than a decade he worked as a registered mental health nurse. He also worked for a number of years as a hospital and community mental health Chaplain alongside of people with severe mental health challenges who were moving from the hospital into the community. In 2004, he founded the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability. He has published widely within the area of mental health, dementia, disability theology, spirituality and healthcare, qualitative research and pastoral care. He is the author of a number of monographs including: Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness and Gentle Discipleship (Baylor Press,  2017), Finding Jesus in the Storm: The spiritual lives of people with mental health challenges. (Eerdmans 2020)  and Dementia: Living in the memories of God (Eerdmans, 2012). In 2022, John became chaplain to the Queen of England.

Farr Curlin is a hospice and palliative care physician who joined Duke University in January 2014 where he holds joint appointments in the School of Medicine, including the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine, and in Duke Divinity School, including the Initiative on Theology, Medicine, and Culture. He works with Duke colleagues to foster scholarship, study, and training regarding the intersections of medicine, ethics, and religion. After graduating from medical school, he completed internal medicine residency training and fellowships in both health services research and clinical ethics at the University of Chicago before joining its faculty in 2003. Dr. Curlin’s empirical research charts the influence of physicians’ moral traditions and commitments, both religious and secular, on physicians’ clinical practices. As an ethicist, he addresses questions regarding whether and in what ways physicians’ religious commitments ought to shape their clinical practices in a plural democracy. Dr. Curlin and colleagues have authored numerous manuscripts published in medicine and bioethics literature, including a New England Journal of Medicine paper titled, “Religion, Conscience and Controversial Clinical Practices.” He is particularly concerned with the moral and spiritual dimensions of medical practice and the doctor-patient relationship, and with the moral and professional formation of physicians. His areas of expertise are medicine, medical ethics, doctor-patient relationship, religion and medicine, and conscience. At the University of Chicago, Dr. Curlin founded and was co-director of the Program on Medicine and Religion.

C. Kavin Rowe & Emmy Yang

Saturday, October 7 at 9:45 a.m.

C. Kavin Rowe is the Vice Dean of the Faculty and the George Washington Ivey Distinguished Professor of New Testament. The first of three volumes of his collected essays has recently been published as Leading Christian Communities (Eerdmans, 2023). He is the author of four other books: Christianity’s Surprise: A Sure and Certain Hope (Abingdon, 2020), One True Life: the Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions (Yale University Press, 2016), World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age (Oxford University Press, 2009, paperback 2010), and Early Narrative Christology (de Gruyter, 2006, repr. Baker Academic, 2009). He has published dozens of articles and essays, and co-edited The Word Leaps the Gap (Eerdmans, 2008) and Rethinking the Unity and Reception of Luke and Acts (University of South Carolina Press, 2010). He is on the editorial board of several international peer-review journals and has also frequently written articles for

Rowe has been a Fulbright Scholar, Regional Scholar for the Society of Biblical Literature, chair of the Society’s Southeastern Region New Testament section, president of the Society’s Southeastern Region, and was elected to the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas. He was awarded a Lilly Faculty Fellowship, a Christian Faith and Life Grant from the Louisville Institute, the John Templeton Prize for Theological Promise, the Paul J. Achtemeier Award, and a Distinguished Scholars grant from the McDonald Agape Foundation.

Emmy Yang is an internal medicine resident at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a graduate of Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai. As a medical student, she completed a Master of Theological Studies as a TMC Fellow at Duke Divinity School. Her thesis focused on “a theological exploration of time and implications on medicine and care for the elderly.” She has published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, CMDA Today, and Christianity Today and has been recognized for her patient-centered care with induction into the Gold Humanism Honorary Society. She is constantly humbled by the practice of medicine and the friends and mentors she has met through TMC.

Wylin Wilson & Warren Kinghorn

Saturday, October 7 at 6:15 p.m.

Wylin Wilson’s work lies at the intersection of religion, gender, and bioethics. Her academic interests also include rural bioethics and Black church studies. Prior to joining Duke Divinity School in 2020, she was a teaching faculty member at the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics and a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. She has also served as a visiting lecturer and research associate at the Harvard Divinity School Women’s Studies in Religion Program. Professor Wilson is the former associate director of Education at the Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, and a former faculty member in the College of Agriculture, Environment, and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama. Professor Wilson served on the Mount Auburn Hospital Ethics Committee in Cambridge, Mass., the advisory board for the Rural Child Hunger Summit, and as a volunteer spiritual caregiver for Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services in Somerville, Mass. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion’s Bioethics and Religion Program Unit Steering Committee. Among her publications is her book, Economic Ethics and the Black Church.

Warren Kinghorn is a psychiatrist whose work centers on the role of religious communities in caring for persons with mental health problems and on ways in which Christians engage in practices of modern health care. Jointly appointed within Duke Divinity School and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of Duke University Medical Center, he is co-director of the Theology, Medicine, and Culture Initiative and is a staff psychiatrist at the Durham VA Medical Center. He has written on the moral and theological dimensions of combat trauma and moral injury, on the moral and political context of psychiatric diagnosis, and on the way that St. Thomas Aquinas’ image of the human as a wayfarer might inform contemporary practices of ministry and mental health care.