Wednesday, May 17, 2023 - 8:00am to Friday, May 19, 2023 - 8:00pm
Duke Divinity School
Valerie Helbert
(919) 660-3594

Come expand your theological imagination, grapple with practical problems, and continue a journey of reconciliation within a wider community at Duke Divinity School's Summer Institute for Reconciliation. At this annual event, the focus on reconciliation is grounded in a distinctively Christian vision and a framework that is richly practical, contextual, and theological.

Rooted in Duke Divinity School’s conviction that reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel, the institute draws on the strengths of a faculty of world-class scholars and practitioners. Since God’s ministry of reconciliation is entrusted to all Christians, the institute is designed to cultivate leaders who “carry the marks of Jesus” on their body (Galatians 6:17). These cross-shaped or cruciform reconcilers will have a robust vision and practice of Christian reconciliation that is faithful to the scriptural witness, discerning of the times, and sensitive to the life of the church.

The institute centers on content with a biblical vision of reconciliation that inspires a movement of transformed communities and relationships. This formation of communities is nurtured by each other’s witness that Christ is strengthening us to the end and affirming us so that we do not “lack any spiritual gift” in our life together (1 Corinthians 1:4-9). As an integral part of the Divinity School and rooted in a Christian vision of God’s ministry of reconciliation, the institute aims to serve the academy, the church, and the world.

Institute Overview

The Summer Institute for Reconciliation in 2023 will take place in person on the Duke Divinity campus.

This year's institute will consist of three full days of engagement. Each day will include worship, daily plenary sessions (Common Journey), interactive discussion, Q&A portions, and workshops on reconciliation, transformation, and justice.

The formation that takes place at the Summer Institute for Reconciliation builds on critical questions that frame our content and design. These questions address the heart of the journey of reconciliation. Our methodology, “Word Made Flesh,” explores the theological, contextual, and practical dimensions of this movement of hope and liberation. This year, in alignment with Duke University's re-commitment to addressing climate change, plenary speakers will also be invited to consider how/where their work intersects with climate change, and to examine how/where faith communities have a place in practices of transformation and reconciliation.

The questions being explored in our Common Journey:

  • New Creation — “Reconciliation toward what end?” — This is a question about the goal, so this first day anchors us in our destination. Where does this journey end? This question invites the participant to form a scriptural imagination of the gift of new creation.
  • Lament  —  “Where are we and how did we get here?” — This is a question of context, which seeks to get to a clearer understanding of the specific challenges through seeing, naming, and standing in the brokenness. How has the past shaped the present? This question invites the participant to develop the gift and discipline of lament.
  • Hope & Liberation“What does liberation look like?” — This is a question of process, which highlights models, stories, and experiments that sustain a new future. We understand liberation and reconciliation to be concurrent processes. Where can we see signs pointing toward liberation? The question invites the participant into a vision, imagination, and capacity for hope leading toward liberation and reconciliation.

The Summer Institute for Reconciliation is intended for:

  • Pastors with a desire for their congregations to become communities that live out alternatives to the destructive conflicts and social divisions that fragment our world
  • Christians who are committed to the ongoing training and equipping of others, who inspire and support people to become ambassadors of God’s movement of hope
  • Grass-roots ministers and Christians living and working among the suffering and marginalized 
  • College, university, and seminary faculty and administrators training young Christians to live in the way of the Kingdom
  • Denominational and organizational leaders seeking to guide their organizations into new practices that enable the flourishing of communities living out God’s vision of peace and justice
  • Every follower of Jesus Christ seeking to become an ambassador of God’s healing and wholeness


Daily Schedule

8:30-9:00 a.m.     Worship

9:15-11:45 a.m.   Common Journey Plenary Session

Each morning, the Summer Institute for Reconciliation includes a plenary talk  given by preeminent scholars and practitioners in the fields of Christian theology, reconciliation and transformation.  Plenary speakers use scriptural interpretation, theology, and story-telling to weave a rich tapestry of reflection that is theological, contextual, and practical. Plenary sessions include time for Q&A with these scholars and practitioners.

  • Wednesday: New Creation with speakers Dr. Warren Smith and Dr. Norbert Wilson
  • Thursday: Lament with speakers Dr. Anathea Portier-Young and Dr. Ben Chavis
  • Friday: Hope & Liberation with speakers Dr. Laura Yoder and Fr. Jacek Orzechowski

12:00-1:00 p.m.   Lunch Break

1:15-2:45 p.m.     Break Out Session I

  • There will be several 90 minute sessions to choose from during this time

3:00-4:30 or 5 p.m.     Break Out Session II

  • There will be several 90 minute sessions or a 2 hour session to choose from during this time

5:10-5:30 p.m.     Worship

5: 45- 7:00 p.m.    Optional events

  • Fetzer Lecture and Reception (Wednesday)
  • Closing Celebration and Reception (Friday )
    • These events are not included in the institute registration fee. An additional fee may apply. Attendance can be confirmed when registering.

Institute Speakers

More speaker bios will be added as they are available.

 2023 Institute Speakers

Jonathan C. "Jay" AugustineDr. JJonathan C. Augustine

Dr. Jonathan “Jay” C. Augustine is a reconciliation scholar, ordained minister, and professor. In addition to serving as senior pastor of St. Joseph AME Church in Durham, North Carolina, and as national chaplain of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., he is also a missional strategist with the Duke Center for Reconciliation and a professor at North Carolina Central University Law School. Augustine often speaks on topics related to race, reconciliation, diversity, and inclusion and has received numerous national awards and recognition for his work in civil rights and social justice. He is also the author of two recent books: Called to Reconciliation: How the Church Can Model Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion (Baker Academic, 2022) and When Prophets Preach: Leadership and the Politics of the Pulpit (Fortress Press, 2023).

Augustine will lead a break out session on Calling the Church to Civil Reconciliation.

Vilma "Nina" BalmacedaDr. Nina Balmaceda

Dr. Vilma "Nina" Balmaceda is a scholar-practitioner whose work focuses on civic leadership development and education for peace and reconciliation. In addition to serving as associate director for the Center for Reconciliation, Nina is president of Peace and Hope International, a nonprofit that works through local organizations in Latin America to prevent and confront violence and other forms of injustice against the most vulnerable.  Nina served previously as graduate dean at the Center for Interdisciplinary Theological Studies, CETI Continental.

Balmaceda will be a host throughout the institute and will lead break out sessions on Restorative Circles.

Ben Chavis, Jr. Rev. Dr. Ben Chavis, Jr

Rev. Dr. Ben Chavis, Jr. is an entrepreneur, global business leader, educator, chemist, civil rights leader, NAACP Life Member, syndicated columnist, theologian, and author. A lifelong activist Dr. Chavis overcame racial injustice and wrongful imprisonment to become a vocal leader in the civil rights movement, which pressed for equality between the races. Dr. Chavis is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.  Dr. Chavis received a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from University of North Carolina. He later earned his Masters of Divinity from Duke University while serving an unjust 34-year prison sentence as a member of the Wilmington 10. This case garnered international attention, and he was pardoned 40 years later. He also received a Doctor of Ministry, from Howard University and Doctor of Philosophy in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York. Dr. Chavis has authored books and other publications including: An American Political Prisoner Appeals for Human Rights, Psalms from Prison. His areas of expertise include corporate diversity and inclusion, human rights, climate change, voting rights, bridging the gap between civil rights and hip-hop, and criminal justice reform.

Chavis will be a plenary speaker on Thursday, May 18.

Edgardo Colón-Emeric  Dr. Edgardo Colón-Emeric

Dr. Edgardo Colón-Emeric is the Dean of Duke Divinity School, the Irene and William McCutchen Associate Professor of Reconciliation and Theology, and the director of the Center for Reconciliation. Colón-Emeric’s work explores the intersection of Methodist and Catholic theologies, and Wesleyan and Latin American experiences. His teaching covers a broad range of theological areas: systematics, Wesleyan theology, ecumenism, and Latin American theology. His research brings theologians like Thomas Aquinas and Hans Urs von Balthasar into conversation with voices from the theological periphery like Bartolomé de las Casas and Saint Óscar Romero, guided by the conviction that Christian theology sounds best when it is symphonic. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Colón-Emeric was the first Latino to be ordained as an elder in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and was the founding pastor of Cristo Vive UMC in Durham, N.C.

Colón-Emeric will be a host during the institute.

Valerie HelbertValerie Helbert

Valerie Helbert is a program coordinator for the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. She earned an M.A. in conflict transformation in 2008 from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. Before moving to Durham, Valerie worked on the staff of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at CJP for eight years. She currently serves as a DurhamCares board member and believes in living into the scriptural call to “love our neighbors.”

Helbert will be a host throughout the institute.

Ryan Juskus

Dr. Ryan JustkusDr. Ryan Juskus is an Environmental Fellow with High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton University. He received a Ph.D. in Religion from Duke University, where his research focused on Christian responses to environmental injustice, and he serves as the vice chair of the board of director of Peace and Hope International, an organization that works in Latin America alongside individuals, families and communities in poverty, so that they can live with dignity, free from violence and injustice.

Juskus will lead a break out session on Environmental Justice.

Anathea Portier-YoungDr. Anathea Portier-Young

Dr. Thea Portier-Young is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School. She specializes in second temple Jewish literature, with special attention to early Jewish apocalypses, testaments, and novellas from the third through first centuries BCE. Her other research interests include prophecy, embodiment, incarceration, identity, sexuality, gender, and ethnicity, and traditions of violence and nonviolence in Old Testament and other early Jewish literature. Her book Apocalypse Against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism (Eerdmans, 2011) views the first Jewish apocalypses as literature of resistance to imperial domination and hegemony. Her second book, Prophecy in the Body (in progress), argues for the centrality of embodied experience, action, and reception within ancient Israelite and Judean prophecy. She is co-editor of the forthcoming volume Scripture and Justice (Lexington Press). Portier-Young has published scholarly articles on violence in biblical literature, apocalyptic literature and imagination, and on the books Daniel, Judges, Esther, Tobit, 1 Enoch, Testament of Job, Joseph and Aseneth, and 1 Corinthians. She writes regularly for the website

Portier-Young will be a plenary speaker on Thursday, May 18.

Natasha Sistrunk RobinsonNatasha Sistrunk Robinson

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy (2002), former United States Marine Corps Captain, and former federal government employee of the Department of Homeland Security. A doctorate candidate at North Park Theological Seminary, Natasha is also a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Charlotte (cum laude, M.A. Christian Leadership). Having published more than 100 articles, Natasha writes to equip readers in their pursuits of leadership, mentorship, discipleship, racial equity, and systemic justice. Her publications include Journey to Freedom: Exodus Bible study, editor of the Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness & Hope in a World Longing for Justice (featuring essays, poems, and liturgies by 29 Women of Color on Psalm 37), a memoir,A Sojourner’s Truth: Choosing Freedom and Courage in a Divided World, Mentor for Life:Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship and its accompanying leader’s training manual, and the Hope for Us Nicene Creed Bible study. Natasha is also host of A Sojourner’s Truth: Conversations for a Changing Culture podcast.

She is also the Visionary Founder and Chairperson of the North Carolina-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Leadership LINKS, Inc., where she cultivates an intergenerational and multi-ethnic Network of leaders who are committed to mentoring and raising up the next generation of leaders, while using their skills and resources for the greater good of humanity.

Robinson will lead a break out session on Women of Color Leading Churches in Lament

J. Warren SmithJ Warren Smith

Dr. J. Warren Smith, Professor of Historical Theology at Duke Divinity School, is interested in the history of theology broadly conceived from the apostles to the present, but his primary focus is upon patristic theology. His books include: Passion and Paradise: Human and Divine Emotion in the Thought of Gregory of Nyssa (Crossroad, 2004) , Christian Grace and Pagan Virtue: The Theological Foundation of Ambrose's Ethics (Oxford, 2010), and Ambrose, Augustine, and the Pursuit of Greatness (Cambridge, 2020). Dr. Smith is a United Methodist minister from the North Carolina Annual Conference.

Smith will be a plenary speaker on Wednesday, May 17.

Yvette Pressley

Dr. Yvette Pressley is a program coordinator for the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.

Pressley will lead a break out session on Implicit Bias.

Norbert L.W. WilsonDr. Norbert Wilson

Dr. Norbert Wilson is Professor of Food, Economics, and Community at Duke Divinity School. Wilson’s research touches on several food issues, such as access, choice, and food waste. He continues to work on food safety and quality issues in international trade and domestic food systems. Wilson is an ordained vocational deacon in the Episcopal Church USA. Additionally, his work is moving to explore equity in food access. He has published in AEA Papers and Proceedings, World Development, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Public Health, Food Policy, Agricultural Economics, and other publications. Before joining Duke Divinity School, Wilson was a professor of food policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (2017-2020). He was also a professor of agricultural economics at Auburn University (1999-2016). While at Auburn, Wilson served as a deacon at St. Dunstan’s, the Episcopal Student Center of Auburn University (2011-2016).

Wilson will be a plenary speaker on Wednesday, May 17.

Laura S. Meitzner YoderDr. Laura S. Meitzner Yoder

Dr. Laura Yoder is Professor of Human Needs & Global Resources and Environmental Science at Wheaton College. Dr. Yoder's research focuses on human-environment interactions in remote villages and urban centers of Southeast Asia and Latin America. She has sought to understand rural people’s realities by working alongside smallholder farmers and forest dwellers, and to communicate their priorities to national and international policymakers. Most of her work has been in situations of conflict, disaster, chronic poverty, or political marginalization. From people in these contexts, she has seen hope, joy, and how much there is to learn in unexpected places. Since 2008, Laura has taught about sustainability and field research on rural and international development, in Thailand, Bhutan, Indiana, and elsewhere. She is keenly interested in the socio-political, legal, and faith dimensions of environmental issues worldwide.

Yoder will be a plenary speaker on Friday, May 19.


Registration for the 2023 Summer Institute for Reconciliation is not available yet. If you would like to be notified when it opens, please contact us at to be added to our mailing list.

We hope to have the registration link active in early April. Thanks for your patience!