ACU Alumni Chorus

Like Summit, the ACU Alumni Chorus celebrates a long history with the University. Their desire is to promote our vocal traditions and heritage while extending to all the goodwill of Abilene Christian University and its alumni. They wish to render services to ACU and its choral division as well. Sunday evening at University Church of Christ, Summit participants have the opportunity to attend a concert performed by the Alumni Chorus and led by Gary Mabry that will seek to glorify God as we all convene for Summit. The Chorus will begin performing uplifting songs at 6:30 p.m. We hope to see you there!

WACU Pie Sales

The Women for ACU have a long history of supporting ACU students. WACU, founded in 1969, has funded various student scholarships as well as campus projects. At Summit, WACU raises scholarship funds through their pie sales. This year, they will be selling these pies at the ACU Museum, located across the street from UCC, on Sunday, Sept. 17, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

WACU was founded as an opportunity for female graduates, faculty, staff, and others who love ACU to advance the university and help serve its students. For more information about this organization, click here. For delicious pies, make sure to stop by and see the Women for ACU at Summit!

“Silence in the Face of Persecution: Addressing the Bullies Among Us”

Steven Moore, ACU English professor and author of children’s book Theodore Thumbs, writes, “Bullying is this hideous monster that threatens us at every turn in our lives. It is alive and shows its menacing face in our public and private schools, in our colleges and universities, in our communities, in our workplaces, and it is even seen in our churches. Over 4,000 lives are lost each year because of bullying. We must have an authentic conversation about it in order to end this outrageous epidemic on our hands."

Steven Moore, along with Jennifer Shewmaker and Joey Cope, will host a Conversation Corner seeking to address this epidemic that Christians can no longer ignore. In “Silence in the Face of Persecution: Addressing the Bullies Among Us,” the hosts will discuss bullying, standing up to it, and ways to spread kindness instead of hate. This timely session will meet Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 3:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Brown Library.

James K.A. Smith

James K.A. Smith giving a presentation

ACU Summit 2017 will feature award-winning author and popular speaker James K.A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College. Smith is the author of Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?, Desiring the Kingdom, Imagining the Kingdom, How (Not) To Be Secular, and You Are What You Love. Originally from Ontario, Smith earned degrees from the Institute for Christian Studies (MPhil) and Villanova (PhD).  

Professor Smith holds the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview at Calvin College, where he teaches courses in religion and philosophy. Smith is well known for his rare capacity to relate Christian faith and practice to contemporary cultural and philosophical trends, and to bridge the gap between the academy and the church. He is a Research Fellow of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and guest teaches at Calvin Theological Seminary, Fuller Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Regent College.

In his presentations at ACU Summit 2017 Smith will discuss key habits and practices that can transform our worship, our education, and our spiritual formation--both in the college setting and in our churches. If you would like to learn more about Smith and his writings, you can visit his website here.

Chris Seidman

Chris Seidman's headshot

Chris Seidman, senior minister at The Branch Church in North Dallas, will lead our Tuesday evening Summit session, “From Oppression to Blessing,” taken from Deuteronomy 11: 26-32. God promises to bless his people if his name dwells in their land. Like the ancient Israelites, we are called to be a holy, set apart people. Chris will remind us of the glorious blessings in store for those who follow God faithfully and of the devastating consequences of human sin.  

Chris is married to Tara, whom he met at ACU, and they have three sons: Skyler, Garrison, and Cooper. He has worked in ministry since 1991, serving churches in Pensacola, FL, the Ft. Worth area, and even in Abilene at Southern Hills Church of Christ. We are looking forward to his return to ACU’s campus to share the Word of the Lord with us!

Global Refugee Medical Missions Experience

According to the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, more than half of the world’s 65 million refugees come from just three countries ravaged by conflict – Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. This number is unprecedented; sadly, half of the refugees are children.

With Deuteronomy serving as foundational for Summit 2017, the Global Refugee Medical Mission (GRMM) Experience provides participants an occasion to respond and reflect on this world-wide crisis. Entering the simulated will lead to insights to Abilene refugees, a look at a typical day in the life of Abilene refugees, and a chance to reevaluate the importance of Deuteronomy 10: “He enacts justice for orphans and the widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing.”

To participate in this experience, simply go to BSB 115 and a host will provide instructions about the self-guided experience. This exhibit makes use of audio and video clips to narrate the stories of local refugee families that can be accessed using a smartphone or other mobile device. Visitors are asked to bring and use their own phones/devices and headphones, but a few extras will be provided to those who need them. The refugee experience will require about 15-20 minutes to take in the sights and sounds of this unique Summit offering.

Mark Hamilton

Cover for Mark W. Hamilton's book: Meditations for the Lone Traveler

ACU professor Mark Hamilton will be presenting on his recently published Meditations for the Lone Traveler: The Life of Faith in a Changing World on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 10:00 in BSB 120. Mark’s new book contains twenty-two meditations on songs, prayers, and stories of the Bible that bring readers into a world where humans can fully experience both suffering and joy. The meditations begin with Mark’s new translations of biblical texts and finish with prayers of active faith. These transitions from the Bible to commentary to prayer allow readers to encounter the Bible and engage with the deepest layers of human existence.

Mark Hamilton is the Robert and Kay Onstead Professor of Old Testament at Abilene Christian University. He is an author and editor of eight books. In writing his newest book, Mark wanted to “speak to those who feel alone in their faith. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Faith is not purely intellectual, but comprehensive in its impact on life. In the pursuit of faith, we are not alone.” Mark chose these texts to center around because the Bible “says something important about the majesty of God and the beauty of human life that we need to hear again … in deep ways that require us to think.” Please join Mark as he shares reflections from his new and thoughtful book with us!

All Day Track: Business and Mission

Sometimes, the mission field looks like a foreign country. Other times, it can look like the business world. Tuesday of Summit, Dodd Roberts will host an all-day track examining “Business and Mission,” a track that will provide inspiration for potential Christian business-owners and employees as well as encouragement for those Christians already operating in the world of business.  

  • In the first session of the day, Mats Tunehag will lead “Why Business and Mission?” This class will discuss how God views business in scripture and the harmony between God’s mission and business. 
  • At 9:30 a.m., Don Simmons will lead “Business and Mission Abroad,” a panel looking at the convergence of international business with missions. 
  • At 10:30 a.m., Jan Martinez from Christ Kitchen and Julie Sullivan from Ground Up will speak about their experiences in “From Non-Profit to For-Profit.” 
  • After a lunch break, the track will reconvene at 12:00 p.m. for “Our Business, God’s Business” with Lauren McAfee, Corporate Ambassador of Hobby Lobby. Lauren will share the ways in which Hobby Lobby stays true to its faith-based foundation. 
  • Gary Ginter will lead “Downwardly Mobile” at 12:50 p.m. He will discuss how to attain business success while serving God rather than Mammon. 
  • Chi-Ming Chien of Dayspring Technology will lead “Business and the Mission of God: Embodying Reconciliation” at 1:30 p.m. He will share from his experience working in San Francisco. 
  • At 2:20 p.m., Walter Cunningham, senior executive of Betenbough Homes, will teach “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the Marketplace,” a session looking at the ways a Christian can and should build and run a business missionally. 
  • At 3:00 p.m., Jarrod Brown, founder of Mission Lazarus, will share from his experiences in “Story of Mission Lazarus.”

This track will meet Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in BSB 100 (Hart Auditorium).

Film Festival

ACU Summit is excited to announce its first ever Film Festival.These offerings will include films from different genres screened in different locations on campus. Participants may choose to view selections from three distinct categories: feature length films, documentaries, and video resources for church small groups.

We will be screening Martin Scorsese's Silence twice as our highlighted feature length film (for all times and locations, click here). The documentaries featured will include Facing Darkness, the story of ACU's own Kent Brantly, 13th, which focuses on inequality in the American prison system, and White Helmets, which highlights heroes who bravely go in to rescue victims after Syrian airstrikes. Clips from many small group resources will be featured, including from Tony Ash's series about C.S. Lewis, Jack and Me: Why I Like C.S. Lewis

Whether you come for just one film or try to view many, we hope you enjoy our first Summit Film Festival!

Sean Palmer

Sean Palmer posing at Jacob's Dream on ACU campus

Sean Palmer, Teaching Pastor at Ecclesia Houston in Houston, TX, will present “From Grace to Torah,” based on the Ten Commandments found in Deuteronomy 5, at 11:00 Monday, Sept. 18, in Moody Coliseum. He will discuss how the Ten Commandments connect behavior to the nature and actions of God. Sean will maintain, contrary to popular thinking, that the Commandments are rooted in grace. He will explore the way that God's grace compels us to action, bringing us joy and the transforming our very existence.

Sean’s ministry focuses on seeing the church as a beloved community. He is both a speaker and writer, and he likes to re-imagine the church as a community of hospitality and reconciliation. Sean has served as the President of the Board for The Peninsula Clergy Network and has worked at The Vine Church, Redwood Church, Bering Drive Church of Christ, and Harvey Drive Church of Christ. He is the author of Unarmed Empire, released in the spring of 2017, and an ebook called Scandalous: Lessons in Redemption from Unlikely Women. He has contributed to Agenda Music: A Conversation on Faith and Art with Derek Webb, Seth Tower Hurd & Friends, as well as The Voice Bible Project. He has served on the Board of Directors of Spaulding for Children (a Houston adoption agency), is a leader of Emergent Village’s Cohort, and has been a member of the ACU Alumni Advisory Board. He is married to Rochelle Stripling Palmer, a social worker. They have two children.

United Voice Worship

United Voice Worship group shot

In a world where differences drive us apart, United Voice Worship instead celebrates those differences and encourages unity through the Spirit. Their medium for accomplishing this essential task is unique–a cappella music. United Voice Worship will be leading worship on Monday at ACU Summit 2017 and will offer a mini-concert before the 7:00 theme session in Cullen and then a fuller concert following the session.

Founded by Josh Kasinger, Luke Coles, and Nic Dunbar, UVW is dedicated to honoring Jesus Christ by promoting intentional dialogue among people of different backgrounds. Their voices lifted up in unity echo the unity of the body of Christ described and prescribed in Ephesians 4. United Voice Worship consists of Luke Coles, Nic Dunbar, Josh Kasinger, Sarita Edwards, Serena Coles, Bianca Vinson, Gary Evans, and Ramleez Rubio. Each member comes from a different background and offers a diverse perspective. Through their united voices, they invite worshipers into a loving conversation about what really matters–the worship of the one true God.

Christian Faith and Modern Democratic Politics: A Conversation

Being a civil people does not mean we ignore our convictions. It means we remember the fruits of the Spirit, “kindness and gentleness,” even when we strongly disagree. In the 2016 election year, a great deal of hurtful discourse surrounding politics left the realm of the political and inserted itself into the church, wounding brothers and sisters who hold different political opinions. In “Christian Faith and Modern Democratic Politics: A Conversation,” hosts Cheryl Bacon, Cole Bennett, and Vic McCracken will share how they engage in civil political conversations.

All of our hosts model how their shared faith brings them together, even though they hold differing political opinions. Fellow believers can enjoy discussing politics in a friendly, productive way–if they remember the fruits of God’s Spirit and the grace covering each of us. 

All Day Track: The Ancient-Future Bible

The Center for the Study of Religious Texts at ACU will be hosting a track entitled “The Ancient-Future Bible” at ACU Summit 2017. Hosted by Curt Niccum, the track will explore the rich heritage received from our spiritual ancestors through manuscripts and artworks that can provide a profound source of spiritual strength today. This track empowers Christians to engage God and his creation in new ways by returning to ancient sources. This track will meet Monday, Sept. 18 in BSB 129.

  • To start off the day, Wendell Willis will teach “Jonah: Interpreted, Reinterpreted, and Interred,” a visual presentation exploring the second most popular image found in early Christian art. 
  • Jeff Childers will then lead “Recovering the Words of Jesus: Deciphering an Ancient Aramaic Manuscript of the Bible.” Jeff will highlight the manuscript Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a text with a form of Palestinian Aramaic very close to Jesus’ own dialect. 
  • After the theme speaker and a lunch break, Glenn Pemberton will present “Goliath Was Only Six Feet Tall? Who Has Been Messing with My Bible? How the Oldest Hebrew Manuscripts Are Shaping the Newest English Versions.” This session will explore the reasons that Bible translations have changed so much over the last fifty years and look at how they will change in the next fifty. 
  • The fourth session of the day, “Ancient-Future Reading: Encountering Scripture with the Church Fathers,” will be taught by David Kneip. This class will offer some ancient tools to help renew and deepen your time in the Word. 
  • In the final class of this track, Curt Niccum will lead “Chromosomally Challenged Bibles: The War over Women in the Word.” This class will look at the radical rewording of Bibles in order to be more inclusive and the reactions to these changes over the last ten years.

This track is perfect for those who are interested in the history of the text of the Bible. Come for one class, or stay for them all!

Jeanene Reese

Professor Jeanene Reese headshot

ACU professor and director of the Center for Women in Christian Service Jeanene Reese will speak at the final ACU Summit session on Wednesday morning, September 20, in Moody Coliseum. Jeanene will speak on the theme “From Death to Life,” based on Deuteronomy 30. She will examine the ways in which we can choose between death and life and the implications of these choices for the future of the church.

In addition to working at ACU, Jeanene works with the women’s missionary organization Come Before Winter, which seeks to renew the spirits of missionary women worldwide. She has done scholarly work on the roles of women in the church and is the author of Bound and Determined: Christian Men and Women in Partnership. We are pleased that Jeanene will be closing out ACU Summit 2017!

ACU Press Speakers

Leafwood Publishers, affiliated with ACU, is partnering with ACU Summit 2017 to invite authors published with ACU Press to speak at Summit and share thoughts from their books.

  • Phil Lewis and John Harrison will share from Longevity in Leadership: Essential Qualities of Longtime Leaders Monday at 10 a.m. (part 1) and Tuesday at 9:30 a.mTheir book is aimed to encourage leaders and prospective leaders to stay the course and lead effectively in the long run. 
  • Julia Mateer will bring thoughts from Life-Giving Leadership: A Woman’s Toolbox for Leading on Monday at 10 a.m. This book will help redefine women’s ministry and equip women who are actively involved in leadership.
  • Cathy Massecar and Deanna Koehl will be sharing from Winning Every Woman’s War: Defeating Temptations on Monday at 9 a.m. This book equips women with tools to identify and overcome common but subtle temptations like fear, disrespect, manipulation, and comparison.
  • Dudley Chancey and Ron Bruner bring thoughts from Owning Faith: Reimagining the Role of Church & Family in the Faith Journey of Teenagers on Wednesday at 10 a.m. This book examines the ways older disciples can honor and nurture life-changing relationships of faith with today’s adolescents.
  • Monte Cox will teach from Significant Others: Understanding our Non-Christian Neighbors on Monday at 9 a.m. (pt. 1) and 10 a.m. (pt. 2). Monte walks readers through different, non-Christian perspectives to show Christians ways to engage with non-Christian neighbors.
  • Josh Ross, who is also one of our theme speakers, will be sharing from Re-entry: How Pain, Roots, and Rhythm Guide Us from Darkness to Light on Monday at 2:30 p.m.
  • Don McLaughlin's new book, Love First: Ending Hate Before It’s Too Late, will inspire his class focused on our calling to love better. This book presents an understandable, practical, and doable approach to loving others with such clarity and conviction that the world will truly know the God who loves us first.

Leafwood Press will be selling copies of these books in the Bible building. For a full and detailed listing of authors and books that will be featured, click here. Come by and take something home with you to read!

Landon Saunders

Landon Saunders speaking at a conference

Landon Saunders has for many years ministered to both secular and religious audiences, contemplating the promise and perplexities of the human situation. He will lead the ACU Summit 2017 opening theme session, “From Memory to Hope,” which will meet Sunday evening at 7:00 at University Church of Christ. Landon will speak to us about our position as a church situated between the past and the future. Just as God's history with Israel informed his promises for their future, God's past mercy and faithfulness awaken our love and commitment today. Landon will connect these ancient scriptures to the future church, bridging the two in a way that will inform the choices we make to serve our God.

Landon has taught school, worked with churches, traveled the world, and aided people suffering the aftermath of disasters. He currently serves as the President of Heartbeat, a non-profit organization he started forty-five years ago with a radio program that has reached millions. He is also a Fellow of Caris Life Sciences Foundation and a Presidential Scholar for Lipscomb University. He has blessed us at ACU Summit before, and we are thrilled to have him back again to share his insights with us.

Small Church Track

ACU Summit 2017 is pleased to offer a track geared towards leaders of smaller congregations. Although there is no official number that makes a congregation “small” or “large,” there are definite and noticeable differences between the two.  Most books, lectures, conversations, etc. are geared toward larger congregations. This track, hosted by Shawn D. Johnson, is intended to provide encouragement, guidance, and lessons specifically for small (but equally important) churches and those who minister to them.

  • In the opening session, “Reflections on Churches of Christ in Relationship to Size and Location,” Tim Sensing will focus on the history of Churches of Christ, specifically looking at church size and location.
  • In Session #2, track host Shawn D. Johnson will lead “We Are Not in the Numbers Game:  An Unapologetic Defense of Small Churches,” a conversation about the life-cycle of a church, congregational demographics, and diversity within both a small community and a small church.
  • After lunch, the Small Church Track Session #3,“Treasures in Big and Little Packages,” will be led by Michael Harbor as he examines ways that spiritual treasures and significant ministry and mission are found in both large and small congregations.
  • In Session #4, “Small Town, Big Ministry,” Wes Horn will explore the vital role and ministry opportunities of the minister in a small town and a small church in which the preacher fills dozens of roles both inside and outside of the congregation.
  • The final session of the track, “Soul Care for Small Church Preachers,” will be led by Trent Tanaro. He will share important principles through which those in ministry can grow spiritually and lead disciples in their congregations toward maturing in the Christ-life.

Leaders of small churches will benefit from this track focused on their needs, and those from all congregations can also benefit from an exploration of what can be learned from their brothers and sisters who meet together in smaller numbers to worship the same God. This track will meet Tuesday, Sept. 19 in BSB 120.



This year, ACU Summit is proud to announce its first ever film festival. One of the films we will be showing Martin Scorsese’s 2016 award-winning film Silence. Not only does the film center around missionaries and Christian ideas, but the film also has important connections to ACU. Trustee Todd Brown and his father Dale served as some of its producers.  

Silence chronicles the story of two Jesuit missionaries who travel to Japan from Portugal in search of their missing mentor. Their faith is tested by a climate hostile to Christianity as they learn what persecution truly means. The film, based off of Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel of the same name, stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson.  

Please join us either Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. or Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. in Cullen Auditorium as we screen this film and discuss its religious themes and their importance today. Bring your own popcorn and prepare to experience Scorsese’s cinematic masterpiece that is Silence.

Josh Ross

Josh Ross posing for a headshot

Josh Ross, preaching minister at Sycamore View Church of Christ in Memphis, TN, will lead the theme session, “From Love to Love,” for ACU Summit 2017 on Monday evening at 7 p.m. in Cullen Auditorium. In addition to leading the theme session, he will be leading a Monday afternoon class and sharing reflections from his new book, Reentry.

His theme session will explore Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and the ways God's love story for Israel exemplifies God's commitment and love for the nation and for us today. Our only response to God's love can be love; we love because he first loved us. Josh will speak about the ways the law is first and foremost a law of love.

Josh is both an engaging speaker and an excellent author. This spring, ACU Press will publish his new book, Re-entry: How Pain, Roots, and Rhythm Guide Us from Darkness to Light. From the publisher: 

"As vital as the message of entry is to the Christian faith, many Christians are also desperate for a message of reentry after many seasons of doubt, confusion, bondage to the past, severed relationships, loss, depression, and stress. From places of darkness and shadows, God comes and reveals Himself as the one who enters into our pain both as a companion who walks with us through our trials and as the one who is eager to eventually lead us into a healthier place. In January of 2014, Josh Ross traveled to Barrow, Alaska, to interact with a community that experiences over sixty-five days of darkness every winter. His time there revealed how essential the principles of reentry, roots, and rhythm are to our survival and health far beyond the Arctic Circle."

Josh’s class about this book will take place Monday afternoon at 2:30 in CBS 117. We are looking forward to hearing what he has to say both during his theme session and his class!  


Siburt Institute Congregational Leadership Track

Siburt Institute for Church Ministry logo

Congregational Leadership will be the focus of one of the all-day tracks at ACU Summit 2017. This track, hosted by Eric Gentry, is sponsored by the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. This five session track will explore healthy leadership practices, pastoral ministry, spiritual discernment, and future imagination for congregational leaders facing the complexities of the 21st century church.

  • The opening session is entitled “Empire and the Church: The Pastoral Work of Disentanglement.” Speakers Collin and Barry Packer will help ministers and elders consider how to confront the damaging influences of nationalism, wealth, and violence on the church as they orient their churches towards God’s kingdom of self-emptying peace.
  • In Session 2, Kasey McCollum, a hospital chaplain whose work emphasizes family grief caused by newborn and prenatal death, will offer advice on how congregations can respond to and survive seasons of grief in “Lessons from a Chaplain on Congregational Grief and Loss.” 
  • Session 3 will reconvene after the Moody theme speaker and a lunch break with “Spiritual Discernment as a Congregational Leader.” Jovan Barrington will discuss how congregational leaders can move from merely deciding to truly discerning. 
  • In Session 4, Chess Cavitt will lead “What Are We Here For?” In this session, Chess will reflect upon the purpose of the church in a new era in which churches are experiencing decline, members are less involved, and hallmark church offerings (like VBS, marriage seminars, or service projects) are poorly attended. Chess will engage scholarship and his own experiences in ministry outside the Bible Belt to articulate a fresh vision for the church’s role in the world today. 
  • The final session of the day, “Clarity in Complexity: Leadership Models for God’s Mission,” will be led by Carson Reed. Present day cultural and contextual challenges create a daunting environment for church leaders. One path forward is to relinquish the false notion that good leaders must first figure things out. This session will explore how effective leaders can transform leadership through prayer and biblical wisdom.

Whether you are a minister, elder, or member of a congregation, this track’s sessions will provide wisdom for those called to lead. Come to one session that relates to your interests or spend all day at this track! Either way, you will leave enriched and blessed.

Thema Bryant-Davis

Therma Bryant-Davis posing for headshot

Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, associate professor at Pepperdine, will bring her rich and blended backgrounds in theology, psychology, and theatre to Summit 2017. Her Tuesday morning theme session will draw on her passion for serving marginalized persons and lifelong work to relieve their pain and empower them.


Thema will focus on the ways Israel’s experiences in slavery shaped the way God requires that they treat others and the way that our redemption and freedom likewise calls us to in turn free others and love every single neighbor. Thema is the author of Surviving Sexual Violence: A Guide to Recovery and Empowerment, Thriving in the Wake of Trauma: A Multicultural Guide, and Tweets for the Soul: When Life Falls Apart. She is a licensed psychologist, minister, and a passionate artist. Her breadth and depth of experiences give her a multifaceted approach to faith that we are enthusiastic to experience at ACU Summit 2017.   

For more information on Thema, click here. In addition to her Tuesday theme lecture, Thema will host an afternoon class directed at ACU students with interests in psychology and theatre.