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Luther celebrates reformation with Liberating Grace Conference

Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber.

Photo courtesy of

Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber.

Madeline Ajack, Staff Writer

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The Liberating Grace Conference, a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the reformation, will commence with Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber and Refugee Spokesperson Ralston Deffenbaugh as keynote speakers on March 31 and April 1.

The conference is part of the series of events titled “The Reformation of Everything.”

“[The Conference] will demonstrate how [the keynote speakers] see the interaction between the church and the world,” Associate Professor of History Robert Christman said. “And also how the Reformation impacts the church and world through the arts.”

The Liberating Grace Conference will consist of the distinguished lecture from Bolz-Weber, a keynote address from Deffenbaugh, and a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Mass in B-Minor” by Luther’s Symphony Orchestra and Nordic Choir.

The Liberating Grace Conference will take place in the Center For Faith and Life’s main hall. Tickets are free for students and they are invited to attend the conference and the concert.

“The conference will look at the Reformation and its impact on religion and spirituality,” Christman said. “But also the history of Europe and United States and thought-secular impact on music.”

Bolz-Weber is a renowned Lutheran Pastor from Colorado. She is also a New York Times’ Best Selling author for her books “Accidental Saints” and “Pastrix.” She is currently the pastor at her founding church, The House For All Saints and Sinners.

“Bolz-Weber is an ELCA pastor,” Christman said. “She’s unique, provocative, counter-cultural. She’s a former stand-up comedian, but also had problems with addiction.”

Bolz-Weber is different than most ELCA pastors appealing to young people and the non-traditional churchgoers. 

“Bolz-Weber is a prophetic voice in the church today,” College Pastor Mike Blair said. “She’s a Lutheran rock star.”

Along with Bolz-Weber, the conference will also feature Deffenbaugh as a keynote speaker. Deffenbaugh works with refugees and immigrants with concerns to  their legal rights with the  Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The LWF is the largest organization for Lutherans in the world, consisting of human rights lawyers and activists. Deffenbaugh is the LWF’s main representative to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Deffenbaugh and Pastor Bolz-Weber are people who sought to challenge the church and live the life of Jesus,” Blair said

Photo courtesy of
Ralston Deffenbaugh.

The keynote speakers’ reputations have attracted college students, high school students, and other Midwest area pastors.

“Pastor Bolz-Weber is a prominent voice in the church today,” Blair said. “She’s got quite a few tattoos and she swears sometimes, it’s really something!”

“Each speaker will discuss the degree to which the church has actually lived the ideas of the Reformation today,” Christman said. “I think Pastor Bolz-Weber is going to say there’s work to be done.”

Deffenbaugh’s speech will be titled “Welcoming the Stranger: Refugee at the core of the Lutheran World Federation”. He will also be holding a workshop that will discuss refugee protection during uncertain times.

In his address, Deffenbaugh will discuss refugees and immigrants in Europe, as well as the general climate of the West on refugees, emphasing an international perspective.

“Deffenbaugh’s life calling has been with The Lutheran World Federation,” Blair said. “But also to tending to those who are vulnerable, especially refugees and immigrants.”

College Ministries and professors urge students to attend the Liberating Grace Conference according to Christman.

“This college does not require a Lutheran background or belief,” Christman said. “But a core ethos that is based upon some motion of the Protestant Reformation.”

Tickets for the Liberating Grace Conference are available at the box office in the Center for Faith and Life.

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