What does Christian service for the common good look like? How can Christians love the world as God loved the world? What do we need to know and do in order to seek peace in our contexts? Join us as we consider these important questions together.

This gathering is for anyone engaged in Christian ministry, including lay leaders, as well as those who are looking for new ways to serve in their church and other ministry contexts. 

January 15-16, 2020

Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco

Registration: $95 (includes Wed & Thurs dinner, Thurs breakfast)

Willie Jennings (Keynote Speaker)

Yale Divinity School

Willie James Jennings is associate professor of systematic theology and Africana studies at Yale Divinity School. He was previously associate professor of theology and black church studies at Duke University Divinity School. For many years, he served as the academic dean of the Divinity School. Jennings was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, received his BA in religion and theological studies from Calvin College (1984), his Master of Divinity degree from Fuller (1987), and his PhD degree from Duke University. Jennings, a systematic theologian, teaches in the areas of theology, black church, and cultural studies, as well as postcolonial and race theory. He is the author of numerous articles, and his recent work The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, published by Yale University Press, won the 2011 American Academy of Religion award for best book and has now become a standard text read in colleges, seminaries, and universities. Jennings is also a consultant for the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion and for the Association of Theological Schools, and is an ordained Baptist minister.

Stephanie Spellers

Episcopal Church

The Rev. Canon Dr. Stephanie Spellers serves as the Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation, helping Episcopalians to follow Jesus and grow loving, liberating and life-giving relationships with God, each other and the earth. The author of Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other and the Spirit of Transformation and The Episcopal Way (with Eric Law), Canon Spellers has directed mission and evangelism work at General Theological Seminary and in the Diocese of Long Island; founded The Crossing, a ground-breaking church within St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston; and led numerous renewal efforts in the Episcopal Church and beyond. She has earned masters degrees from both Harvard Divinity School and Episcopal Divinity School, and was granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity by the General Theological Seminary. A native of Frankfort, Kentucky, Canon Spellers makes her home today in New York's Harlem neighborhood.

Jessica Wong

Azusa Pacific University

Jessica Wai-Fong Wong is an assistant professor of systematic theology at Azusa Pacific University and works in the area of visuality, race, and gender. She received an M.Div. from Duke Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Christian theology and ethics from Duke University. Positioning the study of Christian theology alongside contemporary issues, Wong emphasizes the social implications of Christianity and its often-subversive call. In addition to articles and chapter contributions, she is the author of The Anti-Iconicity of Blackness: A Theological Reading of the Modern Racial Optic, forthcoming with Baylor University Press, and serves both as an editor for Syndicate Theology and as an ordained elder in the PC(USA) tradition.

Paul Weston

Ridley Hall

Paul Weston teaches mission studies at Ridley Hall, Cambridge and in the Cambridge Federation, and is the Director of the Newbigin Centre for Gospel and Western Culture in Cambridge, England. As a teacher he aims to excite students with the breath-taking wonder of God’s good news and to explore how this can be understood and communicated in today’s world. Along the way he looks to uncover the unexamined assumptions of our contemporary (increasingly secularized) culture in the West, exploring how they came to be, and how they might be addressed in the light of the good news. Over the years Paul has taught a number of courses in this area (both here and abroad), and he enjoys the way in which it brings together a number of disciplines, including theology, history, philosophy, sociology and cultural studies. As Director of the Newbigin Centre for Gospel and Western Culture, Paul oversees research students working for Masters and Doctoral degrees in association with the Centre, and in partnership with the Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco, hosts the annual ‘Lesslie Newbigin Summer Institute’ at Trinity Hall Cambridge, with attendees from the States, Europe, and Asia.

Peter Choi

Newbigin House of Studies

Peter Choi is Director of Academic Programs at Newbigin House of Studies and a pastor at City Church San Francisco. He has taught history of Christianity courses at Calvin Theological Seminary and the University of Notre Dame. Prior to that, he served for seven years as a campus minister and church planter in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A historian of eighteenth century North America, Peter’s areas of specialization include transatlantic revival religion, early evangelicalism, and world Christianity. His research has been funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Huntington Library, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. He is the author of George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire.


Wednesday | January 15th

1:00pm  Registration & Coffee 
1:30pm  Welcome 
2:00pm  Session 1: “Meeting Jesus in Third Spaces” (Paul Weston)
3:00pm  Discussion 
3:30pm  Break 
3:45pm  Session 2: “Are You With Me? Welcome, Solidarity and Truly Walking in the Way of Jesus” (Stephanie Spellers )
4:45pm  Discussion 
5:15pm  Break 
5:30pm  Dinner (provided)
6:30pm  Session 3: “Giving Witness to God’s Commons: Reflections from the Book of Acts” (Willie James Jennings)

Thursday | January 16th

8:30am  Breakfast (provided)
9:00am  Morning Prayer: Scot Sherman 
10:00am  Session 4: “Sacred Order, Social Outrage: Protest & the Salvific Promise of Silence” (Jessica Wong)
11:00am  Discussion
11:30am  Break & Lunch (boxed lunch option available, or on your own)
1:30pm  Session 5: “The Danger of a Good Story: Half-Truths, Illusions, and the Crisis of Christian Witness” (Peter Choi)
2:30pm  Discussion 
3:00pm  Break 
3:30pm  Panel with Speakers
4:30pm  Break 
5:15pm  Choral Evensong
6:00pm  Dinner (provided)
7:00pm  Public Event: A Conversation with Willie Jennings (ticket included with conference registration)

Some info and resources to help with your travel plans. 

Location & Parking

The conference will be held at Grace Cathedral (1100 California St.) in San Francisco. Public transportation is highly encouraged as street parking is scarce and limited to two hours. There are several parking structures nearby, including the Cathedral Garage (entrance on Taylor Street, midway between California and Sacramento Streets). More details here



  • Airports: You have several choices for airports. San Francisco (SFO) is most convenient. Oakland (OAK) is farther away but can be a good option; do take into account additional time and cost for transportation into the city.
  • Driving to SF: Parking is limited in San Francisco. Please read all signs carefully when parking to avoid ticketing and towing. Please budget some money for parking garages and meters in the event that you are unable to find free street parking. There are also some parking apps that may help. Give this link a try, and research what options may best suit your needs.


Average January temperatures in San Francisco range from mid 40s to high 50s. Temperatures can vary widely depending on the part of the city, sometimes from block to block. Layering clothing is recommended due to shifting microclimates across the city. It tends to be warmer in the central areas and cooler near the water. Suggested items: a light scarf, a water-resistant jacket, a light sweater and/or long-sleeved top, and good walking shoes. 

This annual conference was born out of a desire to bring together ministry leaders for mutual encouragement and learning. We especially wanted to provide a place of relationship building for the sake of long-term flourishing in ministry. For this reason, our inaugural conference in 2017 had the theme of "Flourishing in Ministry." Miroslav Volf shared wide-ranging reflections on what it means for spiritual leaders to flourish in their work. In 2018, we heard from speakers like Lisa Sharon Harper, Daniel Lee, and Karen Rohrer who spoke on our theme of "Creative Maladjustment" as a necessary feature of the work of ministry in turbulent times. In order to emphasize the public dimension of faith, we gathered in 2019 around the concept of "Public Witness in the Way of Jesus," with speakers Ben McBride, Yolanda Norton, and Soong-Chan Rah. You can see more details and sample some audio of our past gatherings here:

For 2020, we are reconceptualizing the conference theme around "Ministry for the Common Good." We hope to spark conversations on Christian ministry as an act of public as well as spiritual service. 

Newbigin House is pleased to co-sponsor this gathering with the Episcopal Diocese of California