New Discoveries in Ancient Galilee

Sunday, October 19, 2014
First Presbyterian Church, New Bern
Dr. Jodi Magness

Jodi Magness holds a senior endowed chair in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism. In January 2014, she was elected First Vice-President of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Professor Magness specializes in the archaeology of ancient Palestine (modern Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories) in the Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods. Her research interests include Jerusalem, Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient synagogues, Masada, the Roman army in the East, and ancient pottery.

She will present to the New Bern Community her findings (as recent as this summer) at The Huqoq Excavation Project at Huqoq, an ancient village in Israel’s Lower Eastern Galilee located three miles west of Magdala (home of Mary Magdalene) and Capernaum (where Jesus taught in the synagogue).

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

March 30, 2014: The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America

sbgordonThe Rothermel Foundation is pleased to welcome Dr. Sarah Barringer Gordon to New Bern to deliver the second 2014 Rothermel lecture.

A new constitutional world burst into American life in the mid-twentieth century. For the first time, the national constitution’s religion clauses were extended by the United States Supreme Court to all state and local governments. As energized religious individuals and groups probed the new boundaries between religion and government and claimed their sacred rights in court, a complex and evolving landscape of religion and law emerged.

Here is what Harvard University Press says about Dr. Gordon’s book, The Spirit of the Law:

Sarah Gordon tells the stories of passionate believers who turned to the law and the courts to facilitate a dazzling diversity of spiritual practice. Legal decisions revealed the exquisite difficulty of gauging where religion ends and government begins. Controversies over school prayer, public funding, religion in prison, same-sex marriage, and secular rituals roiled long-standing assumptions about religion in public life. The range and depth of such conflicts were remarkable—and ubiquitous.

Telling the story from the ground up, Gordon recovers religious practices and traditions that have generated compelling claims while transforming the law of religion. From isolated schoolchildren to outraged housewives and defiant prisoners, believers invoked legal protection while courts struggled to produce stable constitutional standards. In a field dominated by controversy, the vital connection between popular and legal constitutional understandings has sometimes been obscured. The Spirit of the Law explores this tumultuous constitutional world, demonstrating how religion and law have often seemed irreconcilable, even as they became deeply entwined in modern America.

Dr. Gordon is Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania Law School. She is a widely recognized scholar and commentator on religion in American public life and the law of church and state. Her book, The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Harvard, 2010), explores the world of church and state in the 20th century. She is currently working on a third book, tentatively titled The Place of Faith, about religion and property across American national history. Dr.Gordon serves as co-editor of Studies in Legal History the book series of the American Society for Legal History, and is on the boards of the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, and the McDowell-Hartman Foundation. In 2011 she received the University’s Lindback Award for distinguished teaching, and in 2004 and 2009 the Law School’s Robert A. Gorman Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2012, she was appointed a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

The Ethics of Drone Warfare

New Bern Sun-Journal
January 2, 2014

A philosophy scholar talks about the use of military drones and the potential for a “moral hazard” during the first Rothermel Foundation Lecture of 2014 on Sunday, Jan. 12.

John Kaag, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, is the guest speaker for the 2 p.m. lecture at First Presbyterian Church in New Bern.

His talk is entitled “The Ethics of Drone Warfare.”

Drone warfare has been hotly debated in the media, often on the grounds of strategy or international law, he said.

“Some of the easiest, most habitual things in life can be the most morally suspect. As modern warfare becomes increasingly automated and weaponry becomes increasingly precise, we face this unsettling fact with ever greater frequency,” he said in an advance email on his talk.

Recently, the moral consequences of drones warfare has been a point of discussion.

According to a Rothermel release, Kaag was among the first to focus on these consequences.

Some scholars have argued that the precision of drone use in targeted killing makes the employment of these devices not only morally permissible, but morally obligatory. Kaag argues against this position.

In his writings in the New York Times, Kaag argues that drones constitute what ethicists and economist have called a moral hazard, a situation in which individuals are willing to take morally suspect actions if they do not have to face the consequences of these actions.

According to the release, “The moral burden has always been placed on soldiers and commanders in warfare, but as battles are increasingly fought from remote positions, this burden cannot be shouldered with greater awareness and responsibility.”

Kaag has extended this point — focusing on the moral burden of U.S. citizens in regard to this type of warfare — arguing that the use of drones in signature strikes stands to undermine the democratic accountability of modern liberal democracies.

The Rothermel Foundation was originally funded by a bequest from Amel Rothermel of New Bern.

The endowment is administered as a fund of First Presbyterian Church of New Bern. The Foundation is governed by an ecumenical board of trustees, appointed by the Session of First Presbyterian Church in consultation with the ministers of congregations represented on the board.

Contributions to the endowment are accepted from the public.

The foundation has a board that includes members from First Presbyterian Church, Christ Episcopal Church, Temple B’Nai Sholem, Centenary United Methodist Church, Garber United Methodist Church, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church and St. Paul Catholic Church.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment


Plan now for an outstanding series of upcoming presentations:

October 20, 2013: “The Promise and Peril of Today’s Medical Miracles” 2:00 pm First Presbyterian Church. Dr. Ronald M. Green, Eunice and Julian Cohen Professor for the Study of Ethics and Human Values, Dartmouth College.

January 12, 2014: “The Ethics of Drone Warfare” 2:00 pm First Presbyterian Church. Dr. John Kaag, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

March 30, 2014: “The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America” (tentative title) 2:00 pm First Presbyterian Church. Dr. Sarah Barringer Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania Law School.

October 19, 2014: Biblical Archaeology (title to be announced) 2:00 pm First Presbyterian Church. Dr. Jodi Magness, Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

All Rothermel events are free and open to the public.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

“Soulful Science: An Evolutionary Theology” Sunday, April 28, 2013

Michael Dowd’s multi-media lecture “Soulful Science” will be the Spring 2013 Rothermel Lecture. The lecture, subtitled, “An Evolutionary Theology,” will be held Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm in the sactuary of First Presbyterian Church, New Bern. Rev Dowd will explore how a sacred, science-honoring worldview transforms (“REALizes,” in his word) our understanding of God, guidance, and good news…and might even save us from ecological catastrophe.

The presentation also will discuss how evidence-based faith can provide a realistically hopeful and inspiring vision of the future and help people live happier, healthier, more on-purpose lives. Rev. Dowd’s bridge-building book, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World, endorsed by six Nobel laureates and other science luminaries, noted skeptics and religious leaders across the spectrum, is the basis for his Rothermel lecture. Rev. Dowd’s presentations integrate empowering science with a passionate and life-affirming spiritual message of hope and possibility.

Michael Dowd was raised Roman Catholic. He spent five years as an anti-evolutionary fundamentalist. He earned an undergraduate degree (summa cum laude) in philosophy and biblical studies from Evangel University (Springfield, MO), and after receiving a M.Div. degree from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) was ordained in The United Church of Christ/Congregational Church. Rev. Dowd served in the pulpit in churches in MA, OH and MI before beginning his itinerant “evolutionary evangelistic” ministry. With his science-writing wife, Connie Barlow, he has addressed more than 1700 religious and secular groups across North America during 11 years of living on the road promoting the sacred side of science. Rev. Dowd’s latest project is a conversation series, “The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity”.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, “Jesus and Judaism,” October 21, 2012

“Spanning the gap between modern Jews and Christians.” The New York Times

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine will speak on the topic, “Jesus and Judaism,” on Sunday, October 21, 2012 in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church of New Bern, at 2:00 pm.

Dr. Levine is E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Levine has been awarded research grants from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. She describes herself as a “Yankee, Jewish, feminist who teaches Christian ministerial candidates in the buckle of the Bible Belt.”

The author, editor and co-editor of many books, including The Jewish Annotated New Testament and The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus, Dr. Levine “offers great, even humorous, insight into Jewish-Christian relations by seeking to understand and affirm Jesus’ Jewishness” (The Kansas City Star).

Posted in Events | 1 Comment

Lecture provides insight into environmental impacts on water

Eddie Fitzgerald
New Bern Sun-Journal

Clark Wright Jr. said he remembers vividly as a child playing in the dirt, wandering through woods, riding his bicycle, enjoying the outdoors.

But he said today children seemed better attuned to global environmental impacts.

“Kids today can tell you about the Amazon and the rain forest,” he said. “But they can’t tell you when they went out in the woods alone or lay in a field and listened to the wind.”

Without that early connection with nature, Wright said he probably would not have become a successful environmental attorney who practices law in New Bern, a rock climber and a hiker who completed the Appalachian Trail.

Wright was speaking on “Troubled Waters: Issues and Politics of Eastern North Carolina’s Waters” during a Rothermel Foundation lecture Sunday at First Presbyterian Church.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught,” Wright said, using a 1968 quote from Baba Dioum, an environmentalist.

Although great strides have been made to conserve water and protect it, there are still environmental hotspots from nitrogen and phosphorous runoffs into streams and rivers caused in large part from homeowners’ animal agriculture to golf courses.

Fifteen years ago, the state limited the amount of nitrogen that could be discharged into rivers and streams by 30 percent, Wright said.

Large factories and farms are highly restricted and monitored when discharging water into streams and rivers, but nonpoint source discharges, like water run off from a golf course or someone’s roof onto a driveway are still not regulated.

Using charts, Wright showed that nitrogen discharges in the Neuse River from Durham to Havelock still spike and it is usually caused by storm water run off. Although some of the highest spikes were along the Trent River, there were also a lot of animal farms upstream beside that river, he said.

About $300 million has been thrown at the problem over the past 15 years, and yet nitrogen discharges have been reduced, a problem still exists, Wright said.

“Point sources (factories, commercial enterprises) are doing their part,” he said.

To correct the problem, it would take better management practices when it came to storm water runoff, Wright said.

“Education is the key,” he said. “…A way out might be kids playing in the dirt, wanting to conserve a species or beautiful areas. It all goes back to education. …You can’t love something until you understand it.”

Copyright 2012 New Bern Sun-Journal

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

March 18: “Chosen for Destruction: A Holocaust Survivor Tells His Story”

Morris Glass was eleven years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and changed his life forever. A childhood filled with school, soccer, and cowboy movies was transformed into a nightmare of ghettos and camps, unending hunger, exhausting work, fear, and loss. Morris spent four and a half years in ghettos in his hometown and in Lodz (the longest lasting ghetto), two months in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and eight months in five camps that were part of the Dachau camp system. At the end of the war, he was liberated by the American army. During those years, he lost his youth, his home, and his father, mother, and two sisters. Out of forty-two close family members only Morris, his brother, and a first cousin survived.

Join us at 2:00 pm, Sunday, March 18, 2012 in the Sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church, New Bern, to hear Morris Glass tell his compelling story. All Rothermel Foundation events are free and open to the public.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

2012 Events Announced

The Rothermel Foundation has announced it’s 2012 events for the New Bern community:

Sunday, March 18: “Chosen for Destruction: A Holocaust Survivor Tells His Story”
Morris Glass was 11 years old when the Nazi’s invaded Poland and changed his life forever. Location: First Presbyterian Church, New Bern.

Sunday, April 29: “Troubled Waters: Issues and Politics of Eastern North Carolina’s Waters”
Clark Wright, Jr. is a New Bern environmental lawyer. He drafted and filed North Carolina’s Coastal Zone Management Act consistency appeals and provided legal counsel to the state regarding public hearings. He has served as legal advisor to former Gov. James Martin on offshore drilling, and in the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, Environmental Protection Division. Location: First Presbyterian Church, New Bern.

Sunday, October 21: “Jesus and Judaism”
Dr. Amy-Jill Levine is Professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt University. A conservative Jew by upbringing and practice, she has been called “a Jew who teaches Christians about the New Testament.” A sparkling speaker with a depth of understanding and intellectual integrity, she is sure to challenge and inspire. Location: to be determined.

All events are free and open to the public and begin at 2:00 pm.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Professor Reflects on Nature of Perception

New Bern Sun-Journal
September 18, 2011 6:09 PM

Eddie Fitzgerald

A neuroscientist’s reflections on social perception and social consciousness, as well as the topics of God, the soul, mind and brain had many people entertained Sunday afternoon and left some wondering.

Michael Graziano, Ph.D associate professor and director of the sensory motion laboratory department at Princeton University spoke at First Presbyterian Church as part of the Rothermel Foundation presentations.

Graziano said there have always been battle lines drawn between science and religion over consciousness, what it is and how we have it. He said he is about 70 percent convinced that his theory on consciousness is correct.

Social perception is achieved through interaction with others and creating models from impressions. Social consciousness is awareness through knowledge.

He used his orange monkey puppet, Kevin, to demonstrate, showing people how they really wanted to perceive that the monkey was talking, yet conscientiously they knew it was Graziano doing the talking.

Although ventriloquism is an “exotic example,” Graziano said, he asked the audience how many times they have gotten mad at cars or their computers and even the coffee pot.

“It’s common,” he said. “But when you meet someone you use it (social perception) to allow for better social interaction.”

Graziano used color as another example of how our social perception differs from consciousness. All objects have reflective spectrums and we only see and recognize certain wavelengths in the color spectrum, he said.

Our perception of color is incorrect but helpful because it allows us to distinguish a difference, he said.

“We don’t experience the reality,” he said. “We experience the color.”

It is the same with the cosmic and physical world, he said, saying it’s a construct of the brain rather than reality.

“The world we experience is a world of information we have in our brains,” he said.

Graziano said he believed nonhuman animals like dogs, cats and chimps also had social perception but very little if any social consciousness. Computers in the future could also be programmed to have human-like consciousness, he predicted.

And like a computer that might have information stored on a memory card before it crashes, people have the ability to pass on their consciousness when they die, Graziano said.

“Spend time with a friend,” he said.

Graziano said his grandmother died 20 years ago and he still has a “model copy” of her consciousness and can remember her voice and traits.

“I know it is trite to say we live on in other people’s minds,” he said “But we do.”

Graziano has written numerous articles for scientific journals and has written two books: “The Intelligent Movement Machine: An Ethological Perspective on the Primate Motor System” and a popular book called “God, Soul, Mind, Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Reflection on the Spirit World.” He also has written novels and children’s books.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment