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Local and national speakers selected for opioid summit

Staff • May 12, 2018 at 12:30 PM

Organizers of the Holy Friendship Summit have recruited a number of local and national experts who will share insights into the opioid crisis and inspire residents of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to help those in the grip of addiction.

The speakers and workshop presenters will share the stage for the public event May 18-19 at Celebration Church, 429 Shipley Ferry Road, Blountville. They include leading theologians, academics, authors, physicians, ministers and counselors who will offer their knowledge from a Christian perspective.

“The opioid epidemic is clearly the greatest public health crisis in our generation, and it is hitting our region hard,” said Roger Leonard, former chairman of the Wellmont Health System board of directors and the summit’s lead organizer. “The Holy Friendship Summit is an opportunity for congregations and health care professionals to come together and learn how to more effectively partner to promote opioid addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. We have to work together as one if we are going to be successful.”

Speakers and presenters include:

• Ray Barfield, M.D., a pediatric oncologist, who directs the pediatric quality of life/palliative care program at Duke University Medical School and develops courses at Duke Divinity School addressing the intersection of theology, medicine and culture.

• Dr. Andi Clements, a professor and assistant chair in the Department of Psychology at East Tennessee State University, who is conducting trauma-informed care projects and performing research on religiosity and addiction.

• Andy Crouch, a musician, former executive editor of Christianity Today magazine and the author of multiple books such as “The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place” and “Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing.”

• Dr. Philip Kenneson, associate dean of the School of Bible and Ministry and a theology and philosophy professor at Milligan College who has taught the school’s capstone course, Christ and Culture, to graduating seniors for 26 years.

• Dr. Warren Kinghorn, a psychiatry and theology professor at Duke University, whose work focuses on religious communities caring for people with mental health needs and on ways Christians engage practices of modern health care.

• Dr. Joel Shuman, a theology professor at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, who worked as a physical therapist with patients, such as coal miners, experiencing acute and chronic pain and wrote three books about the connection between theology and medicine.

• Dr. Tal Stanley, who serves as director of the Appalachian Center for Civic Life at Emory & Henry College and chair of the school’s Department of Public Policy and Community Service, the author of “The Poco Field: an American Story of Place.”

• Dr. John Swinton, a Scottish theologian and ordained minister of the Church of Scotland, who serves as chair in divinity and religious studies at the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen and is a major figure in the development of disability theology.

This group and others participating in presentations will shed light on a broad range of subjects that can lead to addiction or be an outgrowth of it. These include pain, trauma, depression, anxiety, violence and incarceration. They will also provide hope by discussing healing, treatment options, recovery and prevention.

“Our speakers and presenters have invested their ministries in better understanding the multiple dimensions of people’s lives,” said Farr Curlin, M.D., a steering committee member and co-director of the Theology, Medicine and Cultural Initiative at Duke University. “That will prove to be extremely beneficial to those who attend the summit and are searching for ways they can use their gift of a compassionate heart to help fellow church members and other people they know in the community who battle addiction.”

Organizers emphasize that the work to combat opioid addiction will not end when the summit concludes. Rather, efforts will continue with research projects led by Shuman and culminate in a resource guide Katelyn Beaty will write for clergy, congregations and clinicians. This helpful tool will provide practical ways houses of worship can respond effectively to the opioid crisis.

Beaty was the youngest managing editor of Christianity Today magazine. She has written “A Woman’s Place,” a book about work, vocation and identify and speaks regularly about those topics as well as faith, writing and evangelicalism.

“The Holy Friendship Summit is more than a conference or workshop,” said Lottie Ryans, a steering committee member who serves as director of workforce and literacy initiatives for the First Tennessee Development District. “It is a long-term vision to produce networks, resource-sharing opportunities, research, church projects and the resource guide. Working collaboratively, we can touch the lives of so many people who are hurting and help connect them with the services they need to lead a higher quality of life.”

The summit’s cost, which includes meals, is $35 per person, with reduced charges for students and groups of 10. Anyone interested in attending can register at www.holyfriendshipsummit.com. The website also provides additional details about the speakers, the summit’s schedule and opportunities to volunteer.

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