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Conversations That Matter

We Need to Talk…

The Reverend Charlie Curb Center for Faith Leadership at Belmont University offers a series of ongoing conversations that tackle topics that church leaders increasingly face. 

These conversations confront issues like LGBT and the local church, the divisiveness of caustic politics and gun violence at the local and national levels. The goal of our Conversations That Matter is to provide a safe context in which these conversations can be shared. Our agenda is not to write policy or argue a position but to gather leaders so we can learn together.

Hosted by Belmont’s own Dr. Jon Roebuck, these conversations are intended to help leaders gain wisdom, perspective and maybe even a little comfort along the way.



  • Addiction Recovery (On-going series) Part 2: Alcoholism.
    03-19-2020 | This event has been postponed, and will be rescheduled | Belmont University Campus - McWhorter 409Register

    This conversation is another in a series of conversations on the topic of addiction.  (Previously, we discussed the problem of pornography.) For a number of years, several well-known programs have been widely used to address the issues of alcohol abuse including, Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, and many, many in-patient and out-patience rehab centers.  This conversation will take a look at the national statistics concerning alcohol abuse.  Is it growing?  Are the ages getting younger?  Are sufficient guidelines in place?  Is the perceived relaxed social stigma of drinking making matters better or worse?  Many faith leaders are looking for new ways to address the issue both from an abuser’s point of view, and those who are victimized by an abuser’s conduct.   Join us as we dive into this important discussion.  Dr. Tom Knowles-Bagwell, Associate Director of Belmont’s Mental Health Counseling Program, will help to guide and inform our conversation.

  • Mark My Words: The use of “people first” language and why it matters.
    04-16-2020 | This event has been postponed, and will be rescheduled | Belmont University Campus - McWhorter 409Register

    About 50 million Americans report having a disability. Most Americans will experience a disability some time during the course of their lives. Disabilities can affect people in different ways, even when one person has the same type of disability as another person. Some disabilities may be hidden or not easy to see. People first language is used to speak appropriately and respectfully about an individual with a disability. People first language emphasizes the person first, not the disability. For example, when referring to a person with a disability, refer to the person first by using phrases such as: “a person who ...”, “a person with ...” or, “person who has...” In order to become more proficient at using people first language, it is important understand our current language biases and blind spots.  It is vital to learn and practice more affirming ways of talking about others.  This conversation will offer some suggestions on how to adjust the way we talk and think about others.  Leslie Lenser, Senior Director of Human Resources at Belmont University will lead our conversation and thoughts.

  • Church Membership… Does it still matter?
    05-28-2020 | 8:00 AM | Belmont University Campus - McWhorter 409Register

    In the late 20th Century, when denominationalism was at its height, church membership was a big deal.  When filling out a job application, a college form, or writing a resume, church affiliation was important.  In fact, church membership was almost equated with salvation.  If you weren’t a member of a local church, you probably were not really in the Kingdom.  In small town life, one of the first things that people would say in describing you was that you were a Baptist, or Methodist, or Presbyterian.  Church membership made you accountable, “official”, and able to have a say in church polity.  You could not hold an elected office or serve on any committee apart from membership.  But is church membership important today or is it an antiquated idea from a previous generation?  Our discussion will focus on the topic of church membership.  Is it still important, and if so, why?  This conversation will feature a panel discussion including representatives from several denominations and various age levels.

  • Transgender: Perspective, insights and respect for those whose gender identity has become more clearly understood.
    09-17-2020 | 8:00 AM | Belmont University Campus - McWhorter 409Register

    Obviously, the topic of transgendered individuals has received a lot of attention in recent years.  Churches have wrestled with how to respond, municipalities have sought perspective, and even schools have struggled with how to be fair, respectful, and civil.  Some feel the need to shun, while others embrace.  Some talk of confusion, while others have offered understanding and inclusion.  How should the church respond?  How can the church take the lead in dealing with individuals whose understanding about their sexual identity has found clarification and caused them to take on different gender roles?  It is important to understand the needs of this demographic and offer a rational voice in the conversation.  Our conversation will provide an opportunity for honest talk and positive strategies. This conversation will welcome a panel discussion featuring a local pastor, a senior adult couple whose child is transgender, and a representative of, a middle Tennessee transgender support group.

  • The Walking Wounded: How to minister effectively to former members who have been wounded by organized religion.
    08-20-2020 | 8:00 AM | Belmont University Campus - McWhorter 409Register

    According to the most recent data, over 40 million Americans have walked away from the church in the past 25 years.  This group, typically referred to as the “Dones” - as in, “done with the church, but not with their faith” - have left the church for many reasons including political agendas, abusive preachers & teachers, caustic & judgmental attitudes, insensitivity to others’ needs, lack of missional focus, etc.  The goal of this conversation is not to offer ways of reclaiming these members into the church, but how to continue in faith conversations and community with them.  While a nice by-product of compassionate interaction might lead them to reconsider their place in the church, the main goal is to affirm them as people of faith who are loved, respected, and valued.  It is to validate their pain and acknowledge their feelings of abuse.  Join us as we look for ways of doing effective ministry.

  • Past Events

  • Community Health… Building a Healthier Congregation
    05-16-2019 | 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM | McWhorter 409Register

    How can the local church serve as a catalyst for better physical health among its membership?  Are healthy meals planned for church events?  Is healthy meal-planning important to teach to congregants?  Is a parish nurse program a possibility?  What support groups could be sponsored by the church to benefit physical health? Should churches rethink the idea of workout rooms and fitness classes?  Does your church have a walking club?  This conversation will offer some fresh thought about teaching and modeling healthy lifestyles for church members.

  • Being Lonely in the Midst of a “Connected” Culture
    08-29-2019 | 8:00 AM | McWhorter 409Register

    Loneliness.  Mental health officials indicate that loneliness will become the most prominent health concern among American adults by the year 2025.  Loneliness can make a person irritable, depressed, and self-centered, and is associated with a 26% increase in the risk of premature mortality. Although loneliness is often thought of as a problem mainly affecting the elderly, the majority of people reporting loneliness are under the age of 50.  Currently, 1 in 5 Americans always or often feel lonely and socially isolated. Technology may play a role.  58% of Americans view the increased use of technology as a major reason why people are lonely or socially isolated.  Many suggest that technology has actually made it harder to spend time with family and friends.  Our conversation will center on the topic of loneliness… how to discover it and how to find answers.

  • Do Denominations Still Matter?
    09-26-2019 | 8:00 AM | McWhorter 409Register

    In the not too distant past, denominational lines were strongly drawn and carefully guarded.  Various denominations were very clear about doctrine, liturgy, and practice. The differences were enough to keep like-minded people separated from those who thought differently.  Were those distinctions important and do they remain important?  How have the lines been blurred?  Does denominational affiliation still matter?  Has the golden age of denominationalism come and gone?  Our conversation will focus on the various denominational differences that have long divided the mainline denominations here in the U.S. We will take a look at whether or not those things still matter.

  • Creating Space – Opening the Doors to Relationships
    10-17-2019 | 8:00 AM | McWhorter 409Register

    New relationships are forged on the anvil of intentionality. We don’t simply fall into new relationships… we create them.  Our conversation will look at the ways we can create physical space and opportunity for new relationships to form.  How can we engage people who look different than we do, or think different, or believe different?  How can we connect with co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers in meaningful ways that will allow relationships to flourish?  We are created for community.  Let’s explore ways of making that happen.

  • Civility: How to remain in respectful dialogue with those with whom you disagree.
    02-20-2020 | 8:00 AM | Belmont University Campus - McWhorter 409Register

    Let’s be honest… civil, respectful dialogue is quickly evaporating in the American culture.  Common respect and decency are rarely found in the public sphere.  Social media, Facebook postings, talk show hosts, and even pastors have turned to caustic and spiteful rhetoric.  Many, even those who fill the pews of our churches each week, have forgotten how to share space and normal conversation with others.  It seems that we have built walls in our minds and in our social circles to exclude any persons with whom we disagree.  Can we “build the muscles” needed to climb over those walls in order to extend a hand of friendship and enter into a conversation that heals, or at least respects others, rather than continuing to stir the fires of discord?  Let talk… and let’s do so with civility.  Rev. Mike Young, Executive Director of the Coffee County Anti-Drug Coalition (, will serve as our conversation facilitator.