March 19, 2018

Dear APT members,

Spring greetings from New Haven, Connecticut, where preparations are being made for our 2018 Biennial Conference a little less than a month away. In this “APT president’s letter” I will say more about our biennial event, but I also want to bring you up to date on some other important happenings in our association.

Mission, Vision, Non-Discrimination Statement, Bylaws

It’s been quite a few years since the APT adopted its current mission statement. You can view it on the home page of our website, Organizations, and the language they use about themselves, are dynamic and continually in motion. This year, while we make plans to amend the Association’s bylaws, it seems like a good time to take a new look at our organizational mission statement. The Executive Committee will bring a proposal for a revised statement, along with newly minted organizational vision- and non-discrimination statements, to the membership in our business meeting. I know it’s hard for people to get excited about things like bylaws changes. But consider the way official documents like bylaws and mission statement give guidance to the procedures by which we embody who we are as an organization. For example, for many years the APT has worked hard to ensure diversity in our leadership, conference presentations, and membership. The addition of a non-discrimination statement will make formal and official that commitment.

As many of you will recall, in our 2016 Biennial business meeting, we approved a plan to provisionally “live into” a number of bylaws changes, with the idea that we would formally vote on them at the 2018 meeting. These changes are, for the most part, simply an effort to bring the language about how we operate contained in our bylaws into line with actual practices that have evolved in the organization over time. For example, we no longer send out paper letters or a newsletter, but we do have a robust web- and social media presence. The new bylaws make changes to reflect these transitions, as we re-configure the former “publications chair” position of the Executive Committee into a “communications” chairship. I’d like to thank Executive Committee members who’ve taken a leadership role in the work of bylaws revisions and mission/vision/non-discrimination re-writing: past president Tom Beaudoin, and secretary/treasurer, John Falcone. Thanks!

New Website

Last fall, the APT contracted with a web design firm, Winnow and Glean, to design and set up a new web site with improved functionality and a cleaner look. Our URL remains By now, you should have received an email giving you a temporary password to allow you to access the “members only” content on the site. Check it out! We’re still working out initial bugs and getting the new furniture dusted, so if you have feedback about the site let us know! Thanks go out to Marc Lavallee, APT Communications chairperson, for overseeing this process.

Biennial Conference: “Making Justice: Practical Theology, the Arts, and Transformation”

Our 34th Biennial Conference will take place April 13-15, 2018 at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, CT. If you have not yet registered for the meeting, there still is some housing available at the conference rate as of today but it is limited, so don’t delay!

Focusing on the links between practical theology, justice, and the arts, we will come together for a program saturated in practical theological construction/reflection in and through various forms of the arts, from jazz and hip-hop music, to drama and painting. The selections committee received a record number of proposals and you can anticipate lively sessions engaging the work of our colleagues. I invite you to go to the web page, to see details about the conference and plenary speakers Emily and Don Saliers, Charrise Barron, Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, and Emmanuel Garibay.

Graduate Students

If you are a graduate student, make sure that you have signed up (through the conference registration site) for the graduate student breakfast meeting. A special brief program and a delicious hot breakfast is being prepared for you! We look forward to your presence and contributions in the meeting.

Pre-Conference Workshop

As of today, the pre-conference workshop, “Using ‘Theater of the Oppressed’ Pedagogies in Practical Theology Teaching,” is full. If you would like to be on a waiting list in the event that spaces open up, please contact John Falcone ([email protected]).


The YDS bookstore will be open during the conference and will feature recommended works from our conference plenary speakers along with the usual good selection of books and Yale swag.

Additional special opportunities during the Biennial Conference

There’s more though!! We’ve planned optional excursions to the Yale Gallery of Art or the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (more info below). Here are some other options you may also wish to take advantage of during your time in New Haven:

The Religious Education Association, to which many APT members (including me!) also belong, and the Yale Divinity School Library have created for the APT meeting a special exhibit of materials from the REA Archives (housed at Yale) in the Day Missions Room of the YDS Library. Stop into the library to browse this exhibit. The room itself is worth a visit!

If you are coming in early on Thursday, or leaving on the later side of Sunday, you may have time to take advantage of a theater experience, “To Buy the Sun: The Challenge of Pauli Murray,” taking place at Yale’s new Pauli Murray College Thursday through Sunday. Pauli Murray (1910-1985), an African American woman, a feminist, Episcopal priest, and member of the LGBTQ community, was a champion for civil and human rights. Performances on Thursday and Saturday are at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm. Information/ tickets  can be found at More info will be available in conference packets when you check in.

In addition to our planned sessions, many of you have signed up for optional tours of the Yale Gallery of Art: we have made special arrangements for small groups to visit the museum guided by docents who have put together brief tours in relation to our conference theme. There are a few spaces left if you would like to participate; sign up on the conference registration site,

Another optional excursion takes place at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Beinecke is amazing all by itself—go just to see the building—and for its amazing holdings which include on permanent display the Guttenberg Bible and John James Audubon’s Birds of America.  In April the library features a special exhibit, “The Art of Collaboration.” The exhibit, which ends on the last day of our conference, is described by the Library this way: “The Art of Collaboration explores the excitement and power of separate elements combining to make things that are new, beautiful, strange, and memorable. Drawn from the Betsy Beinecke Shirley Collection of American Children’s Literature, the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters, and the Yale Collection of American Literature, this exhibition considers exemplary works and the archival stories of their making, revealing the creative—and sometimes destructive—tensions that are parts of artistic collaboration. The works on view—including plays, children’s books, novels, performance artworks, films, photographs, and more—demonstrate that collaboration itself is an art form.”

Y’all Come!

As you can see there will be a lot going on, and even though it can take a little extra effort to get to New Haven, you can anticipate a rich time at the conference. Come for the events, come for the professional networking and relationships, come to learn with and from each other—and last but not least, there’s New Haven’s famous pizza!! Come check it out. The whole Executive Committee has been working on these plans, but I want to give a special shout out to APT program chair, Mai-Anh Tran, president-elect Evelyn Parker, and secretary/treasurer John Falcone for their especially dedicated and hard work in planning for the conference.


We look forward to welcoming you to Yale Divinity School in April.


Best regards,


Joyce Ann Mercer, APT President