NAES is pleased to announce that Christena S. Cleveland, Ph.D., will offer the opening keynote address at its Biennial Conference 2016 this November 9–11 in New Orleans. Dr. Cleveland is the associate professor of the practice of reconciliation and director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. She is a social psychologist and reconciliation scholar-practitioner who writes and lectures widely on the theology and practice of reconciliation.
“We are thrilled to welcome to Biennial Conference a young scholar of Dr. Cleveland’s dynamism and intellect,” said the Rev. Daniel R. Heischman, NAES Executive Director.
Dr. Cleveland’s scholarly work includes integrating social psychological perspectives on intergroup and intercultural processes with current reconciliation dilemmas within the Christian church and the broader society. Her research examines how culture influences theological/ideological approaches to peacemaking and reconciliation; how social processes, such as identity and self-esteem, impede a group’s ability to reconcile with culturally-different groups; and how individual factors (e.g., professed theologies/ideologies) interact with social factors (e.g., the status of one’s social group) to allow certain individuals or groups to dominate others.
Cleveland has published her work in scholarly journals such as Small Group Research, for which she received a 2011 Best Article award, as well as magazines such as Christianity Today, which named her as one of 33 millennials leading the next generation of Christian faith.
In her book, Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart (Intervarsity Press, 2013), she examines and offers research-based strategies to overcome the nonconscious cognitive, emotional, and identity processes that pull Christians into homogeneous groups, fuel inaccurate perceptions of culturally-different others, contribute to an “Us vs. Them” mentality, stimulate intergroup prejudice and hostility, and ultimately inhibit reconciliation. The book received the 2013Leadership Journal Book Award. Cleveland is currently researching and writing The Priesthood of the Privileged, which investigates power and inequality in the church, and proposes methods for addressing and reducing this equality as a pathway to reconciliation.
Cleveland received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her A.B. from Dartmouth College. A fifth-generation minister, she comes from a long tradition of leadership in the Church of God in Christ denomination, ranging from bishops to pastors to laypeople. She currently ministers in various ecumenical settings.