The Didier Seminar


The Didier Seminar

In every age the Spirit speaks.

The Calvin W. Didier Annual Seminar on Religion and Contemporary Thought was endowed in 1993 as a retirement tribute to Reverend Didier in honor of a ministry mindful of the many voices of the spirit and the profound changes we continue to experience in contemporary thought and culture. This yearly seminar is dedicated to spiritual growth through the best comprehensive thinking in religion, the arts, letters and science. We seek to present inspiring and acknowledged leaders in their various fields.


The Didier Seminar 2024:

Recovering Lost Voices with Stephen J. Patterson and Elizabeth Schrader Polczer

April 19 – 21

Sign up here.

House of Hope is fortunate to have two leading biblical scholars for The Didier Seminar this year who are helping to recover lost voices from early Christianity: Stephen J. Patterson and Elizabeth Schrader Polczer. Their discussions will include where their research overlaps and diverges.


Stephen J. Patterson

A scholar, teacher, and writer, Patterson is the George H. Atkinson endowed chair in Religious and Ethical Studies at Willamette University, where he teaches courses on the history of religion. He writes and lectures widely on the hidden histories of earliest Christianity, especially the lost gospels, Q and the Gospel of Thomas.  

Patterson holds graduate degrees from Harvard and Claremont, and he was a Fulbright Fellow in Germany. In nine books and more than seventy-five articles, essays and reviews, he has explored the origins of Christianity, especially through texts often overlooked because they are not in the Bible.  

For more than 20 years Patterson was professor of New Testament at Eden Seminary in St. Louis.  He was also a leading figure in the Jesus Seminar and has appeared on many documentaries in connection with his work on the Gospel of Thomas, Q, and the quest for the historical Jesus.

He will speak on his award-winning book: The Forgotten Creed: Christianity’s Original Struggle against Bigotry, Slavery, & Sexism. Copies of his book will be available in the church office for purchase.





Elizabeth Schrader Polczer

Elizabeth Schrader Polczer is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Villanova University, having recently defended her PhD in Early Christianity and New Testament at Duke University. Her studies focus on textual criticism, Mary Magdalene, and the Gospel of John.

​Elizabeth transitioned to religious scholarship after a career as a singer/songwriter. After writing a song about Mary Magdalene, Elizabeth enrolled in the M.A. program at General Theological Seminary. Her interest in the text of John’s Gospel culminated in the publication of her Master’s thesis in the Harvard Theological Review. She has published additional peer-reviewed papers in the Journal of Biblical Literature, TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, and The Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin.

Elizabeth has presented her peer-reviewed research at a wide variety of academic institutions including Duke University, Princeton University, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Pepperdine University, Elon University, Wheaton College, Perkins School of Theology, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Regensburg (Germany), the University of Leipzig (Germany), and dozens of churches across the US and Canada.


Friday, April 19:

6:30 p.m.          Dessert Reception

7:30 p.m.          Lecture and Q&A with Stephen H. Patterson:  Christianity’s First Creed and America’s Original Sin
Tucked into the folds of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians there lies an ancient creed: there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male and female. Where did it come from and why did Paul include it in his letter to the Galatians? The answer will surprise and perhaps challenge you to see Christianity in an entirely new light.

Saturday, April 20:

9 a.m.                            Coffee, Tea, and Breakfast Treats

9:30 – 10:45 a.m.          Lecture and Q&A with Elizabeth Schrader Polczer:  Recovering Mary Magdalene in the Manuscripts of John’s Gospel: A Case of Textual Suppression?
In the world’s oldest manuscript of John’s Gospel, copied ca. 200 AD, the name “Mary” has been crossed out twice. A study published in the Harvard Theological Review further demonstrates that in dozens of gospel manuscripts, the name “Mary” has been changed to “Martha,” or Mary is presented as performing tasks usually attributed to Martha. What could this mean? This lecture examines the most ancient manuscripts of John’s Gospel, and explores the possibility that Mary Magdalene’s intended role was deliberately suppressed by copyists.

11 a.m. – Noon             A Conversation with Stephen J. Patterson and Elizabeth Schrader Polczer

Sunday, April 21:

10 a.m.          Worship with Stephen J. Patterson preaching There is No Jew or Greek

11:15 a.m.     Sunday Enrichment:  Q&A with Stephen J. Patterson


Past Speakers and Topics:

2023      Rev. Paul Raushenbush:  Building the Multi-faith Future:  Freedom of Religion in a Democracy

2022      Jeannine Hill Fletcher:  Christianity and Religious Diversity:  Challenges and Opportunities

2021      Jeannine Hill Fletcher:  Christian Entanglement in Racism: Facing the Past, Transforming the Future

2020      Theologian John Haught:  The New Cosmic Story: Inside our Awakening Universe

2019      Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers:  Progressive Christianity

2018      Dr. J. Andrew Overman:  When Stones Speak: Digging Deeper into Jesus Movements, Formative Judaism, and the Rise and Expansion of Islam

2017      Dr. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.:  How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul

2016      Diana Butler Bass:  What Does It Mean To Say “I Am Spiritual But Not Religious”?

2015      Rev. Dr. Marilyn Salmon:  Jesus Then and Now

2014      Dr. Amy-Jill Levine:  Jesus, Judaism and Christianity

2013      Professor Paul Knitter:  Must My God be Bigger Than Your God? Moving Beyond Competition to Cooperation

2012      John Phillip Newell:  A New Harmony: The Spirit, The Earth, The Earth and the Human Soul

2011      Dr. Wilson Yates, Prof. Michael Dennis Browne, Dr. Stephen Paulus, and Rev. David Miller and Dr. Aaron David Miller:  Theology, Spirituality and the Arts

2010      Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault:  Meditation and Visionary Seeing in the Christian Tradition

2009      Dr. Imam Seyyed Hossein Nasr:  The Heart of Islam

2008      Dr. Philip Jenkins:  The Next Christendom

2007      Rev. Dr. Martin Marty:  Must Faiths Collide?

2006      Dr. Don Swearer:  Buddhism

2005      Dr. Dominic Crossan:  The Historical Jesus and the Kingdom of God Then and Now

2004      Rev. Dr. (Sir) John Polkinghorne:  Belief of God in and Age of Science

2003      Gordon Kaufman:  Do ideas of God change?

2002      Dr. Elaine Pagels:  The Challenge of the Gospel of Thomas. Different Views of Jesus and His Message

2001      Dr. Marilyn Salmon, Rev. Dr. Calvin Roetzel, Rabbi Barry Cytron:  What Have We Learned and What Does it Matter?

2000      Dr. Richard Horsley:  Jesus, Paul, and the New World Order

1999      Rev. Dr. Marcus Borg:  Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship

1998      Rev. Dr. J. Andrew Overman:  Jews and Christians: How Did We Start and Where Are We Headed?