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Walking Together:

February 6, 2014 @ 7:30 am - February 8, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

Christian Communities & Faithful Responses to Mental Illness

  • How can Christian communities walk with and alongside persons with mental illness – both those who are already part of Christian communities and those who are not?
  • How can citizens of Houston think creatively and transformatively about the role of faith communities in the care of persons with mental illness?
  • How can we minister to those people affected by the mental illness of a loved one?

Conference overview

Over three days in February, the Walking Together conference convened nationally recognized scholars and local community leaders to explore these questions. On the first two days, we considered powerful accounts from various Christian communities throughout history, looking at revolutionary and creative ways that these communities cared for persons with what would now be called mental illness. On the third day, a Saturday, these stories sparked new ideas and inaugurated a community-wide conversation where we are reimagining together our contemporary healing work.

John Swinton

John Swinton, PhD, RMN, RMND

Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care, Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom

John Swinton is Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care in the School of Divinity, Religious Studies and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom, and an honorary Professor of Nursing at the University’s Centre for Advanced Studies in Nursing. He is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and works closely with the church in both research and practice. He has a background in mental health nursing and mental healthcare chaplaincy and has researched and published extensively within the areas of mental health, ageing, dementia, mental health and illness, spirituality and human well-being and the theology and spirituality of disability. He is the Director of Aberdeen University’s Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability, and Co-Director of the University’s Kairos Forum. His publications include: Dementia: Living in the Memories of God (2012). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/London SCM Press; Spirituality in Mental Health Care: Rediscovering a “forgotten” dimension. (2001) Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London. Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (2008) (With Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier) IVP; Practical Theology and Qualitative Research Methods. (2006) London: SCM Press (With Dr. Harriet Mowat) John is currently writing a book on theology and mental illness with Jean Vanier.

Warren Kinghorn

Warren Kinghorn, MD, ThD


Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Pastoral and Moral Theology, Duke University Medical Center and Duke Divinity School

Warren Kinghorn is a psychiatrist whose academic work centers on the role of religious communities in caring for persons with mental health problems and on ways in which Christians engage practices of modern health care. He is jointly appointed within Duke Divinity School and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of Duke University Medical Center and is a staff psychiatrist at the Durham VA Medical Center. His interests include the moral and theological dimensions of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, the applicability of virtue theory to the vocational formation of pastors and clinicians, and the contributions of the theology and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas to contemporary debates about psychiatric diagnosis, psychiatric technology, and human flourishing. From 2013-2015 he is a Faculty Scholar of the University of Chicago Program on Medicine and Religion.

Abraham M. Nussbaum

Abraham M. Nussbaum, MD, MTS

Director of Adult Inpatient Psychiatry; Assistant Professor, Denver Health; University of Colorado

Abraham Nussbaum directs the adult inpatient psychiatry service at Denver Health, Denver’s academic safety net hospital, where he teaches medical students and residents as an assistant professor in the University of Colorado’s Department of Psychiatry. He authored the best-selling Pocket Guide to the DSM-5 Diagnostic Exam. His research interests include psychiatric diagnosis, care for persons with severe and persistent mental illness, and the interface between medicine and religion. He is currently a faculty scholar at the University of Chicago’s Program on Medicine and Religion. He earned his medical degree at the University of North Carolina and his theology degree at Duke Divinity School.

Jodie Boyer Hatlem

Jodie Boyer Hatlem, PhD

Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Christian Ethics, North Park Seminary

Jodie Boyer Hatlem, PhD teaches at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. She was placed there as a Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Christian Ethics. Her doctoral research focuses on how pathological states of the will, known collectively as moral insanities, were understood in the context of a complex religious background in the nineteenth century. Jodie also completed a Master of Divinity degree at Duke, where she studied the history of American Christianity and theological ethics. She currently attends Reba Place Mennonite Fellowship in Evanston.

Andrew D. Ciferni

Andrew D. Ciferni, O. Praem, PhD

Director of the Center for Norbertine Studies, Saint Norbert College

Rev. Andrew D. Ciferni is a Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Norbertine community at Daylesford Abbey in Paoli, PA. He is currently the Director of the Center for Norbertine Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI where he is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Religious Studies. He holds a Licentiate in Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome and a Ph.D. in Theology (Liturgical Studies) from the University of Notre Dame. Formerly he taught at the Catholic University of America and the Washington Theological Union where he was the academic dean.

Sidney Hankerson

Sidney Hankerson, MD, MBA

Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia University

Dr. Sidney Hankerson is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is conducting research to increase mental health treatment for African Americans by collaborating with Black Churches and mental health professionals. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia, where he majored in Psychology. He then attended Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Hankerson received both his MD degree and Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree at Emory. This training equipped him with knowledge to optimize healthcare systems that provide care for underserved populations. His long-term goal is to become an expert in providing culturally sensitive mental health care by creating a faith-based mental health system. Dr. Hankerson’s professional affiliations include President of the Black Psychiatrists of Greater New York & Associates, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the American Psychiatric Association.

Robert Kugelmann

Robert Kugelmann, PhD

Professor of Psychology, University of Dallas

Robert Kugelmann is author of Psychology and Catholicism: Contested Boundaries (2011). He has done research in the history of psychology and in critical health psychology. He teaches at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas.

Jeff Matsler

Jeff Matsler, BA, MDiv, ThM

Elder, The United Methodist Church; Chaplain, United States Army Chaplain Corps

As Chaplain for Amarillo VA Hospital’s In-Patient Long Term Drug Addiction Unit (1993-1996), Jeff served on the national Strategic Task Force charged with envisioning the Chaplaincy’s role in the future of VA Mental Healthcare. During his time at Amarillo, as a member of the Army’s critical response team to the Murrow Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City, Jeff provided direct support to families, soldiers, and rescue workers – nurturing the living, caring for the dying and honoring the dead.

As an Army Chaplain Jeff has provided the ministry of Christ’s presence in various theaters of combat to tankers, infantrymen and the sustainers that keep the war moving. He is a combat veteran of the 3rd and 101st Infantry Divisions and 15th Sustainment Brigade (Cavalry). Matsler served on the In-Patient Interdisciplinary Psychiatric Team at Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, NC (2010-2012). This summer, Jeff begins preparing for his next assignment, US Army Medical Command’s Bioethicist in Residence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Jeff grew up in Floydada, Texas and is married to the former Michelle Lance of Midland, Texas. They have two children, Mary Elizabeth and Charles Taylor. He is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church.

Carol Neel

Carol Neel, PhD

Professor of History, Chair of Department of History, Colorado College

Carol Neel is a medieval historian. Her published work emphasizes spirituality among the various religious movements within the twelfth-century European reformation of Christian community and ritual practice. Neel has written extensively, as well, about gender and family in medieval society, and has a strong collateral interest in the monastic background of aspects in the sixteenth-century Reformation. Neel holds a PhD degree from Cornell University, and serves as professor and chair of the Department of History at Colorado College.

Steven M. Nolt

Steven M. Nolt, PhD

Professor of History, Goshen College

Steve Nolt’s research of Amish life spans more than twenty years and includes fieldwork and interaction with Amish people in several dozen communities across seven states and Ontario. He is the author or coauthor of eight books on Amish life, history, and spirituality, including the recent definitive study, The Amish (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013, Pp. 520).

Miguel J. Romero

Miguel J. Romero, ThD, MDiv

Moreau Research Fellow, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Miguel J. Romero teaches and writes at the University of Notre Dame, where he is a Moreau Research Fellow. His interests include historical and contemporary theological accounts of disability and mental illness, the theology of Thomas Aquinas, and the moral implications of profound suffering and affliction. He has written on theology and disability, Catholic social teaching, lament and irony, liberation theology, and the classical virtue mercy. Romero’s forthcoming book Destiny of the Wounded Creature: St. Thomas Aquinas on Disability (Notre Dame Press) is a focused recovery of underappreciated aspects of the 13th century theologian’s theological anthropology: in particular, the natural limitations (defectum) and postlapsarian wounds (infirmum) of the human being. From that ground, Romero describes the significance of our creaturely limitations and woundedness within Aquinas’s understanding of the good and flourishing human life. He studied at Colorado College (2000), Fuller Theological Seminary (2006), and Duke University (2008, 2012). He is married to Dr. Heather Romero, a geriatric neuropsychologist and Alzheimer’s Disease researcher, affiliated with Duke University Medical Center and the University of Notre Dame. Together Miguel and Heather have four children under the age of seven. Relevant to the Walking Together Conference, in partnership with their extended family, Miguel and Heather participate in the care of their two older siblings: one who has a debilitating mental illness and the other who has a profound cognitive impairment.

Matthew S. Stanford

Matthew S. Stanford, PhD

Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience & Biomedical Studies, Baylor University

Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D. is professor of psychology, neuroscience and biomedical studies at Baylor University. He is the author of the Focus on the Family recommended resource, Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness (2008) and The Biology of Sin: Grace, Hope and Healing for Those Who Feel Trapped (2011). A fellow of the Association for Psychology Science (APS) his research on the interplay between psychology and faith has been featured nationally on radio talk shows, TV and publications such as USA Today and the New York Times, as well as news websites including Fox, MSNBC, Yahoo and US News & World Report. He is the co-founder and executive director of Mental Health Grace Alliance where he continues to write, conduct training seminars and serve those affected by mental illness and their families.

Nancy Tomes

Nancy Tomes, PhD

Professor of History, Stony Brook University

Nancy Tomes is Professor of History at Stony Brook University. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, she holds a BA from the University of Kentucky (1974) and a PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania (1978), where she worked with Charles E. Rosenberg. Tomes has authored three books, A Generous Confidence: Thomas Story Kirkbride and the Art of Asylum Keeping (Cambridge, 1984); Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness Before 1914, co-authored with Lynn Gamwell (Cornell, 1995); and The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women and the Microbe in American Life (Harvard, 1998); two edited collections, Medicine’s Moving Pictures, with Leslie Reagan and Paula Treichler (Rochester, 2007) and Patients as Policy Actors with Beatrix Hoffman, Rachel Grob, and Mark Schlesinger (Rutgers, 2011); and Medicine and Madison Avenue, a website on the history of health related advertising. She is currently completing Shopping for Health: Medicine, Consumer Culture, and the Making of the Modern Patient, under contract to the University of North Carolina Press. Dr. Tomes’s research has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Library of Medicine, the National Humanities Center, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Institute for Mental Health. She won both the AAHM’s Welch medal and the History of Science Society’s Davis prize for Gospel of Germs. In 2011, she was awarded the Arthur Viseltear Award by the American Public Health Association “in recognition of her distinguished body of scholarship in the history of public health.” She is currently President of the American Association for the History of Medicine.

Heather H. Vacek

Heather H. Vacek, MDiv, ThD

Assistant Professor of Church History, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

The Rev. Dr. Heather H. Vacek teaches church history at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. An American Religious Historian, Vacek studies the intersection of belief and practice, with a focus on how theological convictions have shaped experiences of illness and suffering. Her forthcoming book from Baylor University Press (2014) explores the history of American Protestant engagement with mental illness from the colonial era through the twentieth century. Vacek is ordained in the Moravian Church in North America.

Why Walking Together: Christian Communities and Faithful Responses to Mental Illness?

Different forms of mental illness account for a great deal of suffering in our culture and in every community, including Houston. People with mental illness are our colleagues, our friends, our neighbors, our family members, and sometimes ourselves. Tens of millions of Americans live with some form of mental illness.

As citizens of Houston and as people of faith, we seek to combine close attention to the present and openness to the lessons of the past to envision and to enact new ways of walking together with persons with mental illness, now and in the future. Alongside scholars from North America and Europe, we will therefore explore important but rarely-told examples of how Christian communities throughout history have walked together with persons with mental illness and will together consider how these stories can spark our imagination and vision for ways that present-day Christian communities can walk together with people with mental illness.

Who should come to the Walking Together conference?

The conference is open to all. We welcome clinicians, community leaders who care about persons with mental illness, and small teams from faith communities interested in making a difference and committed to new action.

While the particular focus of the scholarly presentations will be examples from Christian communities, we welcome persons from any faith community—or none—as the wisdom gleaned from this collection of histories has the potential for wide-ranging application in our modern context.

Walking Together is happening so that…

…the conversation started by bringing together scholars, clinicians, community leaders, and faith communities will result in ongoing partnerships that transform the approach to chronic mental health issues in our city.

…together we can dream of and work toward the day when people with and without mental illness walk together in faith communities, and when people with mental illness are neither stigmatized nor unnecessarily sequestered in institutions and correctional facilities.

Paul Soupiset

Paul Soupiset

Paul Soupiset is a graphic designer, illustrator, songwriter, liturgist, youth media consultant, journalist, mentor, typophile, husband, father, and self-described armchair theologian who lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Amy and four children.

Paul will be illustrating the presentations and conversations during each plenary session of the conference. His artwork will simultaneously create a visual account of the conference while stimulating our visual learning, generating for participants another layer of ideas and ways of thinking.


Participants may register online in advance of the three day conference. Conference participation costs $65.00 for an individual or $150.00 for a team of three people. Breakfast snacks, beverages, and midday meals will be provided on-site during the conference at no cost.


Participants requiring a full or partial scholarship may apply online using the Walking Together Conference Scholarship Request Form.


St. Martin’s Episcopal Church

717 Sage Road, Houston, TX 77056 | MAP

The Hope & Healing Center

5025 Riverway Drive, Houston, TX 77056 | MAP


Day One
7:30am – 8:15amRegistration

Beverages and Breakfast snacks served

8:15am – 8:45amWelcome & Introductions
8:45am – 9:30amA First-Person Account of Healing and Community
9:30am – 10:00amBreak
10:00am – 11:15amPlenary Session 1: Sacred Communities: Places of Welcome in Medieval Christianity

Andrew Ciferni: From Crazed Father to Healing Families: Saint Dymphna and Host Families in Geel

Carol Neel: Demons, Sorrow, Charity: Medieval Religious Communities, Lay Brothers and Sisters, and Mental Illness

11:15am – 12:30pmLunch (served on site)
12:30pm – 2:45pmPlenary Session 2: Formation and Reformation:  Christian Engagements with Institutional Care

Miguel Romero: The Innocent, the Insane, and the Demented in the Order of Mercy

Nancy Tomes: The Light and the Seed: What the Quaker Tradition can Teach Psychiatry Today

Jodie Boyer Hatlem: From Sin to Insanity?: The Second Generation of the Moral Cure

2:45pm – 3:15pmBreak
3:15pm – 4:30pmKeynote by John Swinton, Professor and Chair of Divinity and Religious Studies, Univ. of Aberdeen

Day Two
7:30am – 8:15amCoffee and pastries served
8:15am – 8:50amWelcome and Orientation to Day Two
9:00am – 10:30amPlenary Session 3: Discipleship and Dignity: Mennonite and Old Order Amish Care of Persons with Mental Illness

Abraham Nussbaum: The Mennonite Mental Health Movement: Discipleship, Nonresistance, and the Communal Care of Persons with Mental Illness in Late 20th-Century America

Steven Nolt: Old Order Amish Initiatives in Mental Health Care

10:30am – 11:00amBreak
11:00am – 12:15pmPlenary Session 4: The Human Person in Spiritual Perspective:  Christian Engagements with Psychology and Psychiatry

Warren Kinghorn & Jeff Matsler: Post-Traumatic Saint: Francis of Assisi and the Spiritual Journeys of Combat Veterans

Robert Kugelmann: Psychiatry and Religion: Thomas Verner Moore and the Providence Psychiatrical Dispensary

12:15pm – 1:30pmLunch (served on site): Groups discuss morning content over lunch and generate ideas for posting on conference board
1:30pm – 3:30pmPlenary Session 5: Mental Health Care and Contemporary American Christianity: A Diverse and Shifting Terrain

Sidney Hankerson: Church Based Depression Care among African Americans

Heather Vacek: The Mainline and Mental Illness: A Twentieth Century History

Matthew Stanford: Contemporary Evangelical Engagement in the Care of Persons with Mental Illness

3:30pm – 3:45pmBreak
3:45pm – 4:15pmGroups discussion
4:30pmClosing remarks

Day Three
7:45am – 8:30amBreakfast served
8:30am – 8:45amIntroduction
8:45am – 9:45amGroup Work Session 1: Processing reflections from the previous two days
9:45am – 10:00amBreak
10:00am-11:30amGroup Work Session 2: Brainstorming ideas and possibilities
11:30am-12:15amLunch (served on site)
12:15pm – 1:15pmGroup Work Session 3: Refinement process – clarifying action items
1:15pm – 1:30pmBreak
1:30pm – 2:30pmGroup Work Session 4: Commitment and steps forward
2:30pm – 3:30pmReport Out and Plans for Future

Where is the Walking Together conference being held?

The Hope & Healing Center and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church of Houston, Texas will host Walking Together: Christian Communities and Faithful Responses to Mental Illness on their joint campus, located in central Houston’s Galleria Area, a business and shopping district.

What accommodations do you recommend?

Accommodations city-wide are limited the weekend of the conference, due to the NAPE Expo, so we recommend that you secure your accommodations early.

We have a room block with La Quinta Inn & Suites Galleria Area. If you would like to stay at the La Quinta as part of the room block, please make your reservation by calling 713-355-3440 and ask for LA QUINTA INN & SUITES HOUSTON GALLERIA AREA Group #833. Space is limited. Rooms will be released January 15, 2014.

What are my transportation and parking options for the conference?

Parking will be on-site for Friday Feb. 7 and Saturday Feb. 8. On Thursday morning we will be running a shuttle from a nearby parking lot. (Thursday afternoon there will be parking available on-site.)

I’m not familiar with Houston. What should I know?

As of 2013, Houston is the nation’s most diverse city, with over 100 different languages spoken, and ranks as the fourth most populous nationally. Located in the Gulf Coast region of Texas, Houston thrives on air conditioning, and is a sprawling metropolis.

In addition to its renown as an energy capital of the world, there are other important aspects of Houston:

  • Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, with a local economic impact of $10 billion and 4.8 million patients annually.
  • Houston offers a unique museum district including galleries, and art and cultural institutions and museums.
  • Houston’s 17-block Theatre District is second only to New York in concentration of seats.
  • Houston’s restaurant scene is flourishing, with talented local chefs and business owners catching national attention.


February 6, 2014 7:30 am
February 8, 2014 3:30 pm