Attend an E.T.S. Regional Meeting—You Might Get Hooked!March 1, 2013
I did—get hooked, that is.
My first Evangelical Theological Society regional meeting was in Abilene, TX, at Abilene Christian University in March, 1981, while I was in the classroom phase of the (then) Th.D. program at Dallas Seminary. I knew of E.T.S. mostly through its excellent scholarly publication, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS). Since I was pastoring a church at the time, but was hoping to teach and write in the future, I was looking for a way to have a foot in the scholarly realm beyond my doctoral coursework. E.T.S., even at the regional level, provided exactly what I was looking for at that time.
Now, I don’t necessarily think it would be a good idea for a student or faculty member who is just joining E.T.S. to do what I did: present a paper at the first meeting attended. That proved to be jumping into the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim—but I survived, though humbled, and learned a lot in the process. (I completely blew the pronunciation of “pericope” in the middle of the paper, and everyone in the room snickered under their breath—it was embarrassing, but funny!) Overall, though, my first E.T.S. meeting was a great experience, including a number of wonderful people I met, some of whom held quite different theological positions from my own.
Among the valuable things I took away from that first regional E.T.S. meeting were: 1) even though I was only a lowly doctoral student—and one who totally mispronounced a standard exegetical term, at that!—the ideas I presented in my paper were taken seriously, and I received some helpful comments and questions, as well as some much-appreciated encouragement; 2) the realization that there are some very sharp lower-profile professors—and even graduate students—who, though not well-known, have something to say in their respective fields that is very much worth hearing—and often quite thought-provoking; and 3) that I was able to get on the program and read papers at E.T.S. regionals that could be “down-payment” research toward my doctoral dissertation. (As it turned out, when I submitted my dissertation in 1985, the bibliography included several of my unpublished regional [and one national] E.T.S. papers. As a result, one of the profs on my dissertation committee told me he was impressed, because I listed more of my own publications/papers than any doctoral candidate in any of the dissertations with which he had worked—almost all of which were related to E.T.S.)
Building upon the enjoyment I had at that first E.T.S. regional, I shortly volunteered to write book reviews for JETS, and have since done several dozen—again, almost always a lot of fun (and free books!). Also, over the years, I have been honored to be a regional officer in two different rotations, 15 years apart.
In the meantime, even though I have attended eight E.T.S. national meetings since joining the organization, frankly, I still enjoy the regional meetings the most. They are almost always more personal and easy-going. Also, if you are not blessed with teaching at a school that has excessive amounts of money available for travel/meals at E.T.S. national meetings at far-flung locations—usually in very expensive hotels—and I have not been, then regionals are a much more cost-effective alternative.
By the way, it just so happens that Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting the annual meeting of the E.T.S. Eastern Region this weekend (Friday-Saturday, March 1-2). If anything I have said has aroused even the slightest amount of interest or curiosity in you, why not poke around and find out the where/when/cost details and show up, even if you have no immediate plans to join E.T.S. (the annual dues for which are quite reasonable, by the way, especially if you are a student)? I am quite sure that Dr. Fred Smith of LBTS, the current regional President, and the others running the conference, would love to have you there—and would be happy to answer your questions.
Now, I won’t be there in Lynchburg, but, since I live in Texas, I will be attending the E.T.S. Southwest Region meeting, also this coming weekend. And, yes, I will be giving a paper—my 35th at an E.T.S. meeting, 27 of which have been at regionals. And, I can assure that it will be at least as much fun as the first one back in Abilene, where I flaunted my rookie ignorance, but all those scholars were encouraging models of Christian charitableness toward me.
- A. Boyd Luter, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies