Speakers & Artists

Thank you for your interest in the 2019 C.S. Lewis Conference & Faculty Forum! Below, you will find our current list of speakers, artists, pastors, and session leaders.

Confirmed Speakers & Artists

Larry Arnn – Larry P. Arnn is the twelfth president of Hillsdale College. He received his B.A. in 1974 from Arkansas State University, graduating with the highest distinction. He received his M.A. in Government in 1976 and his Ph.D. in Government in 1985 from the Claremont Graduate School. He also studied in England from 1977 to 1980, first as a research student in International History at the London School of Economics, and then in Modern History at Worcester College, Oxford University. While in England, he also served as director of research for the late Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill. He returned to the United States in 1980 to become an editor for Public Research, Syndicated, and from 1985-2000 he served as president of the Claremont Institute, an education and research institution based in Southern California. While at Claremont, he was the founding chairman of the California Civil Rights Initiative, which was passed by California voters in 1996 and prohibited racial preferences in state hiring, contracting, and admissions.

Dr. Arnn is on the board of directors of the Heritage Foundation, the Henry Salvatori Center of Claremont McKenna College, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the Claremont Institute. He served on the U.S. Army War College Board of Visitors for two years for which he earned the Department of the Army’s “Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.” In 2015, Dr. Arnn received the Bradley Prize from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

He is a member of the American Political Science Association, the International Churchill Society, the Mont Pelerin Society, the Philadelphia Society, and the Philanthropy Roundtable. Published widely in national newspapers, magazines and periodicals on issues of public policy, history and political theory, he is the author of three books: Liberty and Learning: The Evolution of American Education; The Founders’ Key: The Divine and Natural Connection between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk by Losing It; and Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government.

Under Dr. Arnn’s leadership since May of 2000, Hillsdale College’s Center for Constructive Alternatives, Ludwig von Mises Lecture Series, and National Leadership Seminars have continued to present leading scholars and public figures to audiences nationwide. Imprimis, the College’s national speech digest, has increased its monthly circulation to over 3.7 million. The College has launched the Barney Charter School Initiative, the Hoogland Center for Teacher Excellence, the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, and the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship. All matriculants to Hillsdale are now signatories to the College Honor Code, which commits them to the pursuit of the moral and intellectual virtues as prescribed by the 1844 founding document of the College. The college established a distinguished visiting fellowship program which brings leading scholars and public figures to campus to teach courses, including: the late Sir Martin Gilbert, classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson, author and columnist Mark Steyn, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

In addition to serving as president, Dr. Arnn is a professor of politics and history at Hillsdale, teaching courses on Aristotle, Winston Churchill, and the American Constitution.  Dr. Arnn is also editor of The Churchill Documents, a sub-series in the official biography of Winston Churchill, begun in 1962 by Randolph Churchill and now published by Hillsdale College Press. The official biography of Winston Churchill is the largest of its kind, and under Dr. Arnn’s direction, will grow to a total of 31 volumes.

Dr. Arnn and his wife, Penelope, have four children, Katy, Henry, Alice, and Tony.

Jerry Root – Jerry Root is a graduate of Whittier College and Talbot Graduate School of Theology at Biola University, both located in Southern California. He received his Ph.D. from the Open University.

He has written C. S. Lewis and a Problem of Evil: An Investigation of a Pervasive Theme, and is the co-editor, with Wayne Martindale, of the best selling, and award winning, The Quotable C. S. Lewis. He wrote, with Stan Guthrie, The Sacrament of Evangelism, and most recently published The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis with Mark Neal.

Jerry has made many written contributions to edited works about C. S. Lewis and has published numerous articles about Lewis, Evangelism and Discipleship, and Spiritual Formation. He is currently serving as the Director of the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, where he also teaches in the Christian Formation and Ministry Department and in the Evangelism and Leadership MA program. Jerry is also a visiting professor at Talbot Graduate School of Theology and Biola University. He and his wife, Claudia, have four grown children, all of whom are married, and thirteen grandchildren.

Photo of Mary PoplinMary Poplin – Mary Poplin is a professor in the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University. Her work spans K–12 to higher education. Poplin, who began her career as a public school teacher, conducts research largely inside schools and classrooms and more recently on highly effective teachers in urban poor schools.

Funded by the John and Dora Haynes Foundation, she and eight colleagues conducted extensive research from 2005 to 2009 with 30 highly effective teachers in nine low performing urban K–12 schools in Los Angeles County. Her prior work included a study of Voices Inside the Classroom, funded by the John Kluge Foundation.

In 1996, Poplin worked for two months with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta to understand why she said their work was “religious work and not social work.” Her book on this experience, Finding Calcutta, was published by InterVarsity Press in 2008 and is also available in Korean and Chinese.

Poplin’s work in higher education has included administration. At various times, she has served as dean and as director of teacher education. Academically, she explores the contemporary intellectual trends dominant in the various academic disciplines: the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. In 2014, she published Is Reality Secular? Testing the Assumptions of Four Global Worldviews (InterVarsity Press). In this book, Poplin examines four major worldviews—naturalism, humanism, pantheism, and Judeo-Christian theism—and explores their implications for human behavior and the evidence for their truth. She is a frequent speaker in Veritas Forums throughout the country.

Bob Bennett – Bob’s ability to write songs about other than typical “spiritual” topics has always made him stand out.  He sees spiritual themes everywhere, even in the least holy of circumstances. His approach to ministry also follows the same line of reasoning – that our lives are intricately woven with the sacred and the human, and that honest communication is ultimately most effective.

If you tell Bob Bennett his songs don’t sound much like Christian music, you’re likely to invoke a smile. After all, Bob Bennett has always lurked outside the fringes of contemporary Christian music, crafting songs that detail not only his joys and victories, but his disappointments, struggles and failures as well. His acoustic folk-style recordings have honestly confronted the messy side of human existence over the years, sometimes making members of the Christian music industry a bit uncomfortable. But those who have discovered Bob Bennett’s depth, wit, honesty and musicianship consider him to be Christian music’s best-kept secret. His classic tunes “Matters Of The Heart,” “Man Of The Tombs,” “A Song About Baseball” and others reveal a songwriting proficiency unmatched among his peers. His ability to express the complexity of emotions we all experience in our spiritual and visceral lives is no less evident in his latest release, Small Graces.

Bob Bennett was born in Downey, California, in 1955. He picked up his first guitar at age nine, and formed a neighborhood rock ‘n’ roll band in high school. In the late seventies he converted to Christianity, and his songwriting began to reflect his newfound faith. His career was launched with the release of his 1979 folk-style debut recording First Things First. Three years later came Matters Of The Heart, a recording Contemporary Christian Music Magazine voted 1982’s “Album of the Year,” ranking it among the top 20 contemporary Christian albums of all time. Soon after the release of his next recording, Non-Fiction, he served as opening act on Amy Grant’s “Unguarded” tour. Lord Of The Past: A Compilation followed, with its title song reaching number one on the Christian radio charts in early 1990, followed by his second number one song, “Yours Alone”. Later that year, Bob joined Michael Card on his “The Way of Wisdom” tour, performing in front of sold-out audiences across the country. Songs From Bright Avenue was released in 1991, a collection of songs he wrote while struggling with the dissolution of his marriage. The years that followed were a time of emotional healing, regrouping, and moving forward with this life. Recently, Bob has found acceptance in the mainstream folk music scene, while performing in music clubs near his home in Southern California. Small Graces reflects this new outlook on life. A host of friends contributed to the recording, from producer Phil Naish (Steven Curtis Chapman, Point of Grace, et. al.), to Michael Card-not to mention some of Nashville’s finest studio musicians. Recorded in Naish and Card’s Studio at Mole End in the pastoral outskirts of Franklin, Tennessee, Small Graces is perhaps Bob’s most remarkable recording to date.

Bob Bennett’s ability to write songs about other than the typical “spiritual” topics has always made him stand out a bit from his peers. To Bob, spiritual themes are everywhere, even in the least holy of circumstances.

“I think that accomplishing some sort of ministry by playing music is a completely faulty, frail method that God still manages to use,” Bob says. “My approach to ministry is a little different than some people’s in that I think the ministry is actually a secondary goal of what I am doing. To me, my primary goal is to communicate truthfully with people. If I can communicate truthfully the life of the spirit and the always accompanying struggle along the way, then ministry happens as a natural result of that.”

Bob is deliberately subjective in his lyrics, carefully avoiding forcing his opinions on others. Instead, he allows listeners to eavesdrop on his personal observations, and lets them decide for themselves if the words ring true.

Ultimately, he reaches into hearts, using his abilities to craft language and music to tell the stories inside each of us. When Bob Bennett sits down with his guitar to play, we share in the angst of a young boy trying to win his father’s approval on the little league field. We cringe with the one whose heart is unmercifully crushed. We dance in the arms of an autumn-haired beauty, even if her love is sure to fade as quickly as the leaves turn. We bask in the unfettered, unmerited small graces our Father extends to us, when we need them the most and deserve them least.

Steven Jay Davis – In May of 2015 Steven began ministry as Senior Pastor / CEO of the First Congregational Church of Redlands California (FCC), a community of faith in the greater Los Angeles area.  Prior to this ministry he served in transition leadership in several ministries. Steven offered pastoral and organizational guidance at the Community Church of East Williston on Long Island, just outside New York City. He served Palisades Presbyterian Church in San Diego, as a First Response Interim Minister following the death of the pastor of 33 years and continued as Interim Pastor.  Prior to this, Steven was Vice President of Development at Edify, an organization working to support education in poor communities in the developing world.

For nine years before Edify, he served as Sr. Pastor and Head of Staff at Manasquan First Presbyterian Church on the Jersey Shore.  Prior to his service in Manasquan New Jersey Steven served churches in Menlo Park and Thousand Oaks, California; and Seattle and Centralia, Washington.

He has an earned doctorate from San Francisco Theological Seminary, a Master of Science from Columbia University in the City of New York and a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. He did his undergraduate work at Seattle Pacific University in psychology and religion.  He has certification in Executive and Organizational Coaching at New York University.

Confirmed Breakout Session Leaders

Carrie Birmingham – Carrie Birmingham has been a professor of education at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA, for twenty years, where she teaches courses for prospective teachers in educational foundations, instructional methods, and English language development. She has been a teacher in public and private schools in Kentucky, Colorado, and California. She also teaches English to adult beginners.

Carrie has written and presented on a variety of topics, including the role of Christian teachers in public schools, bilingualism and reading, hope and wisdom in teaching, mothers of children with autism, and Harry Potter. Besides reading C.S. Lewis, Carrie enjoys easy knitting, watching British TV, reading about education, going on walks, and listening to people. Her current projects are an exploration of C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on education and a research study on promoting deep teacher learning.

Mary Key – Dr. Key serves as President of C.S. Lewis Study Center, Northfield, MA, which, as of June 2018, is an affiliate of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. She has served the Foundation as Director of Special Programs, and continues as a member of the Programming committee for retreats and conferences.

Mary earned both her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology degrees from California Baptist University. She earned a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a specialty in College Student Development through the School of Education at the University of Southern California.

Mary is co-author, along with Carolyn Curtis, of Women and C.S. Lewis: What his life and literature reveal for today’s culture. Mary and Carolyn began their collaboration after meeting at one of the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Writer’s Retreats at Camp Allen, TX. Mary has served California Baptist University as a faculty member teaching in the Psychology, Education and Literature departments and in the Counseling Graduate Program. She has held positions as Counseling Center Director, Director of Women’s Housing, and Career Services Director. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, was in private practice for several years, and conducted seminars in organizational consulting. She and her husband, Scott, recently “graduated” from 20 years of “Home Education” – after launching their three children into college and beyond. They have all been involved in the work the Foundation begun in Northfield, MA, since 2010.

Scott Key – As Professor of Philosophy at California Baptist University, Scott currently serves within the School of Christian Ministries, having helped establish and run the Honors Program, and, previously, the 4-year Great Works Program. In addition, he is one of the founding faculty of the seven-year program entitled, Seminar on Faith and the Academic Profession (SOFAP), strategically designed to assist the 35-40 new tenure-track faculty each year to think deeply and carefully about their teaching, research, and service from the perspective of the Christian worldview. He has also served as the Chair of the Department of History, Philosophy, and Political Science; as Center Director for two off-site campuses; and as Campus Minister. He has taught courses in Philosophy, History, Political Science, English, Psychology, Christian Studies, and Humanities. His research areas include the history of philosophy, 20th Century Philosophy, Aesthetics, Ethics, and C. S. Lewis.

Scott is also the Program Director of the C. S. Lewis Study Center in Northfield, Massachusetts. The Study Center encourages and equips those who desire to thoughtfully and winsomely address issues of faith and culture within their sphere of influence. It serves as a focal point of Christian hospitality, study, reflection, and learned conversation in New England. Its programs are an embodiment of C.S. Lewis’s concept, “Mere Christianity,” inviting the participation of Christians from all historic communions, and welcoming all in the pursuit of truth, goodness and beauty.

Andrew Lazo – Andrew Lazo is a speaker, teacher, and writer on C.S. Lewis and his fellow Inklings. Andrew currently serves as teacher of English and C.S. Lewis at Houston Christian High School in Houston.

Lazo has published several articles and book reviews on Lewis and has co-edited Mere Christians: Inspiring Stories of Encounters with C. S. Lewis. His latest article, published in the journal VII, has corrected the accepted dating of Lewis’s conversion to Theism.

As a speaker on C.S. Lewis and the Inklings, Lazo’s resume includes: weekend conferences at Laity Lodge, St. Mark’s Episcopal (Jacksonville, FL) and St. Michael’s by-the-Sea (Carlsbad, CA) and a regular summer series at Christ United Methodist Church (Sugar Land, TX). Lazo presented to the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, and he has offered a number of courses and lectures at The Jung Center of Houston.

Vishal Mangalwadi – founder-president of BOMI/Revelation Movement, is an Indian philosopher and social reformer. Vishal has lectured in over 40 countries, published seventeen books, and contributed chapters to many more.

Revelation Movement helps others around the world to join Vishal and Ruth Mangalwadi to disciple nations through church and Internet-based education and use the media to present truth.

In 2013, Vishal served as the Honorary Professor of Applied Theology in the Gospel and Plough Faculty of Theology at the Sam Higginbottom Institute of Agriculture, Technology, and Sciences. In 2009, Vishal initiated an education movement in Indonesia that aims to equip local churches to offer their facilities as Internet-ready college class rooms capable of delivering an on-line curriculum, by way of webcasts. This vision is gaining traction around the world.

Born and raised in India, Vishal studied philosophy at the University of Allahabad (1967-‘69) and Indore (1971-’73), in Hindu ashrams, and at the L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. In 1976 along with his wife, Ruth, he founded a community to serve the rural poor in India. Vishal continued his direct involvement in community transformation until 1997, including service at the headquarters of two national political parties. There, he worked toward the empowerment and liberation of Indian peasants and the lower castes.

In 1977, Asia’s then largest publisher, Vikas Publishing House, published Vishal’s first book, The World of Gurus. This evaluation of the lives, teachings, and communities of Hinduism’s most famous religious personalities was serialized in India’s then-largest weekly, Sunday, and is still used today as a text book in universities. His next two books, When the New Age Gets Old: Looking For A Greater Spirituality (IVP 1992) and India: The Grand Experiment (Pippa Rann books 1997) brought his work to the attention of American and European readers. He has since published 11 more books, including The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible reated the Soul of Western Civilization.

At the turn of the Millennium, Vishal and Ruth were invited to come to America to make a television series exploring the Bible’s role in creating the modern world. Their research, in preparation of making a documentary film, has been published in books, DVDs, CDs and in Social Media.

Donald McConnell – Donald McConnell, J.D., has a B.A. in Political Science from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. His law degree is from the University of Southern California. A committed Christian since early childhood, he has long been involved in leading Bible studies and singing sacred choral music. He has always been an avid reader on a wide range of topics. Donald practiced law between 1985 and 2001. In 2001 Donald became a full-time faculty member at Trinity International University. He served as Dean of the law school for five years, and focused on teaching classes explaining how the Christian Worldview has shaped legal history and legal philosophy. He has also been a frequent radio show guest discussing the writings of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, reviewing movies, and applying the Bible to life’s ethical dilemmas. He has engaged in extensive public speaking and blogging on topics as diverse as the books of Dorothy Sayers, the ethics of espionage, human cloning, abortion, war, and legal practice. He has published writings about Natural Law and the relationship between Christians and the political process. Donald is gifted in explaining complex ideas in terms everyone can understand. He cares deeply about connecting Biblical truths to every area of life and is excited to share with students the creativity, joy and adventure of participation in the Kingdom of God.

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