Tuesday, July 11 plenary

“Irresponsible answers”

Many discussions of children’s religious education focus on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of children’s ministry approaches and practices or the intersections of development and faith formation. However, there’s another area that needs our attention: the historical and continuing malformation of children’s lives by religious institutions because of intentional or implicit bias. An example of such malformation can be seen in the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report released by the U.S. Department of the Interior in May 2022.

Our opening plenary in the 2023 Annual Meeting will focus on times and ways that religious education has been irresponsible in its interactions with children. Panelists will reflect – from the perspective of their specific research interests and more broadly – on the reasons for such presumptive claims and actions, the particular kinds of damage to children’s spirituality and religious identities, and ways of preventing such egregious practices from being repeated in similar and new forms.

Henry Zonio

Dr. Henry Zonio is passionate about the church more intentionally being the light Christ calls it to be rather than contributing to the darkness. Henry is a sociologist and expert on how children’s religious education contributes to race and gender inequities in society. His research focuses on children/adolescence, social inequalities, religion, and education. Henry brings 25+ years of practical children’s ministry to his research. He also has written articles for a variety of children’s ministry trade magazines and has authored book chapters on child research methodology and children’s spirituality. In addition to writing and speaking on issues of diversity in the church, Henry is the Director of the Center for Academic Excellence at Asbury University and teaches sociology courses at the university. Henry is also on the board of the Children’s Spirituality Summit and serves on the Equity Audit team for Godly Play Foundation.

Christine Diindiisi McCleave

Christine Diindiisi McCleave is an Indigenous scholar and activist. She is an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Nation. She is a past CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and is currently a doctoral student in Indigenous Studies at University of Alaska Fairbanks with a focus on using entheogenic plant medicines to heal Indigenous historical trauma. Her master’s thesis on Native spirituality and Christianity and the spectrum of Native spiritual practices today. She has pioneered an unprecedented national research scope, spoken at the UN in Geneva, and helped write a bill for a truth commission in the U.S. Her work continues to concentrate on the intersection of cultural, political, and spiritual agency for global Indigenous Rights and the neuroscience of Indigenous historical trauma as a generational survivor of U.S. Indian Boarding Schools.

Ramona Grad

Ramona I. Grad, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at UT Tyler and received her doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Practice from Georgia State University. She is originally from Romania and has lived in the U.S. for the last 10 years. She has an ongoing program of research and scholarship that focuses on the experiences of individuals with a history of religious and childhood interpersonal trauma (i.e., abuse, neglect) as well as on therapeutic relationship aspects in counseling, counseling training, and supervision. Her scholarly work includes numerous peer-reviewed articles and presentations focusing on topics such as post-traumatic growth and diversity issues in the counseling process and counselor education. She has more than 15 years of clinical experience, having worked as a mental health counselor, psychologist, and clinical supervisor in Romania and the United States in community mental health clinics, treatment facilities, college counseling centers, and private practice.

Moderated by Theresa O’Keefe

For the most recent updates, please refer to the REA schedule on our website

Scroll to Top