Annual Conference Gives Faith Communities Knowledge and Tools to Respond to Addiction Crisis

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If the religious organization where you grew up talked about addiction, would it tout fear, morality, punishment or “tough love?” Or would there simply be the sound of crickets? If so, Pastor Ed Treat wants to invite them to attend the Center of Addiction & Faith’s third Addiction & Faith Conference, October 7-9, 2021 in Bloomington, Minn., at the Doubletree Hotel.

Hundreds of spiritual leaders representing dozens of denominations from more than 30 U.S. states and Canada are expected. Along with healthcare, treatment-center and mental-health professionals, other advocates and civic and state leaders, they’ll hear experts in their fields discuss not only faith but science, justice and compassion, too. These are the building blocks of the Center’s mission.

“The studies show that faith is a positive factor in addiction prevention and recovery,” said the Rev. Dr. Ed Treat, executive director of the Center of Addiction & Faith. “Faith communities are in an ideal position to make a difference in healing addiction, and yet their messages are either ineffective or nonexistent. We want to help teach them what they can do and why.”

Spurred on by evidence of worsening mental health and addictions in our post-pandemic world, conference attendance is expected to double from previous years, with the addition of a virtual attendance option.

  • More than 81,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. between June 2019 and May 2020, a record-breaking number that CDC officials suggest is related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to JAMA Network.
  • During the pandemic, women increased their heavy drinking days by 41% compared to before the pandemic. Additional research has shown that the psychological stress related to COVID-19 was associated with greater drinking for women, but not for men, Harvard Health Publishing
  • A growing body of evidence suggests that there is an unprecedented increase in internet use and consumption of online pornography during the pandemic, and possibly even directly caused by it, said a Frontiers in Psychiatry report published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information branch site of NIH.

The studies show that faith is a positive factor in addiction prevention and recovery“People are doing the best they can to cope, but the isolation and stress imposed by the pandemic tested us all,” said Treat, in recovery from his own addiction since 1987. “Addiction doesn’t discriminate, and many people—including clergy, who have few places to turn for support—have become caught up in an insidious biological process that demands more. We offer a safe place for people of faith to share and learn.”

Conference keynote speakers will include:

  • Deacon Jan Brown, of Virginia, executive director of Spiritworks Foundation.
  • Timothy McMahan King, of New Hampshire, and author of Addiction Nation: What the Opioid Crisis Says About Us.
  • Kal William Rissman, of Iowa, and author of Knowledge to Power: Understanding and Overcoming Addiction.
  • Richard Wright, CI, LADC Ojibwe Nation, of Minnesota, and author of Mukwa and Adjidamoo, The Way of Our People, and From Wine To Mouthwash.

More than a dozen breakout sessions are also included for in-person conference registrants, in the areas of addiction and the family, addiction science, addiction and justice, equipping the church for addiction ministry, and best practices.

Treat said, “We want to show faith leaders how to offer hope and healing in their communities, not only to persons with addiction but also their families, especially children. Too many people are suffering. Such an offering has the potential to transform our world.”

A 2020 Gallup survey reported that 47% of U.S. adults belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down more than 20 points from the turn of the century. The change is due primarily to the rise in Americans with no religious preference.

Registration is open at www.addictionandfaithconference.com. The in-person cost is $350. A virtual option is also available this year for $150 (there is also a “pay what you can” option).


The Center of Addiction & Faith was formed in 1990. It grew out of the Fellowship of Recovering Lutheran Clergy and it was established to provide help and give encouragement to pastors recovering from alcoholism and addiction. Treat was an active Lutheran pastor in 2018 when he held the first Addiction & Faith Conference. The success of this conference encouraged him to leave his church of 25 years and dedicate himself full-time to The Center of Addiction & Faith which became a 501©(3) nonprofit organization in 2020.

Last Updated on September 11, 2021

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