Disciples Divinity House

of the University of Chicago
July 27, 2017 —  

During the past two years, The Enhancing Life Project has explored the aspiration of human beings to live better. Given the profound expansion of human power through technology as well as advances in genetics, ecology, and other fields, the vulnerability and endangerment as well as the enhancement of life are dominant themes in the global age. Kris Culp is one of the 35 Enhancing Life Scholars from around the world who will present research results at the Capstone Conference at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center. Andrew Packman and Darryl Dale-Ferguson are among the students giving "night talks" as part of the conference on Friday, August 4.

July 14, 2017 —  

Disciples Divinity House alumna Rev. Teresa (Terri) Hord Owens was elected by an overwhelming majority at General Assembly on Sunday, July 9, as the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. AlumnaeYvonne Gilmore and Alexis Kassim made powerful speeches in support of Rev. Owens, who is the first African-American woman to lead the denomination and to lead any mainline Protestant denomination. Rev. Owens has been Dean of Students at the Divinity School since 2005, and she serves as Senior Minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Downers Grove, Illinois.

“We saw in Terri that unique combination of pastoral leadership, active presence in all expressions of the Church, and administrative experience that the search committee believed was most needed,” said Search Committee Chair Jackie Bunch. “She has experience as a local pastor, theologian and leader. The search committee recognized that leading the Church in this day and age requires a certain business acumen as well as a heart for ministry. We see that Terri brings that special mix of academic, executive, and pastoral qualities that are required for leading the Disciples through this time in our North American culture. She has a background of bringing together diverse groups for dialogue that will serve the Church well.”

A Disciple since young adulthood, Rev. Owens comes to the position in a time of renewed emphasis on the issues of race, particularly in the United States. "We need to stop demonizing differences as deficiencies," Rev. Owens said. "We should seek to understand, to work through our differences in priorities, opinions, methods, and goals. This will not be easy, but imagine what an example this will be for the world if we can bridge the gaps in politics, identity, geography and theology."

Rev. Owens's election follows the 12-year tenure of the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, who was the first woman to lead a mainline denomination in the United States. She will serve a six year term with an option for re-election in 2023 for an additional six-year term. Rev. Owens's installation service was held on July 12, the final evening of the General Assembly (Disciples of Christ).

July 12, 2017 —  

Alumni Beau Underwood and Tim Lee were installed as First and Second Vice Moderator of the General Assembly of the Christian Church on July 12. Sue Morris, a fourth-generation Disciple and member of First Christian Church of Omaha, Nebraska, who is the president of Heritage Services, was installed as Moderator. She has been serving as Moderator-elect. Belva Brown Jordan, an associate dean at the Claremont School of Theology and dean of the Disciples Seminary Foundation in Claremont, California, was installed as moderator elect. The moderator team for 2017-19 is standing together with Rev. Owens, newly elected General Minister and President, around the communion table during closing worship in the bottom photo to the right.

Alumnus Beau Underwood has served as the senior minister of First Christian Church in Jefferson City, Missouri, for the past two years. He previously served as the senior director of advocacy and communications at Sojourners in Washington, DC, and an assistant minister at National City Christian Church. He is a graduate of Eureka College and an MDiv/MA in Public Policy graduate of the University of Chicago.

Alumnus Timothy S. Lee is an ordained minister and an historian of Christianity at Brite Divinity School. He is an expert on Christianity in Korea. He is a PhD graduate of the Divinity School in the History of Christianity, where he also earned a certificate in Ministerial Studies. He was ordained in 1996 at Chicago Christian Church (DOC), under the mentorship of the late Rev. Soongook Choi. He has given significant leadership to the Disciples of Christ, including as NAPAD Moderator.

July 11, 2017 —  

Daisy L. Machado, Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, was presented the Disciples Divinity House Distinguished Alumna Award at DDH's General Assembly luncheon on July 11. The Alumni/ae Council selected her as the nineteenth recipient of its Distinguished Alumna Award. Ms. Machado earned her PhD in 1996 from the University of Chicago Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. 

The written commendation on the awards reads: "Trailblazing scholar and minister. Esteemed mentor, dean, teacher, colleague. For excellence in teaching in and beyond the classroom; for tenacious, transformative leadership in theological education; for inspiring and guiding emerging scholars, especially through the Hispanic Theological Initiative; for wise advocacy for Latino/a faculty members; for advancing  the historical and conceptual study of borderlands; and for courageous dedication to those who are forgotten and pushed aside, to Las Desaperacidas, [and for spelunking - verbally added by Santiago Pinon and echoed by Dean Culp] : The Alumni/ae Association of the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago bestows upon you this day, July 11, 2017, its Distinguished Alumna Award."

The luncheon began with music shared by House Scholar Hannah Fitch as we gathered. Trustee David Vargas shared the invocation. TCU professor and Alumni/ae Council member Santiago Pinon introduced her, noting her extraordinary leadership and teaching and her courage in mapping new terrains in scholarship. Dean Culp and Melinda Wood, outgoing president of the Alumni/ae Council, presented the award. Machado spoke in response. Her remarks challenged the audience to critical analysis, presence, and action. Remarks were also offered by Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President, and Lee Hull Moses, President of the Board of Trustees. 

June 12, 2017 —  

An article regarding the work of DDH Resident and recent graduate, Braxton Shelley, MDiv and PhD from the Department of Music in Music Theory, was recently featured in the June 2017 UChicago Arts newsletter. The article, titled "Tuning Up: Braxton Shelley takes a pioneering look at the structure and meaning of gospel music," was originally published in Tableau, the magazine of the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago.

"Shelley is 'one of a kind in so many ways,' says his adviser, Steven Rings, associate professor in Music. His dissertation takes a musicological approach—a close reading of notes, chords, harmonies, and forms—which is a first for gospel. 'There is no precedent in music theory, if you can believe it,' says Rings. Musicology and music theory initially focused on European classical music, and more recently on contemporary music like the Beatles. Shelley is the first to apply this approach to understanding how gospel music works." Read the full article here.

Shelley has accepted a faculty position at Harvard University's Department of Music.

May 07, 2017 —  

Alumna and former President of the Board of Trustees, Amy A. Northcutt, passed away peacefully on May 6. She was 57. She was diagnosed on April 27 with a brain tumor. She died from complications related to the tumor. Amy is survived by her husband, Craig Middlebrook, of Falls Church, Virginia, and their children, Henry (17) and Ella Bo Lei Middlebrook (13). She is also survived by her sisters, Nancy Trench (Winston) of Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Kay Lynn Northcutt, the writer, a Disciples minister, and DDH alumna, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Amy was preceded in death by her parents, Clinton and Thelma Vaden Northcutt.

Born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, on December 18, 1959, Amy Northcutt graduated as valedictorian from Putnam City West High School in 1978 and matriculated at Smith College. She spent her junior year at Harvard University and graduated from Smith in 1982 with a BA in Government. She entered the University of Chicago in 1982 and earned her AMRS degree from the Divinity School in 1983. She served as Youth Minister of Western Oaks Christian Church in Oklahoma City before attending Boston College Law School, from which she graduated magna cum laude with a JD in 1987.

Amy Northcutt was serving as Chief Information Officer of the National Science Foundation (NSF) at the time of her death. She was named to the office in January 2012, and had responsibility for NSF's information technology investments, governance, policy, and planning. “She enacted a continuous Information Technology modernization approach which has brought innumerable advances to our day-to-day lives,” NSF Director France Córdova said. “These contributions will impact and improve NSF’s business operations for years to come.” She was recognized by FedScoop as one of the "Top Women in Tech 2017".

She had held positions at NSF as Acting Office Head, Information and Resource Management and, from 2001-2011, as Deputy General Counsel. Prior to NSF, Ms. Northcutt was the Vice President for Administration of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Before moving to Washington, DC, in 1991, she practiced law at Crowe and Dunlevy in Oklahoma City. She was a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association. She served on numerous boards of directors and received many awards and recognitions throughout her career. Most recently she served as a Director for the In Trust Center for Theological Schools as well as the Worldwide Assurance for Employees of Public Agencies.

In 1993, Ms. Northcutt became a member of DDH’s Board of Trustees, serving until December 2010. She served as its president from 1999-2005. During her presidency, the Board grappled with accelerating tuition costs and significant capital expenditures; over $2 million was added to the endowment. The long range planning process clarified the work of the House and of its Board, and the Board evolved to a new model of work that incorporated study and fostered a “think tank” approach. She was the first woman to serve as president. We counted on her warmth and intelligence, on her ability to plan and lead, and on her love of the House and commitment to its mission.

Amy Northcutt was a person of strong and committed faith. In Washington, DC, she attended the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, where she served as Council President. She knew herself to be a beloved child of God, and she gratefully opened her heart and home freely to all, particularly those in need. She was an organ donor.

Her life will be celebrated at a memorial service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC, on Saturday, June 17, 2017, at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to create a scholarship in Amy’s memory to support women pursuing theological studies. Donations can be made to the Amy A. Northcutt Fund, checks payable to "The Disciples Divinity House" at 1156 East 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60637-1536, or online.

May 03, 2017 —  

Join us for the Disciples Divinity House luncheon in Indianapolis at the General Assembly on July 11, 2017 at the J.W. Marriott. The Alumni/ae Council will present the biennial Distinguished Alumnus/a award, and it's a wonderful time to get re-acquainted with old friends, and to meet new friends. Tickets are $25. They can be purchased online here or by
e-mailing ddhadmin@gmail.com to reserve tickets. 

May 02, 2017 —  

Associate Dean Gilmore will preach Friday, May 5, at Eureka College's Baccalaureate at 6:00 pm in Becker Auditorium. In addition to being Associate Dean at DDH, Gilmore serves as a member of the Board of Directors of HELM, co-teaches a course in the Divinity School's Arts of Ministry sequence, and is a poet and a spoken word artist. She is in demand as a speaker and preacher and as an anti-racism trainer with Reconciliation Ministry. Gilmore has preached, lectured, and/or performed at varied educational institutions and denominational events, and as a member of Cornel West Theory she has performed in a number of venues and been interviewed on the radio. You can read more here.

May 01, 2017 —  

On April 28, during the spring meeting of the Board of Trustees and the Alumni/ae Council, DDH celebrated the work of Dean Kristine Culp and her completion of twenty-five years of service as the dean of Disciples Divinity House. Since 1991, she has provided outstanding leadership to the Disciples Divinity House as well as in the Divinity School. The first woman to become chief executive of one of the theological education institutions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Dean Culp led the Disciples Divinity House through its centennial anniversary in 1994. She is currently engaged in preparations to mark DDH’s 125th anniversary in 2019. Dean Culp will complete twenty-six years of service on June 30.

The celebration began in the late afternoon with a reception at Disciples Divinity House followed by a panel discussion in the Common Room. Alumni/ae Larry Bouchard, April Lewton, Teresa Hord Owens, and Andrew Packman discussed the theme of vulnerability and glory from Dean Culp’s work, with special reflection on her visionary leadership, and the innovative possibilities that have extended from the mission of the Divinity House in the church, the academy, and beyond over the past twenty-five years.

After the panel discussion, everyone enjoyed a private dinner party at the Piccolo Mondo restaurant in Hyde Park. Trustee Marshall Dunn offered a word of prayer before the meal. As guests were ready to start on dessert, the President of the Board of Trustees, Lee Hull Moses, and Alumni/ae Council President, Melinda (Lindy) Keenan Wood, read excerpts from some of the letters that alumni/ae and friends sent in to celebrate Dean Culp and presented her with the full collection of letters and notes. It was a delightful evening for all.

April 05, 2017 —  

Laurie Zoloth, a leader in the field of religious studies with particular scholarly interest in bioethics and Jewish studies, has been appointed dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School. She presently serves as a Charles McCormick Deering Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, holding appointments in the Department of Religious Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and in the Feinberg School of Medicine. University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier announced her appointment as dean, which will begin July 1, 2017. Her research explores religion and ethics, drawing from sources ranging from Biblical and Talmudic texts to postmodern Jewish philosophy, including the writings of Emmanuel Levinas. Her scholarship spans the ethics of genetic engineering, stem cell research, synthetic biology, social justice in health care, and how science and medicine are taught. As a founding board member of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning, she also researches the practices of interreligious dialogue, exploring how religion plays a role in public discussion and policy.

Ms. Zoloth served as a professor of ethics and Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University before joining the religious studies and medical school faculty at Northwestern. She was the inaugural director of the Jewish Studies program at San Francisco State University and director of graduate studies in religious studies at Northwestern. At Northwestern, she was founding director of the Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and founding director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society at the Feinberg School of Medicine. Zoloth also served as the president of Northwestern’s Faculty Senate.

She is author of Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice and co-editor of five books, including Notes from a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics and Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought. She has been the president of the American Academy of Religion and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She is an elected member of the Hastings Center and a life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.Her work on bioethics and health care led her to serve on the NASA Advisory Council, the space agency’s highest civilian advisory board; the International Planetary Protection Committee; the National Recombinant DNA Advisory Board, and the executive committee of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. She served as chair of the first bioethics advisory board at the Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute and has testified in front of Congress, the President’s Commission on Bioethics and state legislatures.

Ms. Zoloth began her career as a neonatal nurse working in impoverished communities. She said those early years are central to how she views religious studies and bioethics—an approach that brings together theoretical exploration with an understanding of how arguments of theology and moral philosophy can address societal challenges.

She succeeds Dean Richard A. Rosengarten, who continues as associate professor of religion and literature. Her appointment follows a national search, informed by a Divinity School faculty committee chaired by Dan Arnold, associate professor of the philosophy of religions. (Adapted from a UC press release.)