News and Events
On June 11, graduating Disciples Divinity House Scholars and residents will gather in the Chapel of the Holy Grail with families, colleagues, and friends to celebrate their academic achievements and to launch new endeavors. Speaking will be W. Clark Gilpin, the Margaret E. Burton Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Christianity and Theology at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, where he previously served as Dean. He also is the former Dean of the Disciples Divinity House and currently leads DDH's seminar on Disciples History and Thought. Mr. Gilpin is a historian of Christianity who studies the cultural history of theology in England and America since the seventeenth century and the author of an intellectual biography of Roger Williams, the seventeenth-century advocate of religious liberty, and of A Preface to Theology. He is currently working on two books, one on the letter from prison as a religious genre in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, and another on solitude in American religious and literary history.
On May 4, Ayanna M. Johnson, First Vice Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the founding pastor of Community of Hope Christian Church, will be featured in the final forum of a three-part series on leadership across diversity. The series has extended through the 2008-09 academic year; it has brought together Disciples leaders, especially young adult and emerging leaders, to discuss challenges faces and arts of leadership required for a diverse and often fragmented church and society. April Lewton, an alumna who is a community organizer with the Asian American Institute of Chicago, will interview Rev. Johnson during the forum. In June, Johnson concludes three years as the Minister in Residence at the Disciples Divinity House, an initiative funded by the Oreon E. Scott Foundation.
"No doubt there is a thin line between being a pastor and being a performer," Jayson Byassee observes in a recent Christian Century article. Thinking that "pastors probably can learn something from professional performers about the practice of ministry," he interviews four former professional performers who have become or are becoming pastors. Among them is current Disciples Divinity House Scholar Rebecca Anderson, who reflects on parallels between her work as a comedian and the vocation of preaching that she is now pursuing. Read the article.
A commitment to ecumenical and interfaith conversation has long been a feature of the Disciples Divinity House. This year, Ian Gerdon, a Roman Catholic M.Div. student and long-time House resident, is completing an internship in ecumenical ministry at DDH and in other venues. His ministry has included organizing a study group on the Disciples-Roman Catholic bilateral dialogue and regular evening prayer; he will speak in chapel on April 6. That same evening, Robert Welsh, who is the chief ecumenical officer of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), will present a forum about the work of the Council on Christian Unity.
Early in March, six Disciples Divinity House Scholars made a pilgrimage to Nashville for the Disciples Seminarians' Conference. Organized by Higher Education and Leadership Ministries (HELM) and sponsored by the General ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the biennial gathering provides an opportunity to meet other new leaders and to learn about resources for ministry. It was held March 5-8 at the Scarritt-Bennett Center, which is adjacent to the Disciples of Christ Historical Society and near the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt. Grants from DDH and HELM underwrote travel expenses to the conference. The roots of the Seminarians' Conference can be traced to a pilgrimage made by seven House Scholars and Dean Blakemore in 1953. Click here to read an account of that trek. Click here to read House Scholar Adam Frieberg's reflections on the 2009 conference, as reported by alumnus Ryan Singleton in DisciplesWorld.
Alumnus Vy Nguyen is now the assistant director for Church World Service's California/Southwest Region. He and his father were resettled in the U.S. from Vietnam by the Disciples and CWS in 1990, arriving just two days after Vy's eighth birthday. An article in DisciplesWorld tells how Vy Nguyen's personal background proves valuable in his new position with the global, ecumenical organization. Read the story.
Ian Gerdon, a Roman Catholic M.Div. student, has thought a lot about community during his years as a resident of the Disciples Divinity House. Reflecting on the possibilities and frustrations of shared life, work, and worship at the House, he proposed to arrange a panel exploring patterns of and theological perspectives on community. Thanks to his organization and gracious hosting, that panel came to fruition on Monday, February 23. Assembled to share their perspectives were: Alexandra Conroy, Executive Director of L'Arche Community of Chicago; Elbert Lott, core member of L'Arche Community; DDH alumnus Ross Martinie Eiler, who is co-founder of Christian Radical/Catholic Worker House in Bloomington, Indiana; Edward Glanzmann, Novice Master of the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Chicago; and Tom Roddy of Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston, Illinois.
Jeffrey Stackert, who joined the Divinity School faculty this year as Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible, spoke at a DDH Forum on Monday evening, February 2. His talk, "Seeking Asylum at the Altar: Conceptualizations in the Hebrew Bible," discussed the notion of altar asylum in the Hebrew Bible against the background of blood vengeance and in relation to later notions of city asylum. Prof. Stackert is the second faculty member to present a forum this year; Prof. Willemien Otten spoke in the fall quarter.
Robert G. Sulanke (1935), an esteemed congregational minister and church leader, died January 15 at Westminster Health Care in Muncie, Indiana. He was 95. A native of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Lynchburg College, Mr. Sulanke received his B.D. degree from the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar in 1938. That same summer, he married Francis Abney of Chicago. The couple moved to Maryland where he served Beaver Creek Christian Church and, later, Govens Christian Church in Baltimore. In 1947 the Sulankes moved to Muncie to begin what became a thirty-five year ministry with Jackson Street Christian Church (later renamed Hazelwood Christian Church). Under his leadership, the church moved from a landlocked location in downtown Muncie to an eight acre estate near the Ball State campus. The new building was completed in 1954; when the congregation moved in, they were debt free. He served on the boards of the Pension Fund and of Church Extension. In 1962, Christian Theological Seminary awarded him the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
Mr. Sulanke retired in 1982 at age 70. He then served two interim ministries in Kokomo, Indiana, one for six years. He led an active life well into his nineties, walking over a mile each day and serving as the volunteer chaplain at Westminster Village where he and his wife lived. Frances Sulanke preceded him in death in 2007; they are survived by four children, seven grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Mr. Sulanke explained that as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar, he was “taught to appreciate the past but to live in the present.” He provided for the education of today's House Scholars through an estate gift arranged through the Christian Church Foundation.
A spring conference will bring together scholars and practitioners to re-examine the role and value of culture in theological reflection and the role and value of theology in cultural reflection. Where and how do new theologies and theories of culture intersect? How do these emergent perspectives aid interpretation of and engagement within the ecumene, the whole encultured world? Entitled Culturing Theologies, Theologizing Cultures: Exploring the Worlds of Religion, the conference will be held April 22-23. Planned as the Divinity School’s Sharpe Lectures, it is co-sponsored by the Disciples Divinity House’s Hoover Lectures. Conference organizers are Garry Sparks and Chris Dorsey, both theology Ph.D. candidates and Disciples Divinity House Scholars.
University of Michigan anthroplogist Webb Keane, author of Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter, will keynote the conference. Opening and closing lectures will be given by Divinity School professors Kathryn Tanner and William Schweiker, respectively. University of Virginia professor and DDH Board president Larry Bouchard will speak about art, secularism, and “spirituality.” Other speakers are Chicago anthropologists Jean Comaroff and Robin Shoaps, Morehouse College president Robert Franklin, and Columbia philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne. Two sets of panel presentations will explore theological worlds within contemporary Palestine, Southern India, and Senegal, and historic intersections of cultures and ideas including 16th-century Spanish scholastic humanism and land theology in the book of Leviticus. Panelists include Mr. Sparks, Mr. Dorsey, and Divinity House Scholars Kristel Clayville and Santiago Piñón, Jr.