Disciples Divinity House

of the University of Chicago

Dorothy Messenger, 102, Beloved teacher and mentor

November 16, 2017 —  

Dorothy Coffman Messenger died on November 5 in Edmond, Oklahoma. She was 102. She was born March 4, 1915, in Dallas, Texas, to John Richard Coffman and Rhe Harper Coffman. She attended Texas Christian University, where she met G.L. “Andy” Messenger. They were married August 27, 1936, and both graduated from TCU in 1937. She earned the Bachelor of Science Degree in Business.

After college, they moved to Chicago, where G.L. entered the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. She was employed at the International Council of Religious Education, which later merged with the Federal Council of Churches to become the National Council of Churches. Her responsibilities included meeting arrangements for scholars working on the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Their first full-time pastorate was at Canyon, Texas, where they began serving in the fall of 1939 and where their daughter, Myrna (Ranney), was born. There followed two more Texas pastorates, at Center and at Denton, and the birth of their two sons, MacDiarmid and Scribner. They served the Glen Oak Christian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and then in Oklahoma at First Christian in Stillwater, Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, and First Christian, Woodward. In Oklahoma, Dorothy was employed for 28 years in the field of accounting.

Dorothy Messenger was active in all phases of church life. She was moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma, 1982-84, president of the Oklahoma Christian Women's Fellowship, and an elder. She taught church school classes with all ages, led retreats and numerous workshops, and spoke in churches across Oklahoma. She volunteered in many interdenominational projects. She was beloved as a teacher, adviser, and mentor. She was predeceased by her husband, to whom she had been married for almost 67 years. In 2005, she created the G.L. “Andy” and Dorothy Coffman Messenger Fund at the Disciples Divinity House. She is survived by her daughter and two sons, and by numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held November 16 at Southern Hills Christian Church in Edmond.

Toulouse honored as Divinity School's 2018 Alumnus of the Year

November 01, 2017 —  

Upon recommendation from the Divinity School’s Alumni Council, the Board of Trustees of the Baptist Theological Union has named Mark G. Toulouse the Divinity School Alumnus of the Year for 2018. 

From 2009 until his retirement this spring, Mark Toulouse served Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto as Principal and as Professor of the History of Christianity. Under his leadership, Emmanuel introduced several new academic programs, including the PhD degree, the MA degree, and the Certificate of Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy, all offered conjointly with the University of Toronto. His work has included the creation of Muslim and Buddhist Studies programs. Prior to his appointment at Emmanuel, he spent twenty-three years at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, eleven of which were spent as Dean and then as Executive Vice-President of the school. He began his work in theological education in 1984, when he joined the faculty of Phillips Theological Seminary, then in Enid, Oklahoma.

Mr. Toulouse received his PhD in the History of Christianity from the University of Chicago in 1984. He has written or edited ten books, including Joined in Discipleship: The Shaping of Contemporary Disciples Identity (1992 and 1997); Makers of Christian Theology in America (1997), Sources of Christian Theology in America (1999), Walter Scott: A Nineteenth-Century Evangelical (1999), God in Public (2006), and most recently co-authored The Altars Where We Worship: The Religious Significance of Popular Culture (2016). His research and teaching have been supported by grants from the Association of Theological Schools, the Lilly Endowment, the Louisville Institute, the Wabash Centre for Teaching and Learning, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Connaught Fund at the University of Toronto.

An ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Mr. Toulouse regularly conducts workshops for ministers and lay people on topics pertaining to North American Christianity, Disciples history and theology, religion and public life, and theological education. 

The Alumnus of the Year lecture will be given in Swift Hall on Thursday, April 19, 2018, at 4:30pm. A reception will follow.

Katherine A. Dey: Passing on a heritage of strength and action

October 13, 2017 —  

Katherine A. Dey, friend of Disciples House Scholars and benefactor, died October 5, in Arlington, Virginia, due to pneumonia complications. She was 96. In a quiet, determined way, she established two named scholarships at the Disciples Divinity House, the M. Elizabeth Dey Scholarship and the Drum and Tenant Scholarship. The first scholarship remembered her beloved grandmother, "Mom." Ms. Dey saw the opportunity to remember her in a way that reflected "her life, her concern for others, her religious convictions and insight into human nature, and what she meant to me." The second scholarship fulfilled her friend Florence Drum's desire to honor her own mother, Eleanor Tenant. All four women--Katherine and Elizabeth Dey, Flo Drum and Eleanor Tenant--were "doers" associated with the Wilson Boulevard Christian Church in Arlington. DDH alumnus Ray Schultz was the pastor of the church during a formative period. Katherine Dey sought to pass this heritage of strength and action to next generations of ministers and church leaders.

Born March 21, 1921, Katherine and her sister Frances were reared on Wilson Blvd. by their paternal grandparents, M. Elizabeth and Edward S. Dey. After 1939 graduation from Washington-Lee High School, she worked as a typist in the Arlington Circuit Court Clerk's office until 1942 when she moved to Jacksonville, Florida, to work on National Defense projects. For over two and a half years, she worked as a Class A Welder at the St. John's River Shipbuilding Company, where 61 Liberty Ships were built and launched. When the contract completed, she went to work as an Aircraft Mechanic for a year at the Jacksonville Naval Air Base, repairing war-damaged fighter aircraft wings and replacing glass windows. In 1948, Katherine began her 32-year service with the Department of Defense, National Security Agency, retiring in 1980.

She was a lifetime member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In 1974 she was the first female church board chair and one of the first two female elders elected in the Capital Area of the Christian Church. In 1983, she became a volunteer driver in the Community Volunteer Services Division of the Arlington Chapter, American Red Cross; three years later, she became volunteer Transportation Coordinator, continuing for over 10 years. In recognition of her exemplary volunteer service, Katherine was awarded the first Chapter Board Chairman's "Inspiration Award" in 1994. In 2010, she was recognized for 27 years of voluntary service to the Arlington Red Cross Chapter. She had served a total of 23,375 volunteer hours. She is survived by loving cousins and devoted friends who cherish her legacy of humor, generosity, and faith. Her sister, Frances predeceased her. Memorial contributions can be made to the Disciples Divinity House or to the First Christian Church of Falls Church, Virginia.

New Disciples Scholars

September 25, 2017 —  

Welcome new Disciples Scholars (L to R): Luke Soderstrom (MA), Victoria Wick (MDiv), and Rachel Abdoler (PhD). Luke Soderstrom is MDiv graduate of Western Theological Seminary who serves part-time as an assistant to HELM President Chris Dorsey. He was just joining a Disciples congregation in Michigan when he began his MA studies last year; this year he is a new Disciples House Scholar. He is interested in pursuing PhD work in theology. Victoria Wick, a member of the Christian Temple in Baltimore, is a 2015 graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis who had been working full-time in student services there. Her background, vocational discernment, and the appeal of an atmosphere of ideas, conversation, and engagement propelled her toward DDH and the Divinity School. Rachel Abdoler, who completed her MDiv as a Disciples House Scholar and with a commitment to interfaith engagement, enters the PhD program in the History of Christianity to pursue a fascinating project on medieval Christian communities in majority Muslim contexts whose little-translated texts were written in Arabic.

DDH welcomes the return of two MDiv Scholars after a year away on full-time internships: Devon Crawford, who interned with the national office of the NAACP in Baltimore as it responded to these consequential times, and Virginia White, who furthered her understanding of nonprofit organizations and theological reflection while working with Week of Compassion, the Disciples disaster relief and humanitarian assistance program fund, and with the Oakland Peace Center. DDH also welcomes six additional new residents who are beginning MA and MDiv studies at the Divinity School, and the return of former resident Uk Ryel, who is pursuing his PhD at CTS.

Enhancing Life, August 4-6, in 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.

Alumna Terri Owens elected General Minister and President

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).

Lee, Underwood installed as Vice Moderators

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.

Machado honored as Distinguished Alumna

July 11, 2017 —  

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

The award commends her as a "trailblazing scholar and minister" and as an "esteemed mentor, dean, teacher, colleague." It recognizes her: "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."

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

House Resident Shelley Featured in UChicago Arts

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.

In Memoriam: Amy Ann Northcutt, 1959-2017

May 07, 2017 —  

Alumna and former President of the Board of Trustees, Amy A. Northcutt, passed away peacefully on May 6, 2017. 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.

Ms. 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 was celebrated at a memorial service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC, on June 17. 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.