News and Events
Williamson selected as Distinguished Alumnus
05.09.15 - Clark M. Williamson has been selected as Distinguished Alumnus. He will be honored on July 21 at the DDH Luncheon at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), meeting in Columbus, Ohio. The Alumni/ae Council received several nominations for the award at their meeting in late April. They ultimately made a unanimous decision for Mr. Williamson, who is the Indiana Professor of Christian Thought Emeritus at Christian Theological Seminary, where he also served as Dean, and a pioneering architect of post-Holocaust Christian theology.
A prolific author and co-author of numerous volumes, he is greatly esteemed as a teacher and colleague, and he is widely regarded as one of the foremost theologians among the Disciples of Christ. He has said that "the purpose of Christian theology is to bring the church to self-understanding and self-criticism," and those purposes find exemplary expression in two of his most acclaimed books, A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology and Way of Blessing, Way of Life: A Christian Theology. He has been a compelling advocate for rethinking Christian theology, teaching, and preaching in light of Christian anti-Jewishness, and he has fostered that work in his writing and teaching, especially in the books noted above, in courses in seminaries, congregations, and synagogues, and in the three-volume lectionary commentary series, "Preaching without Prejudice," that he co-authored with Ronald J. Allen. He is a trustee of the Disciples Divinity House.
Ayanna Johnson Watkins to speak at Convocation
04.30.2015 - Ayanna Johnson Watkins will be the speaker at the 2015 Convocation, to be held Friday, June 12, beginning at 6:00 pm. DDH's Convocation is a formal service that marks the end of the academic year and celebrates the achievements of graduating Disciples House Scholars and ecumenical community members.
As Director of the National Benevolent Association's Incubate Initiative, Ms. Johnson Watkins seeks out and supports the development of new health and social service ministries as well as the Disciple social entrepreneurs who are starting them. After earning her BA in Sociology from Yale University, she earned the MDiv and MA in Social Service Administration degrees from the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. Ordained in 2004, she was the organizing pastor for Family of Hope Christian Church in the Chicago area. She has also served as a community organizer, a counselor for at-risk youth and adults with mental illness adults, and an advocate for public aid clients. For five years, she was the Director of Community Life at Chicago Theological Seminary. A former First Vice Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she has written for Disciples publications, published in The Christian Century magazine, and spoken on leadership, mentoring communities, domestic violence, and youth development. She and her husband, Rich, call Memphis home.
Convocation is held in the Chapel of the Holy Grail on the last Friday of the quarter. DDH's Convocation precedes the University’s Spring Convocation, which takes place in the main quadrangle on Saturday. The first DDH Convocation was held in 1933. Recent speakers have included Larry Bouchard, Don Browning, Frank Burch Brown, W. Clark Gilpin, Ana Gobledale, Claudia Highbaugh, Sandhya Rani Jha, Verity Jones, JoAnne Kagiwada, Hubert Locke, Daisy Machado, Holly McKissick, Mark Miller-McLemore, Lee Hull Moses, Stephanie Paulsell, David Vargas, Clark Williamson, and Geunhee Yu.
In Memoriam: Charles Harvey Lord (1924-2015)
04.06.2015 - Charles Harvey Lord, pastor of University Church from 1970 to 1989 and an alumnus of the Disciples Divinity House, died on April 3, 2015. The following is adapted from University Church's remembrance. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, he received his BA from Phillips University in 1945, and was ordained into the ministry in 1947. He received his BD from Union Theological Seminary in 1952. He entered the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar, and received an MA from the Divinity School in 1965 and, later, a PhD.
Spring (quarter) has sprung
03.30.15 - Spring quarter began today, March 30. Its arrival also brings a new schedule of Monday events. A number of forums will feature theological reflection that joins experiential knowledge and extensive research. Monday dinner chef Erika Dornfield, who received her MDiv from the Divinity School last Friday, recently made a return trip to Tanzania with an ELCA delegation; she will speak about environmental ethics in Tanzania on April 13. On April 24, we'll host a conversation with alumna Sandhya Jha, Founder of the Oakland Peace Center, on her new book on race in America.
Many seasons of preparation for the future will culminate for our graduates this quarter. The senior ministry thesis, required of graduating MDiv students at the Divinity School, provides an opportunity for in-depth practical theological research on an issue in ministry. House Scholars Jeremy Fuzy and Allie Lundblad will give public presentations of their projects on May 4 and 11. Spring Convocation, June 12, will recognize the achievements of our graduates and the conclusion of DDH's 120th academic year. We are delighted to welcome alumna Ayanna Johnson Watkins, Director of the Incubate Initiative of the National Benevolent Association, as our speaker.
A night of true stories - schedule change
02.18.15 - "A night of true stories," originally planned for March 2 is now scheduled for March 9 at 7pm. If you are a fan of "This American Life" or "The Moth" on public radio, you are going to love this: stories curated by alumna Rebecca Anderson. A related event at the CCIW Regional Assembly was a grand success, and this event brings the art of storytelling to the DDH Common Room. Some of the storytellers are DDH's own, and they have been preparing their stories with Ms. Anderson's expert help. Please note that the chapel service that evening will feature the theme of storytelling as well.
The change in the schedule is related to the recently announced event at the Divinity School, "Lessons from Selma: Then and Now," which will be held on Monday, March 2, in Swift Hall at 6:00pm with reception to follow. That event will be moderated by Prof. Dwight Hopkins and will include accounts by two Divinity faculty members, Martin Marty and Franklin Gamwell, who traveled to Selma for the Selma to Montgomery march fifty years ago in 1965, as well as reflections by Professors Curtis Evans and Jane Dailey.
Winter quarter events begin January 12
01.06.15 - "The start of winter quarter heralds new opportunities for learning and collaboration at the Disciples Divinity House," says Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore. "We invite you to be in conversation and interaction with us on Monday nights or from afar via our website or Facebook page." The full schedule is available online.
Disciples minister and New Testament scholar Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder will preach at our first chapel service of the quarter on Monday, January 12. An author, speaker, teacher, and Disciples minister, she earned her PhD from Vanderbilt University and writes on issues related to Bible in the public square and religion and pop culture. She also serves as Director of Theological Field Education at Chicago Theological Seminary. Following dinner that same night, PhD students Andrew Packman and Joel Brown will lead the quarter's first Disciples History and Thought seminar in considering worship and unity at the mid-twentieth century. They will look at essays produced by the Panel of Scholars just prior to the restructure and merger that created the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Prof. Clark Gilpin will lead the second Disciples History and Thought seminar on February 23.
Forums will take up a variety of themes this quarter. Dr. Elizabeth Kieff, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at the University's Pritzker School of Medicine, will explore health and spirituality within the context of student life on January 26. Raúl Zegarra, House resident and PhD student in Theology, will talk about his study of liberation and political theologies on February 16. We look forward to exploring fiction and historical narratives with Divinity School Professor Lucy Pick in a forum on February 2 as she discusses her new novel, Pilgrimage, and to learning and participating in the art of storytelling on March 9 (note new date) in a chapel service and forum led by alumna Rebecca Anderson, Associate Minister of Glencoe Union Church.
A remarkable invitation: Internships create learning opportunities
12.17.14 - She was observing the congregation's happy celebration of Simchat Torah, which marks the end of one year's cycle of reading the Torah. People were dancing with and unfurling the Torah scrolls. And then, incredibly, a scroll was placed in her arms, and she began to dance....
House Scholar Rachel Abdoler is interning in Indianapolis this year, exploring models for interfaith cooperation and how preparation for Christian ministry can be formed by deep engagement with other religious communities. At Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, a synagogue affiliated with both the Conservative and Reconstructionist movements in Judaism, she is mentored by Senior Rabbi Dennis Sasso and being invited into congregational life and worship. During the other half of her week, Ms. Abdoler also works with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation, which seeks to foster interfaith connections and opportunities. She participates in staff meetings and works with Executive Director Charlie Wiles and the CIC Board. She is developing dialogue groups among Muslim, Christian, and Jewish youth from three selected communities and also among area college students. The internship allows her "...the opportunity not only to gain experience in basic ministerial skills but also to think deeply about the tension involved in becoming part of a community outside of one's own tradition while simultaneously remaining distinct," she says.
Rachel Abdoler's internship is one of two that DDH has arranged and funded this year. The aim is to situate students in exceptional settings of ministry where they can explore their vocations and hone their abilities.
House Scholar Danielle Cox is in Orange, California, at Disciples-related Chapman University. At the Fish Interfaith Center, she is learning about campus ministry with Director of Church Relations Nancy Brink, Associate Director Cisa Payuyo, and Gail Stearns, Dean of Wallace All Faiths Chapel. Ms. Cox focuses on empowering students to organize events, service projects, and other faith programming, and recently facilitated student participation in an interfaith celebration at Homecoming. She works with the Interfaith Council, Disciples on Campus, and serves as a resource for seventeen other spiritual and religious groups. She also hopes to enhance programming for progressive Christians. "I love the work I'm doing," she says of her time so far, "and I'm certainly grateful for the opportunity to do it in such a supportive environment while I continue to learn, read, reflect, and grow."
Both scholars have completed two years of their MDiv studies and will return for their third year of study in 2015-16. In the meanwhile, they visit DDH once a quarter to keep up with their peers and advisers.
Constructive theology project plans underway
12.09.14 - The constructive theologies project planning team met in Chicago last week: Yvonne Gilmore (project director), Jose Morales (PhD student DSF), Allie Lundblad (MDiv student DDH), Andrew Packman (PhD student DDH), Christian Watkins (MDiv grad Yale), and, not pictured, Alexis Kassim (MDiv grad DDH). The project seeks to ensure space for the peer development of creative, faithful, risk-taking theological thinking.
The project envisions cultivating innovative ideas that "move" across racial, vocational, intellectual and economic lines to address the challenges and possibilities that face the Disciples of Christ. Young Disciples leaders are already responding to these questions as they minister in traditional and transforming congregations, labor in the non-profit world, plant new congregations, and engage these questions in the academy. ("Young" here means persons who are still in or just out of graduate school.) While there is a loose network of such persons, they are dispersed across the country and often located at the margins of the church, outside of formal denominational structures. This project seeks to connect them to one another and to galvanize shared constructive theological work. It is funded by a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation.
Renovations renew library, reconfigure offices
11.30.14 - Students have been enjoying the rewards of recent renovations to DDH's Herbert Lockwood Willett Library and to the offices. New lighting makes for better reading and for better work on computers and tablets, and it is more aesthetically pleasing and energy-efficient. A new paint color scheme, inspired by the Indiana limestone on the building's exterior, brightens everything. Furnishings that were original to the building have been repurposed for offices and for new workstations in the library; entirely redone electrical wiring supports those spaces.
Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore's office is now on the first floor, a boon for her collaboration with students and with the dean. New "old" doors match existing woodwork and demarcate the deans' offices from the foyer. In the mailroom and cloakroom, ceilings have been restored to their original height and new built-in furnishings have been added to create workspace for student office assistants and storage; colors inspired by the chapel ceiling glimmer from the back of new, larger student mailboxes.
The project first took shape in conversations about the library among students and architect Paul Steinbrecher, a trustee who regularly attends Monday dinners and programs, and in planning for office spaces that support collaborative work between the dean and associate dean.
The project gained momentum when the Capital Area of the Christian Church included funding toward Willett Library refurbishment in its capital campaign.
Gratitude for Hubert Locke
11.23.14 - Hubert G. Locke will conclude his distinguished service as a trustee at the end of this year. He was first elected in 1998. In addition to making estimable contributions to the Board of Trustees, he has regularly engaged DDH students. He is the John and Marguerite Corbally Professor of Public Service Emeritus at the University of Washington, where he also served as Dean of the Evans School of Public Affairs and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. Mr. Locke is the author or editor of eleven volumes, including Searching for God in Godforsaken Times and Places: Reflections on the Holocaust, Racism, and Death and The Detroit Riot of 1967. He was a co-founder of the Annual Scholars Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches and a former member of the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Museum. He was a 1959 BD graduate of the Federated Faculty at the University of Chicago.
Mr. Locke has been awarded seven honorary doctorates and numerous other honors. One citation noted: "His words clarify, unite and motivate. His actions embolden and inspire. With an eye towards the future, he challenges all to look deeper, to understand, and to act for the good of humanity." That depiction reflects his contributions to public life in the city of Detroit and elsewhere, as well as his career as a scholar of the Holocaust and his academic leadership in the field of Public Affairs. It also applies to his service as a trustee of the Disciples Divinity House, where he has clarified, motivated, and helped to attune DDH to the future.
His charge to DDH's graduates at the 2007 Convocation distills his own lifework: Whatever else you do, in whatever post to which you go, wherever you find yourself and whomever you become, ... remember that people apparently thought of Jesus first and foremost as a prophet—as one who spoke God's truths to his time, as we believe he does to all ages. That's what you must do, wherever you find yourself, willing, ready and able to speak truth to power, to speak out on behalf of the oppressed, the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalized to those who have the ability to make a difference in the world they confront, but who would just as soon forget or ignore the fact that such people exist.
Gilpin considers "Religion around Emily Dickinson"
11.11.14 - While Emily Dickinson's posthumously published poetry and letters "contain many explicitly religious themes and concepts, throughout her life she resisted joining her local church and rarely attended services." Clark Gilpin's new book, Religion Around Emily Dickinson, begins with this seeming paradox. He proposes, "first, that understanding the religious aspect of the surrounding culture enhances our appreciation of Emily Dickinson's poetry and, second, that her poetry casts light on features of religion in nineteenth-century America that might otherwise escape our attention. Religion, especially Protestant Christianity, was "around" Emily Dickinson not only in explicitly religious practices, literature, architecture, and ideas but also as an embedded influence on normative patterns of social organization in the era, including gender roles, education, and ideals of personal intimacy and fulfillment. Through her poetry, Dickinson imaginatively reshaped this richly textured religious inheritance to create her own personal perspective on what it might mean to be religious in the nineteenth century." This perspective proved to be far more than "merely" personal: "Dickinson's creative engagement with the religion around her has stimulated and challenged successive generations of readers in the United States and around the world." Listen to an interview with Clark Gilpin about his new book here.
W. Clark Gilpin is the Margaret E. Burton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity and Theology in the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Interim Director of the Martin E. Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion. He is also the former Dean of the Disciples Divinity House, where he serves on the Board of Trustees and leads an ongoing seminar on Disciples History and Thought.
Pilot project gathers young clergy for renewal and reflection
10.05.14 - A pilot group of MDiv alumni/ae--who have been actively engaged in ministry landscapes and who graduated between 2007 and 2010--returned to Chicago on October 3-4 for a time of peer-driven reflection and renewal. They gathered to share updates and case studies, to worship, to eat together and see a play, and to converse about glory, vulnerability and multiplicity in relation to their vocations and contexts of ministry. The Resourcing Young Clergy Leaders event arose from an initial idea by DDH alumnus Beau Underwood and former DDH resident Ben Varnum to their fellow Divinity School MDiv alumni/ae. Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore developed the project in collaboration with Cynthia Lindner, Director of the Ministry Program at the Divinity School and a DDH trustee. Fourteen alumni/ae returned for the event which was held at the Divinity School and at DDH.
The project was jointly funded by the Divinity School and by a Oreon E. Scott Foundation grant to DDH. The Disciples Divinity House was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Scott Foundation to launch, test, and evaluate two peer-driven projects in leader development (see story below).
2014 Entering Scholars announced
10.01.14 - Four new persons joined the ranks of Disciples Divinity House Scholars beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.
Joel A. Brown enters the PhD program in Religions in America. He comes with a ThM degree from Brite Divinity School, where his thesis treated three Dallas-Fort Worth area seminaries and their response to the Civil Rights movement. He writes, “My research interests took new shape as a result of better understanding the complexity and diversity within American religious historical scholarship today." He received the Disciples of Christ Historical Society’s Isaac Errett Award for his paper on Alexander Campbell’s views on race and class, and he is the author of “Concern for the Poor in the Nashville Bible School Tradition: David J. Lipscomb and James A. Harding,” Restoration Quarterly (2013). He is a 2009 summa cum laude BA graduate and a 2012 summa cum laude MDiv graduate of Abilene Christian University. He grew up in Oregon and is the child of ministers. He and his spouse, Erin James-Brown, were part of the leadership team of Galileo Christian Church, a new Disciples congregation in Mansfield, Texas.
Mark M. Lambert returns to pursue a PhD in Theology, having received his MA from the Divinity School in 2013 as a Disciples House Scholar. He served as House Council President in 2012-13. He is interested in leprosy and its stigma as “stubborn sections of the symbolic structure of Christianity, and potent parts of religious parlance. … [W]hen a bodily and medical condition becomes culpable in the sway of one’s social status, the result is a value-laden landscape which I believe theology is best equipped to navigate.” He is a 2010 magna cum laude BA graduate of Truman State University, where he majored in Philosophy & Religion (with Honors) and was selected as the department’s Outstanding Undergraduate Student. He was elected to Theta Alpha Kappa (Religion) and Eta Sigma Phi (Greek and Latin) honorary societies. In 2011, he was honored for “Best Undergraduate Paper” at the Midwest AAR meeting for “Baldwin IV: a Curious Case of Leprosy in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem,” and he presented a paper at the 2013 SBL meeting.
Virginia Johnston White enters the MDiv program. She is a 2013 magna cum laude BA graduate of Rice University, where she majored in Sociology and History and earned departmental honors and the University’s highest research prizes. She worked with Rice's Religion and Public Life Program as an undergraduate and then post-baccalaureate research fellow, managing the “Religious Understandings of Science” study funded by the Templeton Foundation. Her undergraduate thesis examined African American Protestants’ views of science education. She has co-authored review articles and presented academic papers. She was a HELM Fellow, a volunteer writing tutor, an intern at the Journal of Feminist Economics and at the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy, and leader of student groups; she studied abroad in London and participated in the NCC’s Young Women’s Leadership Experience at the UN. She writes: “I understand ministry as an act aimed toward revolutionizing communities toward positive change, focused on caring for others even when it is difficult, and acknowledging the dual brokenness and potential for good in all persons.” A life-long Disciple and “preacher’s kid,” her home church is University Christian, Austin, Texas.
“Van” VanBebber enters the AMRS program to explore long-standing interests in religion and next steps in his second career. He reflects that, as the child of a minister, he has been long been deeply interested in “that which my Dad and family committed their entire lives, with the concomitant sacrifices, in the care and education of others in the service of their beliefs…. In my case, [following those interests] traveled the circuitous path through prior academic and professional pursuits....” Van earned the BS and MS in Business and Accounting at the University of North Texas, graduating summa cum laude. In 1993 he earned a JD at Columbia University with Stone Scholar honors, where he was a Stone Moot Court Semi-Finalist, served on the Human Rights Law Review, Law Revue show cast, Columbia-Harlem Tutorial Program, and Reunion Committee. Later, he was elected an equity partner in the Trial and Litigation Section of the Dallas firm, Hughes & Luce, LLP. He has served as an adjunct professor in law and in business. He was active in the Dallas Bar Association, especially in its mentoring program for at-risk Dallas public school children. He left law practice to pursue a PhD at UNT in Interdisciplinary Information Science, which he received earlier this year.
Scott grant to fund “the House beyond the House”
08.15.14 - Disciples Divinity House has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation to launch, test, and evaluate two peer-driven projects in leader development: 1) The Constructive Theologies project and 2) a Resourcing Young Clergy Leaders event. Both projects effectively move “the House” beyond “the House,” insofar as the reach of each project extends beyond current Disciples Divinity House students, not only to DDH alumni/ae who serve across the U.S., but also to other emerging Disciples theological leaders, in one project, and, in the other, to their former ecumenical classmates (and now fellow graduates) at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. The grant provides resources for these projects to develop in conversation among alumni/ae and student leaders. Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore will serve as project manager.
Disciples students Andrew Packman (PhD student in Theology and co-founding pastor of Root and Branch, a new church start), Allie Lundblad (MDiv student), and Christian Watkins (2014 Yale MDiv graduate) initiated the Constructive Theologies project with an interest in connecting with peers from across the Disciples of Christ. The project envisions cultivating innovative ideas that “move” across racial, vocational, intellectual and economic lines--an "idea trust" ensures space for the peer development of creative, faithful, risk-taking theological thinking. Participants in this project are peers in the sense that they share a common generational frame of reference (ages 25 to 35) and a common hope to create effective roads to personal and ecclesial transformation, and especially to becoming a pro-reconciling and anti-racist church.
The Resourcing Young Clergy Leaders event was developed out of an appeal by alumnus Beau Underwood and former resident Ben Varnum to their fellow Divinity School MDiv alumni/ae. It will initially take the form of a “Ministry Alumni/ae Retreat” in collaboration the Divinity School on October 3-4, 2014 in Hyde Park. A pilot group of MDiv alumni/ae who have been actively engaged in ministry landscapes and graduated between 2007 and 2010 have been invited to return for a time of peer driven reflection and renewal.
DDH hosts NAPAD Convocation, lifts up connections
07.29.14 - The North American Pacific Asian Disciples (NAPAD) will hold its 18th Biennial Convocation in Hyde Park, August 6-9. The gathering will bring 150 Disciples together for worship, fellowship, business meetings, and educational events. Sixty years ago in June 1954, David T. Kagiwada, a second generation Japanese American Disciple who suffered internment during the Second World War, graduated from DDH and the Divinity School and was ordained. Together with Soongook Choi and Harold Johnson, he became a founding force in the establishment of the American Asian Disciples (later NAPAD). A pastor and compassionate advocate for justice, he would become its first convener and the first of many DDH graduates to give leadership to NAPAD and the first of many connections between NAPAD and DDH. NAPAD moderator-elect John Roh and past moderator and historian Timothy Lee are DDH alumni, as are Disciples and NAPAD leaders April Lewton, Vy Nguyen, and Sandhya Jha. Key NAPAD figures also provide leadership at DDH: JoAnne Kagiwada, a retired attorney and nonprofit leader, is a longtime DDH trustee; April Lewton and Gaylord Yu also currently serve as DDH trustees.