News and Events
Downers Grove celebrates 50
07.22.14 - On July 20, the First Christian Church of Downers Grove, Illinois, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The congregation, started in 1964 by William E. Crowl, who was then a DDH Scholar, is now led by alumna Teresa Hord Owens, who serves as Senior Minister and also as Dean of Students at the Divinity School. “Our congregation has a real heart for our community, a love that stretches from Downers Grove to children across the globe in Belarus,” Terri Owens says. That commitment goes back to the church’s early years. Bill Crowl tells the story of the Planning Commission hearing to approve the plans for the building in 1967. When a local resident asked, “Do you sing with the windows open?,” he replied, “[W]e are not only a people who sing their faith in the building, we are also a people who live out our faith outside the building.” Commitment to and support of ministry students has been an important part of the congregation’s ministry. Katherine Newman Kinnamon was the first of many Disciples House Scholars to complete field education there. Others include Nancy TannerTheis, Peter Browning, Randall Russell, Susan Miller, Doug Job, Katy McFall, Andy Snyder, Michael Karunas, Sarah Chenoweth West, Tish Duncan and Brandon Cline, and current Scholars Hye In Park and Danielle Cox.
HELM calls Chris Dorsey as Transitional President
07.16.14 (adapted from HELM press release) - The board of directors of Higher Education & Leadership Ministries (HELM) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has called Bernard "Chris" Dorsey to serve as its next president effective August 1, 2014. A dynamic and creative leader, Mr. Dorsey is currently an Assistant Professor of Theology and Preaching at Western Theological Seminary. He is a PhD candidate in Theology at the Divinity School, where he entered as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar, and holds degrees from the University of Texas at Austin (BS) and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (MDiv). An ordained Disciples minister, he previously served as a local church pastor, university chaplain at Clark Atlanta University, and as Vice President of Development and Marketing at Chicago Theological Seminary.
Recognizing a transitional point in the life of HELM's witness and ministry as well as current challenges facing local congregations and faith-based institutions, the HELM board invited applications for a transitional 3-year presidency. Board chair Ed Strong commented, "We were pleased with the success of the search process that led to the calling of Rev. Dorsey. The enthusiasm he engendered during this process is indicative of his desire and ability to guide HELM during its transitional period as it seeks to determine how best to serve the colleges, universities, theological institutions, and students in the task of developing and fostering leadership within the Church and society." Chris Dorsey responded, "I look forward to building on HELM's success of leadership development and finding new ways to equip people with the skills and tools needed for successful ministry and service in a rapidly changing world."
An ovation for Landon as he retires from HELM
07.01.2014 - Dennis Landon retired as President of Higher Education and Leadership Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on June 30. He became president of the general ministry in 1997, when it was known as the Division of Higher Education. The ministry represents "over a century of organized Disciples commitment to the ministries of higher education as manifested in colleges and universities, campus ministries, and graduate theological education."
Dennis led the Board of Directors and staff in focusing on leadership development--"identifying, cultivating, equipping and supporting transformative leaders"--as the core work of the general ministry. The inauguration of HELM's Leadership Fellows program for Disciples college students was a centerpiece of the new focus; it also represented the creative marshaling of limited financial and staff resources and a response to a gap in recruitment of younger leaders. HELM also became known for zany and winsome interpretive work, especially at General Assemblies, that often featured Dennis and Leadership Fellows. Meanwhile, Dennis and staff continued to work with undergraduate institutions, campus ministries, graduate theological education institutions, and Disciples faculty to connect and strengthen those organizations' and individuals' work. An ordained Disciples minister who is a graduate of Columbia University as well as of the Disciples Divinity House and the University of Chicago Divinity School, Dennis Landon served as a minister in Disciples congregations and as the executive for a cluster of colleges before coming to HELM. He and spouse Lana Hartman Landon, who is herself a DDH alumna, are planning to move to Pennsylvania.
Vy Nguyen called to Week of Compassion
06.25.2014 - Alumnus Vy Nguyen has been called as the next Executive Director of the Week of Compassion of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), effective September 1. An ordained Disciples minister, he now serves as Southwest Associate Field Director for Church World Service, one of Week of Compassion's largest ministry partners. With Church World Service, he has worked with congregations and volunteers throughout California and the Southwest to interpret the mission of Church World Service and to increase fundraising. Previously, he worked with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Berkeley, California.
"As a former refugee who came to the United States through the efforts of Refugee and Immigration Ministries and Church World Service, he has witnessed firsthand the life-changing work that Week of Compassion facilitates. Through his work with Church World Service and local congregations, he has sought to foster among communities a deeper understanding and awareness of both the challenges that individuals and families face in the world as they struggle for refuge, as well as the importance of building local capacities and movements towards sustainable development in international relief and long-term development work. His commitment to enhancing diverse community engagement with the mission and vital work of outreach organizations has led him to work closely with senior staff at Church World Service on researching why communities choose to become involved in and engaged with new causes and non-profit organizations. Their efforts have led to new and creative ways of engaging with communities and donors to increase fundraising as well as strengthening relationships with individuals and communities."
Vy earned a BA in religious studies with a minor in environmental sciences at Texas Christian University before entering the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar and earning his MDiv from the Divinity School. He was ordained to the ministry at East Dallas Christian Church, the congregation that helped to welcome him to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam. He is "committed to giving back to the ministry that shaped him and to work to empower individuals and communities to build better lives."
Convocation celebrates grads, end of 119th year
06.16.2014 - At the Convocation Service held Friday evening, June 13, the Disciples Divinity House celebrated the achievements of five graduates and marked the end of DDH's 119th academic year. Two House Scholars received their degrees the next day at the University of Chicago and Divinity School Convocation ceremonies: Alexandra McCauslin received the MDiv degree, and Brandon Cook received the MDiv and MA in Social Service Administration degrees. On August 24, Alex will be ordained at her home congregation, Central Woodward Christian Church in Troy, Michigan; Brandon will be ordained on June 29 at Mayslick Christian Church in Mayslick, Kentucky. The DDH Convocation service also recognized three persons who anticipate receiving their PhDs later this year: Mandy Burton (Religion and Literature), and House Scholars Kristel Clayville (Religious Ethics) and Patricia Duncan (Bible). The service, planned by the graduates, began with the chanting of the Shema and the V'ahavta, and included readings from Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, and Matthew. It was followed by a festive reception and dinner prepared by Emily Mulder, who has been the Monday dinner chef this year.
The Convocation speaker was alumna Sandhya Jha. Using Ezekiel's image of eating the scroll of life, she addressed "The Myth of Book Smart vs. Street Smart." Ms. Jha received her MDiv degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and her MA in Public Policy from the Harris School of the University of Chicago in 2005 as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar; she was ordained at National City Christian Church in June 2005. An organizer, anti-racism trainer, speaker, and spiritual leader, she became the Director of Interfaith Programs for the East Bay Housing Organizations in Oakland, California, in 2012. She is also the Director and Founder of the Oakland Peace Center, a collaborative of over 30 peace organizations, and the author of Room at the Table, the groundbreaking book about the 200-year multicultural history that makes up the Disciples of Christ. She previously served as Senior Pastor, First Christian Church of Oakland, and as Minister of Transformation and Reconciliation, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Northern California and Nevada. While finishing her BA from Johns Hopkins University (1998), she became a staff assistant in the Office of U.S. Congressman Tom Sawyer, and subsequently served for two years as Religious Outreach Coordinator for The Interfaith Alliance in Washington, DC. She is pictured here with her parents, Janette and Sunil Jha, who were special guests at the Convocation.
In Memoriam: Josephine Gilstrap Blakemore, 1914-2014
05.14.2014 - Josephine Gilstrap Blakemore died peacefully on May 10. She was 99. She was an indomitable woman whose great loyalty, intelligence, and spirit were committed to W. Barnett Blakemore, to his deanship and legacy, to their family, and to the Disciples Divinity House and the University that they both loved and served. A fierce defender of excellence in ministry, she leaves her own legacy of service and leadership. Her death, while not wholly unexpected, marks the passing of an era. Not only of a generation, of an era.
Josephine Gilstrap was born in Oregon on October 21, 1914. She was the daughter and granddaughter of Disciples ministers. From 1939-41, she served as Director of Student Work at First Christian Church in Columbia, Missouri, with C. E. Lemmon. Dr. Lemmon, a trustee of the Disciples Divinity House, also proved to be a matchmaker. In the autumn of 1941 at the "C" Shop in Hutchinson Commons, Josephine Gilstrap met Barnett Blakemore, a newly-minted PhD who had recently been appointed to the Divinity School faculty with varied duties at the Disciples Divinity House. It was wartime, they were both older and knew what they wanted; they courted through letters and married on June 2, 1942, in the Chapel of the Holy Grail. Their fathers, both Disciples ministers, presided at the service. Their marriage represented the coming together of two distinct and disparate streams of the Disciples—hers the Disciples pioneers who settled in the northwest United States, his the pioneers of western Tennessee and the Christian Church in Australia. Two children were born to them, William and Jory.
In 1945, W. Barnett Blakemore became the fourth dean of the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago (DDH), which he led until his death in 1975. He would lead the DDH into its second half-century and through its 75th anniversary, teach as professor of ecumenical theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, serve as Associate (acting) Dean of Rockefeller Chapel from 1959-65, chair the Panel of Scholars for the Disciples of Christ and edit its three-volume report, and become a delegate observer to the Second Vatican Council. As he administered, taught, preached, wrote, and served, Josephine Blakemore accompanied him, served alongside him, and immersed herself within the community and University. She was active with the University Laboratory Schools, she became president and a life member of the University Service League, she gave decades of service to and was an honorary life member of the Chicago Lying-In Hospital Board of Directors, she was active in the Women's Board and with the Library Society. She traveled with Dean Blakemore around the world, including to New Delhi for the World Council of Churches and to Rome for the Second Vatican Council. With Dean Blakemore, she oversaw a project of refurbishing the Chapel of the Holy Grail. She organized DDH's Willett Library and its collection.
She and Dean Blakemore welcomed generations of students and their families to the Disciples Divinity House. In those years, there were no women among the Disciples Divinity House Scholars. Mrs. Blakemore offered lessons in hospitality and grace to the students' wives—and became a lifelong friend to many of them. Margie Vargas and David Vargas, now President Emeritus of the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), recall, "The warm hospitality she provided us when we most needed it, her friendship and support for our work during the past four decades, her love for Jesus' church, and her passion for the ministry of the DDH will never be forgotten."
After Dean Blakemore's death, Mrs. Blakemore compiled his papers and prepared them for archiving in the University of Chicago Library Special Collections, where they now reside. She met new generations of Disciples Divinity House Scholars and befriended new deans. In 2005, she served as the honorary chair for the 75th anniversary celebration of the Chapel of the Holy Grail, a space she had long championed and cherished.
Last summer, Mrs. Blakemore, together with her son and daughter, sent greetings to a Disciples Divinity House luncheon at which William E. Crowl was honored as the Distinguished Alumnus. Indirectly, those greetings voiced and affirmed a vision of excellence that had animated Mrs. Blakemore's own life. To Bill Crowl they wrote: "In your generous and diligent sharing of your many inner strengths—finding so many kind and original ways to fulfill the biblical call to affirm each other in the faith—you have strengthened and lifted our spirits with your cheerful countenance, your energy, your ingenuity, and the professional focus of your steadfast ministry of love in an ever-changing world." She herself had witnessed immense change in the long span of her life. With generosity, diligence, energy, and ingenuity, she remained constant to causes and deeply loyal to persons. With the same exemplary qualities, she sought also to uplift future generations and to strengthen the organizations that could equip those generations in an ever-changing world.
In addition to her son, William B. Blakemore, III, and her daughter, Jory Blakemore Johnson (Calvin M. Johnson), she is survived by two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and also by a sister, Fernel Downing. No memorial service is planned. As her son and daughter explained, "She said she didn't want a memorial service—she considered that 90th Surprise Birthday Party (October 2004) at the DDH her wonderful memorial that she was lucky enough to attend... and she wanted it to stay that way."
Spring quarter features alumni/ae, current scholars, and more
03.21.2014 - Spring quarter events promise an exciting array of conversations and intersections of scholarship, practice, and faith at the Disciples Divinity House. Alumni/ae from near and far will lead a number of forums and crucial conversations. Don Burk, Warren Copeland, Marshall Dunn, and Steve Duvall, from the 1965-69 entering classes, will share their cohort's "Life Journeys" project with current House scholars and with members of the Board of Trustees and the Alumni/ae Council in late April. Laura Jean Torgerson and Tim Donaghy will reflect on their experience as missionaries in Theology without Climate Control: Reflections on Mission in Nicaragua on April 7. We also look forward to the return of alumnus William Wright, Associate Professor of Religion at Eureka College, as he preaches at chapel on May 5. Alumna Sandhya Jha, Director of Interfaith Programs for the Eastbay Housing Organizations, will speak at the DDH Convocation on June 13.
Current House scholars and residents are also among the speakers. MDiv student Hye In Park will present her senior ministry project and Jaewoong Jeon, a resident who is a PhD candidate in History, will speak about his research. PhD candidates Brandon Cline (ECL), Kristel Clayville (Ethics), Patricia Duncan (Bible), and Andrew Langford (Bible), who will lead a forum, Disciples and Biblical Interpretation. DDH Trustee Julian DeShazier, who is Senior Minister of University Church, and Bromleigh McCleneghan, Associate for Congregational Life at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, will also offer forums.
"Inheritance and transformation" series on 1/27 and 2/10
01.24.2014 - A two-part Monday forum series will feature Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore in conversation with Chicago Disciples leader Dolores Highbaugh. Part 1 will offer Beginning notes on pro-reconciliation/anti-racism methodology in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on January 27. It will be presented by Associate Dean Gilmore who, as an anti-racism trainer through Reconciliation Ministries of the Christian Church, has worked with the general church, educational institutions, regions, and congregations. Part 2 of the series, A conversation on race, place, and migration in Chicago, is planned for February 10. Associate Dean Gilmore will speak with Dolores Highbaugh. Ms. Highbaugh, a Disciples leader, long-time friend of the Disciples Divinity House, and elder of Park Manor Christian Church, has been a lifelong voice for transformation and engagement across the Christian Church and in other venues. Both events will be held at 7:00 pm at the Disciples Divinity House.
In memoriam: Woodrow W. Wasson, 1916 - 2013
01.06.2014 - Alumnus Woodrow W. Wasson died December 10, 2013, in Nashville, Tennessee. He was 97. A memorial service was held January 2, 2014, at Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville. As Mark Miller-McLemore, Dean of DDH at Vanderbilt, said at the service: "He was an intellectual, extremely well-educated, a scholar in service of the church, who wrote and led and taught at a high level. He felt the life of faith was a matter of absolute seriousness, deserving of our very best in clear thinking, truth telling, in joyous and full living with the best of all human expression in culture and the arts—all leading to faithful, understanding, discipleship."
Raised in Tennessee in a large family and in the Church of Christ, Woody Wasson attended David Lipscomb Junior College before receiving a BA (1939) and MA (1940) in Sociology from Vanderbilt University. One of his Vanderbilt professors, George Mayhew (himself a Chicago graduate and the founder of the Disciples Foundation, later DDH, at Vanderbilt), encouraged Mr. Wasson to continue his studies in 1940 as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar at the University of Chicago. Among other considerations, Chicago was then the center of the study of religion from a sociological-scientific point of view. Prof. Mayhew wrote to Dean E. S. Ames: I have had Mr. Wasson in one of my classes and regard him as a very superior man. He has a very attractive personality, is good-looking and neat in appearance and has a fine attitude toward life.... [T]his young man has an open mind and has great possibilities for leadership and has the courage to follow his convictions.
Mr. Wasson earned his BD at the Divinity School in 1943 and was ordained at University Church with E.S. Ames, W.E. Garrison, and Irvin Lunger among the ordaining ministers. A few years later, Dean W. Barnett Blakemore wrote to a colleague in a letter of recommendation: Mr. Wasson's own religious pilgrimage has been a significant one. You probably know that he came originally from the Church of Christ.... [I]t was only after a long period of real soul-searching that he left.... In all my experience I have never seen a man approach the problem of his religious affiliation more seriously and with greater penetration of all the factors involved.
Woody Wasson earned a PhD from the Divinity School in 1947 after continuing to study church history and social thought and completing a dissertation directed by historian Sidney Mead. In 1952, he published James A. Garfield: His Religion and Education, an examination of the Ohio Disciples minister, abolitionist, and Union general who became president in 1880; it was a study of the relation of religion and politics that was based on his dissertation.
"Woody was indelibly shaped by his experience of education in religion at Chicago, and it led him down many paths, not all of them easy." Dean Miller-McLemore explained: "Woody's college and graduate studies both examined the history and sociology of religion and sought to understand how religious truths are shaped by and expressed in the particularities of a culture and a time and a people.... The historian and the sociologist in him tried to sift or winnow the grains of what we now call social location in order to find one thing needful, the large truth in common that could bring people of good will, intelligence, and belief together in common faith. But this sincere and rigorous searching after truth, using the latest scientific methods, must have put him greatly at odds with his church of Christ family here.... His family turned their backs on him. The search for truth can lead people apart as well as together."
In 1944, he married Frances Marie Tallmon in Wightman Chapel at Scarritt College in Nashville. They had met as students, and Marie had earned her BS in 1942 from Peabody College at Vanderbilt. While he continued his doctoral studies, she studied medical sciences at the University of Chicago. She later became an Instructor in the Department of Pathology at the Vanderbilt University Medical School.
In 1949, after Mr. Wasson had held two short-term teaching posts in the southwest, the Wassons moved to Athens, Georgia, where he became Professor of Religion and founding Dean of the Christian College at the University of Georgia. There he supervised Disciple students serving in ministry in local churches, raised money for their support, and offered courses relevant to the practice of ministry that also counted for undergraduate credit at the university. He spoke at Disciple gatherings and conventions and authored numerous articles. The position placed him in stressful cross-currents and, eventually, the Wassons returned to Nashville, where they would work and live for the rest of their lives. Mr. Wasson lectured for a year at Vanderbilt University School of Religion. He engaged postgraduate study at Oxford in 1955, and then served as archivist at Vanderbilt University. He received a certificate in Archival Administration in 1962 from American University and a Masters in Library Science from Peabody College in 1967. Later and until his retirement, he was a professor of sociology and religion at Middle Tennessee State University.
"The Christian life as it is lived is expressed in its fullness and simplicity by these three great words [faith, hope, and love]," he preached in a sermon given on a Chicago radio station in June 1944, two days before D-Day. "...They are not theological words to be confined to any system of religious thought or to any dogmatic creed. They best express an attitude. When they are thought of as expressing an attitude, they then become part of the tissue of human living, rather than divorced form the tissue of human life."
The death of Marie Wasson, his beloved wife for 58 years, "was a blow from which he could not escape. He slipped further into dementia, and a fine intellect was lost." He is survived by Susan Hammonds-White, a goddaughter who remained close through his final years, and by the educational institutions he esteemed and helped to shape.
In memoriam: George Parker Rossman, 1919 - 2013
We learned belatedly of the death of alumnus G. Parker Rossman on October 18, 2013. He was 94. The following obituary is adapted from one published October 19 in The Missourian, Columbia, Missouri.
Mr. Rossman spent his life working toward solving global problems through his work as an educator, a minister, and a futurist. After earning his BA from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, he entered the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House in 1941. He earned his BD from the Divinity School in 1944, where he wrote a thesis on "The University Community and Its Churches" with Disciples sociologist Samuel C. Kincheloe. He worked with the Student Christian Movement following World War II. He lived in Geneva, Switzerland, where he worked for the World Council of Churches and in Beirut, Lebanon, where he worked with the Greek Orthodox Youth Movement. He earned a PhD in Education at Yale University, and then taught at Yale Divinity School. He was a freedom rider and traveled the world often on World Council of Churches fact finding missions.
Mr. Rossman authored more than a dozen books including Hospice: New Models of Care for the Terminally Ill; After Punishment What; Family Survival; Computers: Bridges to the Future; a children's book, Pirate Slave; and two books on the future universities: The Emerging Worldwide Electronic University and his 3-volume online book, The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education. Adopting technology early, he was frequently a keynote speaker on using computers and the internet at international conferences, especially in the area of providing worldwide education to the developing world.
Mr. Rossman is survived by his daughters Kristen, and Mary-Michelle; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson. He was preceded in death by his wife, Jean, and his son, Terry.
Ana and Tod Gobledale remember Mandela and their years in South Africa
Today we give thanks for the life and accomplishments of Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Father of a nation, beloved by the world.
As we listened to the "live" account of his release and first steps into freedom on Sunday 11 February, 1990, we realized we had not joined the world celebrating that morning, for we lived inside South Africa, at Mfanefile, a "black spot" in the hinterlands of today's KwaZulu Natal. News was heavily censored by the government; often large black blocks of ink would remind us of items prohibited to be shared in print; other times the news would just be missing. We relied on family and friends posting us South African news from The New York Times, which we could share in our Zulu-speaking community.
On that global day of joy, we lived in darkness. Our community's hope had been so severely snatched, we had only one more unbelievable rumour to dismiss as we gathered for church. Yes, we had heard President de Klerk had supposedly removed Mandela from Robben Island. Yes, we had heard new rumours that Mandela was to be set free. Yes, we had heard. But none of us believed. Like Doubting Thomas, "until I can thrust my hand into his wounds," until I can see his face. And no one knew what Mandela looked like any more, as no image of him had been seen since 6 June 1986, and then it was only a reprint of a 1964 photo printed in The Weekly Mail. It had been illegal during his imprisonment to publish his photo. So, we wondered, could we even believe any photos the white press cared to release? And in our community which received no newspaper deliveries, not even to the local shop, "living proof" would be long in coming.
When a copy of the 11 February newspaper finally arrived at Mfanefile, it made the rounds to choruses, cheers and dancing. Hope. Hope restored! Hope that one man's first steps into freedom might set the path for the people of the nation to follow, walking together from the darkness into light. Thank you Tata Mandela for leading the way.
Today our prayers are with the people of South Africa, at Mfanefile and throughout the nation. Ana and Tod
In memoriam: Former trustee William N. Weaver, Jr
11.29.13 - William N. Weaver Jr, former Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, died November 25, in Chicago, after a long bout with emphysema. He was 79. Bill Weaver insisted on excellence—in fact, he was impatient about its necessity—and his savvy, expertise, and generosity helped to ensure it. He was astute about DDH's investments during a period of changing investment opportunities, yet he was also aware of the difference between ensuring good investments and ensuring the organization's mission. In that regard, he was always future-oriented in his approach to expenditures and believed that investing well in students was at least as important as investing the endowment well. Among his enduring contributions to the Disciples Divinity House was also the creation of the William N. Weaver Entering Scholarship. The award remembers his father, William N. Weaver (Sr), who was a beloved dean of students at the Divinity School and a 1989 recipient of DDH's Distinguished Alumnus Award. See more here.
Bill Weaver was born in New Orleans in 1934; when he was 11, his family moved to Chicago. He attended Oberlin College. After attending the University of Chicago Law School for two years and serving in the Army for another two years, he graduated first in his class from the John Marshall Law School in 1964. "He joined a five-person Chicago law firm that eventually became Sachnoff & Weaver Ltd., which grew to 160 lawyers by the time it merged in 2007 with Pittsburgh-based Reed Smith LLP." Mr. Weaver retired in 2009.
According to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, "William N. Weaver Jr. has been described as a 'consummate negotiator' and a 'brilliant tactician.' ... He was hailed as both a rainmaker and a kingmaker. One local news report once called him the 'dean of Chicago tech lawyers.' Others referred to him simply as 'the' tech lawyer.... He leaves behind his wife, Frona, two children, two stepchildren and 10 grandchildren—and one giant legacy in the Chicago legal and tech-startup worlds."
"An investor who worked with him, David Semmel, said ... 'He's had his share of red ink, but when you add it all up, his ledger’s ridiculously black. Of course he’s made enemies, rarely gratuitously, and few and far between compared to the Rolodex of people he counts as friends.'" The Daily Law obituary goes on to say, "At the same time, he fostered an atmosphere at his namesake firm that ran counter to the zealousness that sometimes characterizes the profession and the era. Lawyers at his firm were allowed to dress casually, encouraged to complete pro bono service and play pool or darts after work. Making money was important. But so were family outings and vacation time. 'He really cared deeply about maintaining the culture of the firm,' said Lowell E. Sachnoff, one of Weaver’s closest friends and partners since the mid-1960s.'"
Bill Weaver also served on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union for 12 years. "'Bill was a progressive. He refused to call himself a liberal, but he believed a lot of things the ACLU did were important,' Sachnoff said. 'He was very careful to pick his causes.'"
A memorial service will be held December 20 at 11:00 am at the University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe St.
Students report: A pedagogy of play and justice in Nicaragua; Interfaith dialogue in Jerusalem
11.12.13 - For the past few years, the Divinity School has awarded International Ministry Travel Grants to MDiv students for research abroad. House Scholar Rachel Abdoler and House Resident Kathryn Ray, both recipients of the award this last summer, are presenting reports of their travel and research at DDH in November.
On November 4, Kathryn Ray led a presentation entitled, "Creating the Reign of God through Play: Liberation Theology and Gender Justice in Nicaragua." She returned to Nicaragua, where she had previously lived and studied for 18 months, to study the relationship between human rights work and theology in several women’s grass roots organizations. Fluent in Spanish, she was able to be a participant-observer in popular workshops for women given by two nonprofit organizations, CANTERA and the Antonio Valdivieso Ecumenical Center (CAV). In her presentation and in her time in Nicaragua, she focused on the role of pleasure and play within the theology and practice of liberation, and on how theories of liberation (especially Paulo Freire's) and practices of biblical interpretation support and further those connections. Ms. Ray is a third-year student in the joint MDiv/MA in Social Service Administration degree program.
Divinity House Scholar Rachel Abdoler will speak about "Identity and Interfaith Dialogue" on Monday, November 18, at 7:00 pm. She was in Jerusalem for eight weeks this summer, where she studied the work of the Interfaith Encounter Association, an organization dedicated to promoting peace through interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural study. She observed organized dialogues between Muslims and Jews with the goal of gaining insight into the formal and informal rules guiding such conversations. She also looked at how participants' involvement in dialogue is (or is not) supported by their religious communities. Ms. Abdoler, a second year MDiv student, is also a student of Arabic.
The third recipient of the award, Ryan Fordice, also chose to present his findings at DDH. (He is a regular Monday dinner guest!) Mr. Fordice, a third-year MDiv, returned to Turkey to further examine secularization and religion in Istanbul and in Antakya; he had previously studied in Gaziantep on a Fulbright grant. He spoke on Tuesday, November 12.
In Memoriam: Carl B. Robinson
10.28.13 - Alumnus Carl B. Robinson died in Ojai, California, on October 21 after a short illness. He was 95. His ministry was "person-centered" and consistently combined care for individual well-being and integrity with community-based action for the common good. He ministered with special distinction in Fresno, California, beginning in 1962 and continuing through many "retirement" years.
Carl Robinson was born February 6, 1918, in Iowa. His ministry began in 1938 when he was a business college student and accepted a call to serve the Mooresville, Missouri, Christian Church on a quarter-time basis; he began to serve two other congregations, each also part-time. The next year, he enrolled in Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. He later recalled, "Even though Canton was 160 miles from these churches, I continued serving them for at least another year. On Saturdays, year around, I hitchhiked 160 miles to the churches, conducted services, visited a few folk, then took the train back to Canton Sunday nights."
In 1942, Carl and Esther were married. "By then I acquired a car and two congregations forty miles distant. These I served a full year following graduation and ordination [both in spring 1943]. In addition, that year I taught high school (commercial courses) and coached basketball; this was during World War II. In June 1944 we packed our car to go to Chicago where I enrolled in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago through the Disciples Divinity House." At that time, married men were ineligible for House scholarships, but Dean Ames decided to grant a provisional scholarship for the summer--which the dean later extended. Mr. Robinson graduated in September 1946, completing the three-year BD degree program in 27 months.
In 1962, after serving congregations in Missouri and in Iowa, he became the minister of Belmont Christian Church in Fresno. He was fired five and a half years later when some church leaders became unhappy with his involvement in community outreach--the Robinsons marched with Martin Luther King Jr and organized for low-income housing. Carl and Esther Robinson and others then started the Fresno House Church. In 1968, Mr. Robinson became the first chaplain at Fresno Community Hospital, where he established a chaplaincy training program and an interfaith seminar; when he retired in 1983, three chaplains were hired to replace him. In 1970, the Robinsons founded the Fresno Metro Ministry, which relied on volunteers and worked through existing groups to address gaps in community services and to advocate for those in need. He served as a board member of many other church, religious, social justice, and civic organizations. In 2005, Fresno Metro Ministry, together with the Interfaith Alliance of Central California and the Fresno Ministerial Association, established the Carl and Esther Robinson Award for the Common Good.
In 1998, reflecting back over his ministry, he wrote: "Personal relationships formed over the years makes sixty years of ministry incredibly rich. We [Carl and Esther] continue to embrace the Gospel which implicitly focuses on individuals as persons worthy of love, respect, fair and just treatment at all times." Carl Robinson lived a long, richly related life. The Disciples Divinity House and his DDH classmates were among those who enjoyed long and faithful friendships with him. Chuck Blaisdell, former Regional Minister in Northern California and Nevada, commented, "Carl could always make you feel like you were the only person in the room, the only reason that he came to the gathering. Every Regional Minister needs a handful of folks who both bless and support his or her ministry, but also who will always 'speak the truth in love,' with gentle honesty and offer perspective and suggestions and constructive criticism. Carl was such a one for me and I am the better for it."
He is survived by Esther Robinson, with whom he celebrated 71 years of marriage in September, by daughter Jean Robinson, and by daughter JoAnn Robinson and son-in-law David Bean and their son Donovan Robinson.
2013 Entering Disciples Scholars Announced
10.01.13 - Four individuals have been named Disciples Divinity House Scholars for the 2013-14 academic year, which began September 30. They are Keri Anderson, Doug Collins, Judith Guy, and Hye In Park, all MDiv students. Recognized for their leadership potential and academic promise, they are each receiving full tuition at the University of Chicago Divinity School (60% funded by DDH), rent-free use of a study-bedroom at the Disciples Divinity House, an annual $4,000 stipend, and an additional named scholarship award. They join 13 continuing Disciples House Scholars in an exceptional program of scholarly and professional preparation.
Keri Anderson is a 2009 summa cum laude graduate of DePaul University, Chicago, where she majored in Catholic Studies and wrote her thesis on "A Contemporary Response to Theodicy." Last year, as the Neighborhood Liaison at her home church, Glen Oak Christian Church in Peoria, she helped to build relationships that address spiritual and practical needs of its neighbors (primarily low-income households). "I visited neighbors' homes and helped to connect them with the outreach services our church provides, and I partnered (on behalf of Glen Oak) with other groups already present and active in revitalizing and transforming the Peoria East Bluff Neighborhood." During high school and college, she worked at, and then directed, a summer camp for low-income at risk children (grades K-8) through the Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service. After college, she was a foster parent for two years at Casa de Esperanza in Houston, Texas. She is the recipient of the Rolland and Laura Frances Sheafor Scholarship.
Doug Collins graduated from Eureka College in spring 2013 with a major in Philosophy and Religion and a minor in Spanish. His numerous leadership awards and recognitions include selection as the 2012 Eureka College Lincoln Laureate, Disciples Leadership Fellow, Eureka College Leadership Ambassador, President of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, and election to the fraternity's national Order of the Sphinx. He was a college Residential Advisor and served as Assistant to the Chaplain at Eureka College. He had internships in the General Church (with GMP Sharon Watkins), regional church (helping the Oregon region on their use of social media), and in his home congregation (First Christian Church, Albany, Oregon). Service learning opportunities have taken him to Otavalo, Ecuador, to the Taizé community in France, and to Costa Rica. He is interested in congregational ministry and in new church planting. He is also the author and illustrator of a children's book. He is the Oreon E. Scott Entering Scholar.
Judith Guy is a 2012 magna cum laude Philosophy and Religion honors graduate of Eureka College. She wrote her honors thesis on the relationship of philosophy and theology as encountered in Tillich's appropriation of Heidegger. Last year she taught English in the Republic of Georgia. She was a Eureka College Ministry Fellow and a Phillips University Legacy Scholar throughout college. At Eureka she served as President of Disciples on Campus, Eureka Leadership Ambassador, Residential Advisor, and Peer Educator, and chaired homecoming activities. She studied abroad at the University of Hyderabad in India and at Sophia University in Tokyo, and visited ecumenical monasteries in Europe. She interned at University Christian Church, Fort Worth, and with the Christian Church in Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) summer camping program. Her father and her mother are ministers, as are other members of her extended family. She is the William N. Weaver Entering Scholar.
Hye In Park is a third-year MDiv student from Gangwon-do, South Korea, and a 2011 Bachelor of Theology graduate of the elite Yonsei University in Seoul. She joined University Church, Chicago, during her first year. Last year, she completed field education at First Christian Church of Downers Grove, Illinois, where she also placed her membership; she also became a House resident and participated fully in Monday programs, including Disciples History and Thought. DDH provided assistance so that she could attend the North American Pacific Asian Disciples (NAPAD) Convocation in California last summer, the CCIW Regional Assembly last fall, the Seminarians' Conference in March, and the General Assembly in Orlando this summer. She became eligible for full DDH funding this year. She is interested in pursuing additional studies—possibly PhD work in theological anthropology or additional studies in psychology—that address suffering and postmodern Christian identity formation. She is a William Daniel Cobb Alumni/ae Scholarship recipient; she was also awarded NAPAD's Soongook Choi Scholarship.
Yvonne Gilmore appointed Associate Dean
9.12.13 - Yvonne T. Gilmore will become the Associate Dean of the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago, effective September 30. She will preach the opening chapel service of the 2013-14 academic year on Monday, October 7, at 5:30 pm.
A member of the 2001 entering class of Disciples Divinity House Scholars and a current member of the Alumni/ae Council, Yvonne Gilmore is a 2005 MDiv graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School. In 2007, she became the founding pastor of New Song Community Church, a diverse urban congregation in Northeast Columbus, Ohio, that is dually aligned with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. Since 2010, she has served also as staff chaplain and decedent care coordinator for Mount Carmel West Hospital in Columbus. She is a current member of the Board of Directors of Higher Education and Leadership Ministries (HELM) and of the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and she has served Reconciliation Ministry as an anti-racism trainer.
Throughout her ministry she has enunciated and exemplified the importance of graduate theological education that nurtures "thought leaders." She commented, "Profound scholarship, service, and creativity abounds at the House ... in concert with a great cloud of witnesses and a vast array of faithful and disciplined stewards of God's grace in its midst. I am so excited to join the grand constellation."
Yvonne Gilmore is also a poet and a spoken word artist who, as a member of the Cornel West Theory, has performed and spoken at Trinity College in New Haven, West Virginia State University, and Princeton University, among other places. She has preached, lectured, and/or and performed at varied educational institutions and denominational events, including Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, the Ohio Regional Assembly, the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and McCormick Theological Seminary. She previously served in the Capital Area Region as an interim pastor, associate pastor, and a chaplain. She grew up in the Capital Area at Michigan Park Christian Church and attended The American University, where she earned a BA in International Relations. She has two daughters, Assata and Kharis, aged 9 and 14.
Alumni/ae Council President and Drury University Professor Peter Browning commented, "Choosing Rev. Gilmore as the Associate Dean of Disciples Divinity House is a future-oriented move. [She is] a poet who stands up for freedom and liberation and a pastor who has started a new church.... Not only does she have the background in development and the experience of knowing the House well as a former House Scholar, but she knows the church and she has a passionate voice."
As Associate Dean, Yvonne Gilmore will collaborate with and assist Dean Kristine A. Culp in furthering the educational work of the Disciples Divinity House and interpreting that work to key constituencies in ways that will support DDH's mission over the long term. This will involve fostering educational opportunities, vocational development, and transformative conversation among current students, alumni/ae, and friends as well as in wider venues, especially the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also in relation to the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Yvonne Gilmore's appointment is a crucial next step in DDH's preparation for the future, Dean Kris Culp explained. The position was envisioned during several months of study and conversation led by the Dean and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and with the assistance of Jim Powell, former President of Church Extension (now with the Columbia Partnership). It is one of several steps being taken as DDH has been recovering from the economic downturn; other steps include increasing the number of Disciples House Scholars, resuming a full complement of educational programs, rebuilding endowment resources (which are now slightly above the previous high), and ensuring capital repairs and improvements to the building.
"The Board of Trustees and I are grateful for your support through this time of challenge and for your partnership as new possibilities emerge," Dean Culp said. "We are grateful, too, for the work of recent graduate Laura Jennison Reed, who has served as Assistant to the Dean during this interim period of recalibrating and reconfiguring; her work has helped to bridge to future possibilities." Laura Jennison Reed will embark on the next phase of her vocational discernment and conclude her full-time work as Assistant to the Dean at the end of September.
In Memoriam: Rolland G. Pfile
8.19.13 - Alumnus Rolland G. Pfile died August 19, at home in Indianapolis, where he had been in hospice care. He was 74.
Throughout his ministry and during an era of significant social change, Rolland Pfile provided prophetic leadership and critical support for other prophets. After serving congregations in Lone Pine and LeMoyne, Pennsylvania, he was called to be the executive secretary of the Department of Church in Society in the Division of Homeland Ministries (DHM) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where he provided leadership from 1974-91. Together with staff members Gerry Cunningham, Garnett Day, JoAnne Kagiwada, Julia Brown Karimu, Ian McCrae, and Jennifer Riggs, Church in Society led the church as it addressed racial and economic justice, peace, religious liberty, refugee resettlement, and divestment in South Africa, among other issues. Fellow alumnus Tom Quigley, a leader in ecumenical ministry who often worked with Church in Society during those years, recalls that Rolland "... modeled for many of us the importance of addressing the most pressing issues facing the human community in systemic ways and as a normal and expected part of the church’s ministry."
Later he served interim ministries in Illinois, Indiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida, and, for two years, in Indiana regional ministry. His service to the Disciples Divinity House included as convener of DDH's centennial celebration and campaign committee (1993-94).
Mr. Pfile received his BA from Bethany College and entered the University of Chicago Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar in 1960. He received his BD degree in 1964. In 1961 he met Leverne Barlow at the Divinity School, where she, too, was a graduate student---although not a Disciples House Scholar because women were not admitted to the House in those years. (In the mid-1970s, she became one of the first women elected to DDH's Board of Trustees.) Roland and Leverne married on September 2, 1963; their 50th wedding anniversary would have been in two weeks. They raised two children, Angela and Kenneth.
In 2011, Angela Pfile and her spouse, Doug Job, who met at the Disciples Divinity House when they were both Scholars and who married in DDH's Chapel of the Holy Grail, decided to honor her parents by establishing a named scholarship fund at the Disciples Divinity House. In October 2012, a service at Downey Avenue Christian Church in Indianapolis, Rolland and Leverne's home congregation, recognized their leadership and the creation of the scholarship fund.
Rolland Pfile is survived by his spouse Leverne, by their two children and their partners, by one grandchild, and by two brothers. A memorial service will be held at Downey Avenue Christian Church on August 24 at 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Rolland G. and Leverne B. Pfile Fund at the Disciples Divinity House (information here) or to Downey Avenue Christian Church. Messages may be sent to the Pfile family at 5406 University Avenue, Indianapolis, 46219.
In Memoriam: Divinity School Professor Jean Bethke Elshtain
Update: A memorial service for Prof. Jean Bethke Elshtain was held October 17 in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. It coincided with the "Engaged Mind" conference, October 17-18, the final part of a four-year series that explored the themes of Elshtain's scholarship.
Jean Bethke Elshtain, scholar of religion and political philosophy, 1941-2013
University of Chicago News Service, August 12, 2013
Jean Bethke Elshtain, one of the nation’s most prominent and provocative thinkers on religion, political philosophy, and ethics, died Sunday following a major cardiac incident earlier this summer. She was 72. Elshtain was the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School, Political Science, and the Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago....
Jean Bethke Elshtain, political scientist unafraid to talk God, has died
The Atlantic, August 13, 2013
Jean Bethke Elshtain, a guiding light for policy makers after 9/11, dies at 72
New York Times, August 15, 2013
Jean Bethke Elshtain, 1941-2013
Chicago Tribune, August 14, 2013
Search for Associate Dean launched
7.19.13 - The Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago has announced a search for an Associate Dean. In the newly configured position, the Associate Dean will collaborate with and assist the Dean to further the educational work of the Disciples Divinity House (DDH) and to interpret it to key constituencies. This involves fostering educational opportunities, vocational development, and transformative conversation among current students, alumni/ae, and friends as well as in wider venues, especially the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also in relation to the University of Chicago Divinity School. An initial focus will be thinking, collaborating, and communicating with current students, relatively recent alumni/ae, and other constituents in order to devise programs that both support career development and connect them to the Disciples Divinity House in ways that will support its mission over the long term. Review of applications will begin July 26 and continue until the position is filled.
The position was reenvisioned over several months of study and conversation led by Dean Kris Culp and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and with the assistance of Jim Powell, former President of Church Extension (now with the Columbia Partnership). Dean Culp announced the search in her remarks to alumni/ae and friends at DDH's luncheon during the General Assembly. She sketched how the institution has been recovering from the economic downturn and how it is preparing for the future. This includes welcoming an increased number of Disciples House Scholars, rebuilding the endowment (now slightly above its previous high), resuming a full complement of capital repairs and improvements to the building, and, with the announcement of the Associate Dean search, staffing for the future. She commented, "The Board of Trustees and I are grateful for your support through this time of challenge and for your partnership as new possibilities emerge."