Colton Lott has been elected to an unexpired term on the Board of Trustees of the Disciples Divinity House. As Senior Minister of the First Christian Church of El Reno, Oklahoma, he has been instrumental in building church-community connections in El Reno and in the Oklahoma region. He pays attention to institutions and the generations who are gathered by them. A 2018 MDiv graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School and a 2015 BA graduate of Eureka College, he was ordained in his home congregation of Ada, Oklahoma. He also serves on the board of the Higher Education and Leadership Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
James Ellsworth Stockdale, alumnus, distinguished minister, and longtime trustee, died on October 19. He was 91. A passionate advocate of the Disciples Divinity House, he was the president of DDH’s Alumni/ae Council before being elected to its Board of Trustees in 1985. He served on the board for thirty-four years, including as Vice President and chair of the Development Committee.
Born to Virgil and Catherine Stockdale on August 13, 1930, Jim grew up in Peoria, Illinois, with his younger brother, Tom. He graduated from Bradley University and, in 1952, married Patricia Gibson. They moved to Chicago where Jim earned his BD degree at the University of Chicago Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. His brother followed his path to the Divinity School and DDH, as eventually did Jim and Pat’s youngest son, Jonathan, who earned a PhD.
After Jim’s ordination in 1956, he began a distinguished career in congregational ministry at Orchard Street Church in nearby Blue Island, and then at First Christian Church in Mt. Carmel, Illinois. In 1970, he was called to University Christian Church in Seattle, serving as its Senior Minister until 1994. Under his leadership, the congregation extended its witness of community engagement, inclusion, accessibility, vital intellectual life, and strong support for the arts and ecumenism. When the congregation ceased its common life in 2018, it honored Mr. Stockdale through a magnificent gift to DDH that removed physical barriers and created a stunning and welcoming entrance courtyard.
In retirement, he enjoyed music, theater, and ballet events, taking regular trips to the Oregon coast, and a commitment to his grandchildren that even led to coaching soccer. James E. Stockdale is survived by his wife Pat; their children, Mark, Jennifer, and Jonathan; and their grandchildren, Graham, Catherine, Isaac, Julia, Lennox, Willa, and Theo. He was predeceased by his brother, Thomas V. Stockdale. A memorial service will be held on December 4 in Seattle.
Del Butterfield dedicated his life to making things work and knowing why. The Baringer family, historians by vocation and avocation, knew how consequential individual and communal action could be.
Del Butterfield and Ann Baringer Butterfield prized history, university education, and the Disciples Divinity House. That inspired them to provide for the Baringer Butterfield Fund by establishing a charitable gift annuity through the Christian Church Foundation to benefit DDH. After Del Butterfield’s death this fall, their gift of $109,335 came to DDH. Part of their marvelous gift is the legacy of their names and their lives.
Ann Baringer and her twin sister, Susie, were born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, the only children of William and Louise Baringer. When their father accepted a teaching position at Tulane University, the family moved to New Orleans. William E. Baringer was a scholar of Abraham Lincoln whose writing focused on “how we got Lincoln,” as one commentator put it. His first book, Lincoln’s Rise to Power (1937), was hailed as an exhaustive treatment of Lincoln’s swift rise to the presidency and to greatness. He later wrote A House Dividing (1945) and Lincoln’s Vandalia (1949). He served as Executive Director of the Lincoln Sesquicentennial Commission and edited its two-volume, Lincoln Day by Day: A Chronology 1809-1865. During World War II, Louise Baringer, who had a fine voice, was called upon to serve as a cantor for a synagogue. In 1947, the family moved to Florida where Mr. Baringer became a professor at the University of Florida.
Ann and Susie eventually enrolled at the University of Florida as undergraduates. Another student, Del Butterfield, met Ann while he was waiting tables at her sorority. Ann earned her BA in Elementary Education and Del earned his BSE in electrical engineering. They married in 1958. Graduate studies took Del into the rapidly emerging field of nuclear engineering, in which he earned the MSE in 1965.
In 1966, Mr. Butterfield accepted a position with Commonwealth Edison, eventually becoming Director of State Nuclear Programs. Later he became a personnel administrator for Commonwealth Edison. When he began, nuclear power plants were being built rapidly. He later recalled how the fire at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Brown’s Ferry plant and the later incident at Three Mile Island spurred a significant increase in the safety of the plants. He eventually became a personnel administrator for Commonwealth Edison. The Butterfields raised two children, Lawrence and Susan. Ann Butterfield became the lead interpreter/educator for the Naper Settlement living history museum.
The Butterfields had moved to the Chicago area at the urging of Ann’s sister, Susie, and her husband, Al Boynton. Mr. Boynton, the son of a prominent Disciples minister and the first PhD graduate in nuclear engineering from the University of Florida, worked at the Argonne National Laboratory. Early meetings for the new First Christian Church of Downers Grove were held at Susie and Al Boynton’s home. William E. Crowl, then a third-year Disciples House Scholar, was the founding minister.
It was through the congregation that the Butterfields began their long relationship with the Disciples Divinity House. After DDH Dean W.B. Blakemore served as interim minister at Downers Grove, he invited Del to join the Board of Trustees. Mr. Butterfield would serve as a trustee for thirty-five years and with four DDH deans. He gave invaluable leadership to personnel, facilities, and investment matters.
In 1994, the Butterfields retired to DeSoto, Wisconsin. Del served the village as its president. Later the village named the street where they had lived the “Del Butterfield Honorary Parkway.”
Ann’s parents, William and Louise Baringer died in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Ann’s sister Susie Baringer Boyton also died in 2004 (Al Boynton predeceased her). When Ann Baringer Butterfield died in 2007, she was the last in a line of Baringers.
In 2009, Del remarried; he and his second wife, Lois, eventually relocated to Florida. He remained devoted to his alma mater, the University of Florida. He died on September 28 in Florida. (See the related In Memoriam to Mr. Butterfield.)
The Baringer Butterfield Fund lifts up Ann’s family name, their shared devotion to university education, and Del’s service to the Disciples Divinity House. We give thanks for these gifts of leadership, history, and friendship, richly shared with the Disciples Divinity House, and for lives dedicated to making things work and understanding how and why they do.
Lawrence Del Butterfield, who served as a trustee for thirty-five years, died on September 25 in Florida. We give thanks for his gifts of leadership and friendship, richly shared with the Disciples Divinity House, and for a life dedicated to making things work.
Born in 1937, Del Butterfield studied at the University of Florida, where he earned BSE and MSE in the emerging field of nuclear engineering. He accepted a position with Commonwealth Edison in Illinois, and eventually became Director of State Nuclear Programs. Later he moved into personnel administration. He met Ann Baringer while they were students at the University of Florida. They married in 1958 and raised two children, Lawrence and Susan. After retirement, they built a house in Desoto, Wisconsin, that overlooked the Mississippi River; they called it “Winemakers’ Bluff” after its location and Del’s hobby. He also worked in the hardware store and served the village as its president.
Mr. Butterfield, who was a member of First Christian Church of Downers Grove, joined the Board of Trustees in 1974 at the invitation of Dean Blakemore. Over the next decades and until 2009, he gave crucial leadership to the Board, working also with Deans Browning, Gilpin, and Culp. He served as Secretary of the Board, Assistant Treasurer, member of the Finance Committee, and with particular excellence, as chair of the House Committee. He was generous with his time and attention, strengthening the Board's work in wide range of matters from personnel, investments, the complete renovation of the kitchen and dining room, the refurbishment of the chapel and its pipe organ, to the minutiae of making things work.
In 2005, the Butterfields established the Baringer-Butterfield Fund through the Christian Church Foundation with a charitable gift annuity to benefit DDH. The fund’s name remembers that Ann Baringer Butterfield was the last in a line of Baringers. Her father, William E. Baringer, was a scholar of Abraham Lincoln, and Ann herself served as the lead interpreter for the Naper Settlement living history farm in Naperville, Illinois. Ann Butterfield died in 2007. Del Butterfield is survived by second wife, Lois, whom he married in 2009, his children and their partners, and two grandchildren.
The academic year begins Monday, September 27. Disciples Divinity House has welcomed three new Disciples Scholars and a dozen other new student residents from around the world and from varied backgrounds and religious traditions. Along with a full house, we have a full schedule for Monday dinners and programs. DDH and the wider University have strong Covid protocols in place to make this and other in-person learning possible. Monday dinners, brought in from local restaurants this fall, will be held outdoors when weather allows. Renovations to the courtyard and interior, completed during the past three summers, provide welcoming and well-lit large gathering spaces.
Monday programs, offered in a slightly compacted schedule due to pandemic considerations, promise to stretch our minds and hearts. PhD student and MDiv graduate, Rachel Abdoler, will preach for the opening chapel service. She is the inaugural recipient of the Barbara and Clark Williamson Scholarship. MDiv student and chapel coordinator, Benny VanDerburgh, will speak in November. We welcome new organist, Charles Hayes, and look forward to music from the Flying Chalices. W. Clark Gilpin leads the Disciples History and Thought Seminar again this year. Forums will feature faculty member Sarah Pierce Taylor, visiting scholar Kimberly Redding, our lauded landscape architect Ernie Wong, and two alumnae, Kristel Clayville and Disciples General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens.
Justin Carlson, Marissa Ilnitzki, and Charlie Platt enter the MDiv program this fall as Disciples Divinity House Scholars. They will be joined by new ecumenical and interfaith residents.
Justin Carlson seeks to infuse congregations with a deepened understanding of how ideas and practices of embodiment manifest in different traditions. “As a Disciple, I had been brought up constantly hearing the refrain that all are welcome at the table. Physically excluding people from the church during times when they need community support the most seems so contrary to what I understand to be the core of Christianity: building a community where all can share their gifts.” He grew up in First Christian Church in Minneapolis, where he remains very active. In the Upper Midwest Region, he has served in the camp program and on the search committee for the new regional minister. He is a 2012 graduate of Carleton College, where he majored in Music. He is presently a legal editor for the State of Minnesota’s Office of the Revisor of Statues. He is the Oreon E. Scott Entering Scholar.
Marissa Ilnitzki is the second recipient of the new Martin Family Scholarship, which recognizes promise for leadership. She is a 2017 graduate of Georgetown University where she majored in sociology and minored in environmental studies. After graduation she gained experiences in community leadership, wilderness education, and social services in Washington State with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps at the Pascal Sherman Indian School, on the staff of the Lutheran retreat center Holden Village, and as a family support specialist in Seattle. Raised Roman Catholic, her journey to ministry has been nourished by women leaders in United Methodist, ELCA, and UCC churches. She reflects, “The table of communion has been extended to me throughout my life. The ability to be a Disciples Divinity House Scholar would give me the connections to create my own table of welcome.”
Charlie Platt is the William N. Weaver Entering Scholar. He earned a MSW from the University of Minnesota (2020) and a BA from St. Olaf College, where he graduated cum laude in 2016 with majors in social work and religion. Currently a therapist at the Boynton Mental Health Clinic at the University of Minnesota, he brings social work experience in church, educational, and community settings, and he has served as a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps at Holden Village and of Macalester Plymouth UCC in St. Paul. “My experiences have shown me how participating in community and spiritual experiences have an essential place in the flourishing of all human lives. Being a leader in shaping these experiences is a core part of my vocation.” During his year as a case manager at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter in Chicago, he participated in Root and Branch Church, which provided a model and mentors for Disciples ministry.
The Disciples Divinity House mourns the death of Clark M. Williamson, distinguished alumnus, trustee, and beloved friend. He died after a short illness on June 26, in Indianapolis. He was 85.
Love of questions brought Clark Williamson to DDH as a student in 1957 and to pathbreaking work as a Christian theologian. A pioneer in Post-Holocaust theology, important voice in Process Theology, and leading Disciples theologian, he was the author of seventeen books, including his systematic theology, Way of Blessing, Way of Life: A Christian Theology (1999), which was recently published in Korean translation. He was the Indiana Professor of Christian Thought Emeritus at Christian Theological Seminary and its former Vice President and Dean. An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), he was also a deeply appreciated member of Central Christian Church in Indianapolis, having served as Elder, a longtime volunteer in the Free Clothing pantry, and as teacher. He was a valued colleague, mentor, and friend, and, for many, a teacher without parallel.
In 2007, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Disciples Divinity House. In 2015, he was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. He served as the Honorary Co-chair, with JoAnne Kagiwada, of DDH’s 125th Anniversary Celebration in May 2019. This April, the Barbara and Clark Williamson Scholarship reached full endowment at $250,000, largely due to Barbara and Clark’s generosity over many years and a magnificent pledge from Clark to the 125th anniversary campaign. It will recognize "excellence in theological thinking that furthers understanding and accountability between traditions," and be awarded for the first time this fall. It expresses the conviction that thinking critically about faith and about the accountability of Christianity to other faiths is essential for spiritual life and leadership.
Clark Murray Williamson was born November 3, 1935, in Memphis, Tennessee. He grew up in the Taylor Memorial Christian Church in Memphis, where his grandfather, J. Murray Taylor, was minister. His grandfather viewed the principal calling of the minister to be that of teacher of the Christian faith, a perspective that animated Clark's own approach to theology, church, and ministry.
When Clark Williamson arrived at the Disciples Divinity House in 1957 from Transylvania College, he thought, “I had finally found a place where I was intellectually and spiritually at home.” He had completed the AB in religion and philosophy at Transylvania that spring. The school’s president, Irvin Lunger, told Williamson about DDH. Lunger was a DDH alumnus. Williamson entered the Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar, and earned BD (1961), AM (1963), and PhD (1969) degrees from the University of Chicago. He served as assistant dean of the Disciples Divinity House and as interim minister of University Church. He was also Paul Tillich's assistant for Volume III of Tillich's Systematic Theology. Tillich referred to Williamson as “my Englisher.” For his part, Clark had a raft of stories to share about “Paulus.”
Barbara Unger was a student working in the office of the dean of the Divinity School when she and Clark met. She earned AB (French) and AM (Linguistics) degrees from the University and taught high school French before serving as executive director of the ACLU in Indiana, in the US Attorney’s Office, and in the Federal Court House in Indianapolis. They raised one child, Scott. He graduated from the College, making for six University of Chicago degrees in a family of three. Barbara Williamson died in October 2016. Barbara and Clark are survived by Scott and his wife Eva, and beloved grandchildren Jolie and newly-born James, who live in Washington, DC.
In 1966, Mr. Williamson joined the faculty at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) in Indianapolis. Advancing quickly to associate and then full professor, he became the first occupant of the Indiana Chair of Christian Thought and served as Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs, retiring in 2002. He also served as a visiting professor at the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches in Bossey, Switzerland, and at the Claremont School of Theology. Transylvania University honored him with the Distinguished Achievement Award (2002) and with the Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa) (2005).
Seeking to identify anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism in Christian theology and to correct it was one of the most persistent themes of his life and work. As he said, “I have come to see that loving questions and loving strangers (who bring their questions with them) is a requirement of Christian faith. Even more, it is a requirement of any authentic spirituality or pastoral leadership. After Auschwitz, unquestioning faith is pernicious.” His 1982 book, Has God Rejected his People?, recognized the searing questions put to the Christian community by the Shoah. Later books continued this work, including A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology (1989) and the three-volume lectionary commentary series co-authored with Ron Allen that provided guidance for Christian preaching without “blaming the Jews” or “dismissing the Law,” as two of the subtitles put it. He served on the Committee on the Church and the Holocaust of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was a member of the Christian Scholars Group on Judaism. A 2003 conference at CTS discussed his contributions to Jewish-Christian conversations and to post-Holocaust theology.
He described his work, in part, as rethinking Christian faith in conversation with contemporary issues and points of view. Ron Allen, colleague at CTS and coauthor with Williamson of several books, observes that Clark was self-consciously a “church theologian,” that is, a theologian who intended for his work to strengthen the church. “While his published works show remarkable depth and precision, they are written in ways that are immediately accessible. His writings are marked by epigrammatic expressions that bespeak a mind that is simultaneously penetrating, insightful, critical, visionary, restive, and playful. He could devastate a whole argument put forward by a student or colleague with a single humorous expression, and was occasionally too willing to do so.”
In books and in numerous journal articles, Mr. Williamson developed an interpretation of God and the world through the lens of neo-process thought. He interpreted the gospel as the dipolar news of God’s unconditional love for each and all, including for elements of nature, and God’s command for justice for each and all. The dominant witness and animating center of his life was the unrelenting awareness of being graciously loved beyond measure and the consequent mission of enhancing the knowledge of that love in church and world, and calling for love in every heart, every relationship and every circumstance. A favorite characterization of God came from Alfred North Whitehead: that God’s nature “is best conceived, [as] that of a tender care that nothing be lost.” Read more about his work.
We give thanks for his life, his questions and insight, his tenacity, generosity, and wisdom. A memorial service will be held at Central Christian Church in late September. Memorial gifts may be made to the Disciples Divinity House at the University of Chicago, Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, or the ACLU of Indiana Foundation.
Alumnus Don A. Pittman, the William Tabbernee Professor of the History of Religions Emeritus and former Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Phillips Theological Seminary died June 26 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He had joined the PTS faculty in 2000 after having taught for seven years at Tainan Theological College and Seminary in southern Taiwan, where he also served on the regional faculty of the Southeast Asia Graduate School of Theology. A leader in Disciples theological education for many years, he had also served as Associate Dean of Brite Divinity School and as a member of the Brite faculty for ten years. During Don Browning's deanship, he served as Associate Dean of the Disciples Divinity House and, during the 1983-84 academic year, as acting dean.
After earning a BA from Texas Christian University (1970) and a MDiv (1973) and MA (1976) from Vanderbilt University, he entered the University of Chicago Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. He earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1987, and later did postdoctoral studies at National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan (1994-95).Trained as a scholar of Chinese Buddhism, he also gained historical and global perspectives on theology and ministry and expertise in cross-cultural studies.
His publications included Ministry and Theology in Global Perspective: Contemporary Challenges for the Church, co-edited with Ruben Habito and Terry Muck (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996) and Toward a Modern Chinese Buddhism: Taixu’s Reforms (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001), plus numerous scholarly articles in English and Chinese. His keen mind and gentle spirit made him a treasured colleague in theological education and among the Association of Disciples for Theological Discussion (ADTD).
He died following a last fierce battle with Parkinson's disease. He is survived by his spouse, Nancy Claire Pittman, who is the President of Phillips Theological Seminary, his mother, Eve, and three daughters, Merillat, Katheryn, and Debra. A memorial service will be held at 2 pm CDT Friday, July 2, at Harvard Avenue Christian Church in Tulsa; it will be livestreamed. Interment will be the following week in Fort Worth, Texas. Read the PTS obituary and more about his contributions.
DDH's backyard will be renewed as a place of gathering, relaxation, and respite. Can you imagine sitting together outdoors for Monday dinners? A patio, grill, serving area, farm table, and strings of lights will make that and other student gatherings possible. What about finding a quiet retreat to talk with a colleague or read a book? There will be hammocks, a swinging bench, a fire pit, plus raised beds for vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Ernest Wong of Site Design developed the plans in consultation with the trustees and a group of students. The work starts in July.
Love of questions brought Clark Williamson to DDH as a student in 1957 and to his pathbreaking work on post-Holocaust theology and against anti-Jewishness in Christian theology. The Barbara and Clark Williamson Scholarship, now fully endowed at $250,000, will recognize "excellence in theological thinking that furthers understanding and accountability between traditions." Friends and family joined with Mr. Williamson and the Board of Trustees on April 24 to inaugurate the scholarship.
The scholarship will be awarded for the first time this fall. It will support future generations of students, including, on occasion, students in the Divinity School from other traditions to make possible their residence and participation in shared life and thought at DDH. It expresses the conviction that thinking critically about faith and about the accountability of Christianity to other faiths is essential for spiritual life and leadership. As Clark has said, “I have come to see that loving questions and loving strangers (who bring their questions with them) is a requirement of Christian faith. Even more, it is a requirement of any authentic spirituality or pastoral leadership. After Auschwitz, unquestioning faith is pernicious.”
When Clark Williamson arrived at the Disciples Divinity House in 1957 from Transylvania College, he thought, “I had finally found a place where I was intellectually and spiritually at home.” He earned BD, MA, and PhD degrees at the University of Chicago Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. He became an architect of post-Holocaust Christian theology, the author of more than twenty books, and the Indiana Professor of Christian Thought at Christian Theological Seminary (now emeritus). Barbara was a student working in the office of the dean of the Divinity School when they met. She earned AB (French) and AM (Linguistics) degrees from the University and taught high school French before serving as executive director of the ACLU in Indiana, in the US Attorney’s Office, and in the Federal Court House in Indianapolis. Barbara Williamson died in 2016. The determination to grow the endowment was further catalyzed when then-MDiv student Rachel Abdoler completed an internship at Congregation Beth El Zedeck in Indianapolis that Clark was instrumental in helping to arrange. He saw the quality of leadership and thought that was possible in a DDH student.
Barbara and Clark Williamson began to build the fund in gratitude for excellence in theological education and scholarship. The endowment was built through their commitment over twenty-two and half years, with a little help from some friends, and completed through Mr. Williamson's magnificent commitment to the 125th Anniversary Campaign. The Board of Trustees acted formally to establish the Barbara and Clark Williamson Scholarship at its April 24 meeting, which was held remotely.
Family and friends of Clark surprised him by joining the Board of Trustees for the formal action. The surprise celebration continued with the announcement of the inaugural recipient of the scholarship: Rachel Abdoler. Rachel Abdoler is now a fourth-year PhD student in the History of Christianity. She studies Christian theological texts written in Arabic against a backdrop of Christian and Islamic polemical writing, and particularly the hermeneutical strategy of Arabophone Christian, Butrus al-Sadamantī, who wrote in a thirteenth-century Copto-Islamic milieu. She spoke movingly, recounting how Clark had been a mentor during her 2014 internship in Indianapolis and dinners shared with Barbara and Clark. In all those ways and more, she explained, she felt as though she had already been a recipient of this scholarship. Her comments were followed by remarks from Rabbi Dennis Sasso, of Congregation Beth El Zedeck, who blessed his dear friend Clark, the memory of the late Barbara, the scholarship, and Rachel, its first recipient.