In memoriam: Samuel C. Pearson
Samuel Campbell Pearson, Jr., entering class of 1951, died on June 10 at home in St. Louis; he was 91. He was Professor Emeritus of Historical Studies at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville where he taught for many years in addition to serving as Dean of the School of Social Sciences from 1983-95. Mr. Pearson was "a scholar, teacher, administrator, and colleague of uncommon insight, effectiveness, and humanity," as his 2001 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Disciples Divinity House said.
He was born in Dallas, Texas, on December 10, 1931, the son of Samuel and Edna Pearson. In 1951, after earning his BA cum laude from Texas Christian University and at the age of nineteen, Sam Pearson matriculated to the Divinity School of the University of Chicago and the Disciples Divinity House. He earned the BD and MA degrees, and in 1964, the PhD degree. He held a commission as chaplain in the Navy and served on active duty in from 1954-56. He wrote extensively on the history of Christianity, and received two senior Fulbright appointments to lecture on American History in Chinese universities. After retirement, he again taught in China under the auspices of Global Ministries of the Christian Church and the United Church of Christ, and edited Supporting Asian Christianity's Transition from Mission to Church: A History of the Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia (2010).
He was an important figure in the life of the Disciples Divinity House and in Disciples higher education. From 1956-60, he was the Assistant to Dean Blakemore and DDH's National Representative. He served on the Alumni/ae Council and the Centennial Planning Committee. He wrote important monographs on the Disciples movement and the Disciples Divinity House. For the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), he was a member of the Board of the Division of Higher Education (now HELM), a life member of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, and a member of, and archivist for, the Association of Disciples for Theological Discussion. Union Avenue Christian Church minister and close friend Thomas V. Stockdale once remembered him as "a constant, sometimes frustrated, but relentless voice for every compassionate and enlarging project we undertook."
He is survived by Mary Alice Clay Pearson and their two sons, William Clay Pearson of Gallup, New Mexico, John Andrew Pearson (Pamela Jorden) of Los Angeles. Memorial gifts may be made to the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Foundation, Southern Poverty Law Center, or to the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago.
In memoriam: B. Ernest O’Donnell
Peace, justice, and ecumenism were enduring commitments in Ernie O'Donnell's life and ministry. He died May 28 in Fort Worth; he was 91. He served local congregations in Rogers, Arkansas, and in Dallas, Longview, and, for twenty-one years, First Christian Church of Richardson, Texas.
Born in 1931 in Johnston, Pennsylvania, B. Ernest O'Donnell grew up in Tucson, Arizona. As a youth, he joined the First Christian Church and experienced the formative mentorship of its minister, Harold Lunger. Ernie attended Chapman College (now University) on a full scholarship. He graduated in 1952 and entered the Disciples Divinity House and the Divinity School that same year. In 1955, after receiving his BD degree from the Divinity School and being ordained, he served at the Hazel Green Academy in Kentucky, All Peoples' Christian Church in Los Angeles, and with the WCC InterChurch Service to Greek Villages in northern Greece. In 1959, he was called to the staff of what is now the Southwest Region as youth minister, and he met Judy Crow. They were married in 1960, and raised two sons, Kelly and Sean. Their partnership included her own MDiv and DMin degrees and congregational ministry, as well as international travel and involvement at University Christian Church in Fort Worth after their retirements.
Ernie O'Donnell co-founded the Dallas Peace Center and was active in the Disciples Peace Fellowship. He served two separate terms on DDH's Alumni/ae Council, including as its President from 1988-89. They established the B. Ernest and Judy Crow O'Donnell Fund at DDH. He is survived by Judy Crow O'Donnell, their sons, and their grandchildren.
Inaugural Theological Education Fellows announced
Benny VanDerburgh and Lijia Xie have been selected as the inaugural Theological Education Leadership Fellows. They begin in September. Functioning as members of the Disciples Divinity House professional staff, Fellows will be engaged in aspects of educational and non-profit leadership on a schedule aligned with the academic year. Fellows will each develop a special focus.
Benny VanDerburgh, a current DDH Scholar, will receive his MDiv degree from the Divinity School in June. He is a 2015 magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Bates College with a BA in English and a 2019 MAPH graduate of the University of Chicago. He currently coordinates DDH’s chapel services and serves as librarian and as the House Council co-president; he is also a pastoral associate at St. Pauls UCC. His fellowship project involves developing a model of digitized mutual aid that will curate materials and spotlight trustworthy resources. He intends to pursue doctoral studies to critically examine the religious lives of movement workers and collectives and, specifically, of early waves of HIV/AIDS activism outside of religious institutions.
Lijia Xie will receive his MDiv degree from the Divinity School in August. He completed field education at Urban Village Church in Chicago. He is a 2017 cum laude graduate of Harvard University where he majored in Computer Science and minored in Statistics. After college he worked as a software engineer for eBay in New York City. Lijia’s project for the fellowship is to develop pedagogy and contexts for “revitalizing theological fluency for human flourishing.” He hopes to continue similar work in a PhD program: “a revitalizing of theology in the fraught arena of public discourse, a reclamation … which I believe is indispensable to the flourishing of humanity and society.”
Lewton passes the presidential gavel to Pam Jones
At the April 22-23 Board of Trustees meeting, outgoing president April Lewton passed the gavel to incoming president Pamela James Jones. Special guests, food, and toasts were part of a celebration of April's leadership through DDH's 125th Anniversary and the pandemic. She continues as a trustee. New president Pamela James Jones is a MDiv and PhD graduate of the Divinity School with a long association with DDH. She previously served as Vice President. Gaylord Yu is the new Vice President; Mareta Smith continues as Treasurer and Paul Steinbrecher as Secretary.
Lott elected to Board of Trustees
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).
In Memoriam: James E. Stockdale
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.
A Legacy of Baringers and Butterfields
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.
In Memoriam: L. Del Butterfield
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.
Welcome New DDH Scholars
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.
In Memoriam: Clark M. Williamson
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.
In Memoriam: Don A. Pittman
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.
Backyard renovation underway this summer
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.
Barbara and Clark Williamson Scholarship: Loving questions and loving strangers
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.
Jha elected to the Board of Trustees
Sandhya Jha, author of four books and founder of the Oakland Peace Center, has been elected to the Board of Trustees. An alumna and 2006 graduate of the University of Chicago’s joint MDiv and Public Policy program, she is a consultant, community organizer, and serves with the Emerging Leaders Program at the Leadership Institute at Allen Temple. In addition to founding the Oakland Peace Center, she is its former executive director and current Connections Consultant for OPC—a collective of forty organizations working to create equity, access, and dignity as the means of creating peace in Oakland and the Bay Area. She serves as an anti-racism/anti-oppression trainer with Reconciliation Ministries for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and, with Yvonne Gilmore, co-directs DDH’s Living Justice Project: An Anti-Racist Practicum. Her first book, Room at the Table (2009), a history of people of color in the Disciples of Christ, was followed by Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines (2014), Transforming Communities: How People Like You are Healing Their Neighborhoods (2017), and, most recently, Liberating Love (2020).
David Vargas, a member of the Board's Nominating Committee, stressed the importance of the "grass roots" perspective that Sandhya Jha brings to the Board's work of planning for and imagining the future of theological education at the Disciples Divinity House. Nominating Committee chair, Claudia Highbaugh, conveyed the committee's enthusiasm and welcome. Her three-year term on the twenty-one member board begins immediately.
David Nirenberg appointed dean of the Divinity School
David Nirenberg, who has served as interim dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School since 2018, has been appointed dean, University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee announced. Nirenberg, the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Distinguished Service Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought, is a leading scholar of the ways in which Jewish, Christian, and Islamic societies have interacted with and thought about each other. As interim dean, he has advanced the Divinity School’s efforts to bring informed discourse on religion to a global audience.
Prior to leading the Divinity School, he served as executive vice provost, focusing on issues of critical importance related to administrative coordination between the divisions and the College. He also strengthened resources for graduate students, including serving as chair of the Graduate Education Committee, which assessed the current state of graduate education at the University. He previously served as dean of the Division of the Social Sciences from 2014 to 2018 and was the founding Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. He holds an MA and PhD in history from Princeton University and an AB from Yale University.
His new term begins July 1, 2022, at which time he will take a one-year sabbatical. James T. Robinson, the Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Judaism, Islamic Studies and the History of Religions, has agreed to serve as interim dean during this time. Read the original story on the University of Chicago News site.
Winter quarter begins January 11
Ayanna Johnson Watkins, Lead Organizer for MICAH (Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope), a coalition of community and faith-based organizations, will preach for the first chapel service of the winter quarter on January 11. She is a joint MDiv and MA in Social Service Administration graduate and a current member of DDH's Alumni/ae Council. She previously led NBA's Incubate initiative, and had served as a new church minister in residence at DDH. She is back by popular demand after participating in a panel discussion during the autumn quarter.
She heads a calendar of diverse offerings for the quarter. On January 25, alums Tabitha Isner, a former Alabama congressional candidate, and Rob Wilson-Black, CEO of Sojourners, will discuss "Religion and the 2020 Election." On February 15, Erin Galgay Walsh, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the Divinity School, will present, "Speaking in Her Voice: Late Antique Poets and Biblical Storytelling." On March 8, alumna and Gilead Church co-founder Rebecca Anderson will take up storytelling in a different vein with "Campfire Stories."
The quarter will also feature the preaching of House Scholars Aneesah Ettress and Sarah Zuniga in the February and March chapel services. W. Clark Gilpin advances teaching and learning with two sessions of the Disciples History and Thought Seminar, both in February. All programs will convene virtually during the winter quarter.
In memoriam: Eddie Evans Griffin
At DDH we knew Eddie Evans Griffin best as a key officer of the Board of Trustees, a mentor to students, and a lover of the Chapel of the Holy Grail. She was a pioneer in several realms. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from what is now Clark Atlanta University, she became the first Black student to enter (and to graduate from) the Master of Social Work program at the University of Illinois. "She took life on," her dear friend Dolores Highbaugh remarked. She died December 21, 2020, after having been in hospice care. She was 85.
Born August 10, 1935 to Myrtle and Lorenzo Evans, Eddie Lo Evans spent her formative years in Indianapolis, where her father, an academic, served as the first African American staff of the National Convocation in Christian education, beginning in 1947. (In 1960-61 he became one of the first group of the merger staff of the NCMC and UCMC.) After graduate school, she married John Griffin and moved to Chicago. He predeceased her. Most of her professional career was at the Chicago Child Care Society. She began as a case worker, working primarily with sexually active teen girls; she served as a field education supervisor for the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration. She became a senior administrator with CCCS and retired as Director of the Chicago Comprehensive Care Center.
In 1999, and within a few years after she was first elected to the DDH Board of Trustees, Eddie Griffin became an officer of the board. Her experience as a leader of nonprofit organizations, her commitment to higher and theological education, her mentorship of students, and her knowledge of the church in every manifestation, as well as her wisdom and skill in decisions and processes contributed decisively to the Board’s work. She served on the Executive Committee for twelve years: as Vice President from January 2005 until December 2011, when she stepped down from the board, and as Secretary from 1999 through 2004. She knew the student community well as a regular participant in Monday dinners, programs, chapel services, as well as at Convocation and other special events. She took special pleasure and solace in the Chapel of the Holy Grail.
She was an elder at Park Manor Christian Church and a longtime Sunday school teacher. At Park Manor she was also a chair of the board, sponsor of the college program, chair of the Christian Women’s Fellowship (now Disciples Women), and a member of the Spires Women’s Group. Mrs. Griffin was a leader within the general church and served on the General Board, the Time and Place Committee, and the New Church Start Committee. She wrote meditations for women’s groups. She worked with the Chicago Disciples Union. When she became the Moderator of the Christian Church in Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), she was the first Black female to hold that role. During that time, she was also elected Secretary for the Conference of Regional Ministers and Moderators. In 2012, she was recognized as one of three inaugural recipients of the CCIW’s Disciple of Merit award.
Eddie Lo Evans Griffin is survived by her sister Stacy Duke (King), son Brian (Luba), and grandchildren. A virtual memorial service was held on January 16 at Park Manor Christian Church.
Remembering Bob Bates
We are saddened to learn of the death of Robert Searle Bates (1950) on December 8 in Indianapolis. He was 92. He capped a lifelong career with Global Ministries by serving as the Area Executive for East Asia and the Pacific. Bob and Sue Bates began their careers as mission co-workers in India in the 1950s. He earned BD, MA, and PhD degrees at the Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar.
He was born on September 22, 1928, in Shanghai, China. He attended high school in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. After graduating from Hiram College, he entered the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar in 1950. He was ordained at University Church in 1953. In 1957, he married Margaret Sue Gillespie, and they went to India as mission co-workers, appointed by the United Christian Missionary Society. They worked alongside student Christian movements in Bangalore and Sri Lanka and taught at Leonard Theological College in in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India. They returned to the US in 1970. In 1974, he completed his PhD, which focused on Sri Lanka and the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict. They moved to Indianapolis in 1972, where he joined the faculty of Christian Theological Seminary as an assistant professor of Church and Urban Community, serving until 1976. He directed the Survey of Undergraduate Religious Studies in Colleges and Universities of Indiana, before beginning work with the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1978. He served DOM as Executive Secretary for the Department of Interpretation and Personnel until 1983, when he became the Executive Secretary of the Department of East Asia and the Pacific of the Division of Overseas Ministries. He retired in 1993.
Bob and Sue Bates were members of Allisonville Christian Church and served in the first group of Regional Elders for the Christian Church in Indiana. He served on the DDH Alumni/ae Council. In 2010, on one of their return trips to DDH, the Bates presented a forum on their 2008 trip to Nanjing, China. Bob Bates’s earliest years were lived in Nanjing, China, where his father, M. Searle Bates, taught history at the University of Nanking. He left Nanjing at age 12 with his mother and brother before Japanese troops invaded China in 1937. His father helped to create the Nanking Safety Zone, which protected thousands of Chinese civilians while bearing witness to the atrocities that resulted in the massacre of 300,000 civilians and the rape of women and girls. Today, the Nanjing Massacre Museum remembers the tragedy and the heroism and courage of the international committee. In 2008, Bob and Sue Bates, with their daughters and grandchildren returned to Nanjing to pray for peace, to celebrate Bob’s 80th birthday, and to visit the museum. Sue Bates died in March 2019. They are survived by daughters Karen Bates Hudson and Kristen Bates-Scott and extended family.
Grateful for Yvonne Gilmore
In Autumn 2013, Yvonne T. Gilmore became Associate Dean of the Disciples Divinity House. During these past seven years, she has invested intellect and imagination in DDH, in fact, she has exemplified critical thinking and vision for the DDH community and the wider church. She has also exemplified gratitude as she worked with family to bring the Teresa M. Gilmore Fund into being and with donors, especially younger alumni/ae. Among DDH students, she fostered camaraderie and conversation, shared worship and work, as she collaborated to arrange Chapel worship and Monday programs. Grants from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation and another from Reconciliation undergirded the “Constructive Theologies Project” and allowed her to partner with Cynthia Lindner and the Divinity School to sponsor several alumni/ae retreats. She has also worked with Disciples organizations across the country as an anti-racism trainer, and been a featured preacher and speaker at many events. With alumna Rebecca Anderson’s expertise and collaboration, they developed several “DDH StoryHour” events. Most recently, another grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation is allowing her to partner with Sandhya Jha for a new project entitled, “Living Justice: An Anti-Racism Practicum.” These are substantive initiatives that have shaped the House and its future.
At the end of November, she will conclude her work as Associate Dean in order to take on a new challenge and opportunity as Interim Executive Secretary of the National Convocation and Associate General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We are already missing Yvonne Gilmore's style, spark, humor, insight and vision. Our consolation is that she has important work to do there, and, even more, we know she will always be a DDH alumna, and in that sense (and surely in many other ways), she will always be part of “the House.”
When her grandmother, Teresa Gilmore, died—who is remembered in the new fund—Yvonne wrote these words about her. They also apply to Yvonne herself: "She outgrew straight lines before I ever learned to describe them / she was an epic hymn sung in rounds worth repeating." The work of DDH and its students has been enriched and strengthened through the extraordinary companionship of Yvonne Gilmore—and by an epic hymn to move us as we go.
“The Precariousness of Care”
Cynthia Lindner, a DDH alumna and trustee who is Director of Ministry Studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School, wrote about "The Precariousness of Care" in late October. "Attending to each other and our communities is costly, messy, exhausting — and vital," she observes. It was one of her regular postings for Sightings, a publication of the Marty Center of the University of Chicago Divinity School. Read this and other reflections on religion in a time of pandemic and upheaval in her posts (navigation will take you away from the DDH website).
Richard Hunt sculpture to crown renovation; Jim and Tom Stockdale honored
A stunning bronze sculpture by Richard Hunt will crown renovations to the Disciples Divinity House that symbolize welcome and provide barrier-free access to the historic building.
A magnificent gift in honor of James E. Stockdale funded the courtyard redesign and related renovations to ensure access to the first floor. When University Christian Church in Seattle, Washington, ceased its common life in 2018, the congregation wanted to honor him, their esteemed former minister. The sculpture was commissioned by the family of Thomas V. Stockdale in his memory. He was Minister Emeritus of Union Avenue Christian Church in St. Louis.
One of the most important sculptors of our time, Richard Hunt became the first African American artist to have a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1971). Over 150 of his public sculptures are displayed throughout the US, including in the National Museum of African American History and Culture and in a current solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Mr. Hunt's sculpture creates a conversation between fluidity and metal’s strength, form and transformation. In the accompanying photo, he and the model for the sculpture are seen in his Chicago studio. The artist's direct metal technique involves cutting, shaping, and welding sheets of bronze into a shape-shifting, ascending form.
Richard Hunt grew up in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago and graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago. His history converges with that of Jim and Tom Stockdale on East 57th Street: as young man, Richard had taken classes at the University of Chicago and worked in the biology laboratories a block away from DDH where Jim and Tom Stockdale both studied.
James E. and Thomas V. Stockdale grew up in Peoria, Illinois, where both graduated from Bradley University before coming to the University of Chicago Divinity School as Disciples Divinity House Scholars, Jim arrived in Chicago in 1952; after graduation and ordination in 1956, he served Orchard Street Church in nearby Blue Island before moving downstate to Mount Carmel. In the mid-sixties, he was called to University Christian Church in Seattle, from which he retired in 1994. He was a member of the DDH Board of Trustees from 1985-2019.
Tom followed his older brother to DDH and the University in 1956, graduating in 1960. He served Disciples congregations in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Nebraska, and Maryland. From 1986-99 he was the senior minister of Union Avenue Christian Church in St. Louis. After his death in 2016, his family decided to commission a sculpture in his memory. They envisioned an angelic evocation that would remember him and inspire future generations of House Scholars; they discovered the remarkable artistry and vision of Richard Hunt.
Tom and Jim Stockdale were both devoted to congregational life and worship, to ecumenism, and to social and community outreach. Each loved the arts—music, visual arts, architecture, theater, theology, and poetry. In their lives and ministries—as in Richard Hunt's sculpture—form was ever being transformed, with God's spirit descending, ascending, and ever-moving amidst the earthen stuff of shared life.
The courtyard and sculpture will be dedicated on October 24 at 1:00 pm, CDT. The dedication will be videocast. RSVP here.
Awards recognize promise and scholarly achievement
Scholarship funds allow Disciples Divinity House Scholars to immerse themselves in learning without incurring significant debt. Student achievement and promise have been recognized with these special awards.
Several awards have been established or will be fully funded as part of DDH's 125th anniversary. These include the Martin Family Scholarship, being awarded for the first time to Joel Brown (see related article), and the Dr. Geunhee and Mrs. Geunsoon Yu Scholarship, which was newly awarded last year to Aneesah Ettress, a third-year MDiv student. The Yu scholarship recognizes high promise for innovative pastoral and intellectual leadership, especially within multicultural contexts.
The Edward Scribner Ames Scholarship for high academic achievement has been awarded to Mark Lambert, a PhD candidate in Theology, his dissertation is titled, “The Sacramental Sickness: The Perceptual Interplay between the Eucharist and the Leper-Christ in Medieval Theology.” The William Barnett Blakemore Scholarship for ecumenical vision and academic achievement has been awarded to Benny VanDerburgh, a second-year MDiv student, DDH librarian this year and co-convener of Open Space, a weekly ritual gathering for students at the Divinity School. Landon Wilcox, a second-year MDiv student and Head Resident this year, is the Bernard F. and Annie Mae Cooke Scholar. The scholarship was established by a spirited lay woman from Houston who prized excellence in ministry.
MDiv student Ross Allen is the recipient of the M. Elizabeth Dey Scholarship. LaSalle Street Church is his field education placement site. Emily Springer, second-year MDiv student, is the recipient of the Drum and Tenant Scholarship. Gilead is her field education placement site. Both of these scholarships were established by Katherine Dey, who wanted to remember her grandmother and dear friends.
The Henry Barton Robison Scholarship is awarded to Paige Spencer, a second-year MA student, for promise in biblical studies. Hiatt Allen was awarded the Rolland and Laura Frances Sheafor Scholarship which was established by a longtime DDH trustee who was the founding president of the Christian Church Foundation and his wife. A dual degree student, he is studying at the Harris School of Public Policy this year. Third-year MDiv Sarah Zuniga is the recipient of the M. Ray and Phyllis Schultz Scholarship which recognizes promise for congregational ministry. She is working as a digital content special at Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training this year. Ainsley Grey, first-year MDiv student, is the Oreon E. Scott Entering Scholar. Alexa Dava, first-year MDiv student, is the William N. Weaver Entering Scholar.
Martin Family Scholarship recognizes leadership; Awarded to Joel Brown
The Martin Family Scholarship for leadership in congregational ministry or scholarship and teaching, which was established at the Disciples Divinity House by Jerry and Donna Martin and Chad and Crista Martin, has reached the full funding level. It has been awarded for the first time in the 2020-21 academic year to House Scholar and PhD student Joel A. Brown.
The Martin family has seen the impact of DDH graduates firsthand. They established this scholarship to foster future leaders who will enrich the work of the church. Jerry Martin, a Disciples minister, got to know DDH and its students when he chaired the region’s Commission on Ministry. Donna Martin, who taught writing at a community college and was a lay leader in the region, especially appreciated the women graduates from the House she met in the wider church. An inheritance from her parents, Roy D. and Mary Zoe Heath, provided for the initial gift for this fund.
Chad Martin, their son, became a trustee. He had served with Kris Culp on the Administrative Committee of the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also had the connection to the House through his parents. A graduate of TCU with an MBA from Stanford University, and now a CFO of a software company, he brought financial and executive expertise to the work of the DDH Board of Trustees. Over the last twenty years, he has served as its treasurer, president, and, most recently, chair of the 125th Anniversary Celebration and Campaign. Crista Martin’s passion has animated the family’s commitment to women in ministry, congregations, and intelligent leadership.
Joel Brown, a PhD candidate in Religions in America, is the inaugural recipient. He studies how leaders of Black Chicago congregations shaped the Social Gospel movement. He recently served as editor of Sightings, the biweekly electronic publication of the Martin E. Marty Center at the Divinity School, and co-taught the Senior Ministry Project Seminar with Cynthia Lindner. Joel and Erin Brown with their daughter Margot, are resident assistants in the Undergraduate Housing System.
A beautiful courtyard renovation symbolizes welcome and provides barrier-free access to this historic building. It will be dedicated October 24, 2020, at 1:00 pm, CDT. It will be videocast. Please reply here.
University Christian Church in Seattle, Washington, has honored James E. Stockdale, their esteemed and beloved former minister, with a magnificent gift of $500,000 to the Disciples Divinity House. The gift has enhanced the welcome of this historic building by providing for an ingenious courtyard design and adaptations to the first floor.
An alumnus, longtime trustee, and impassioned advocate of the Disciples Divinity House, Jim Stockdale depicted the House as a “threshold to excellence” for its centennial celebration. How fitting that this gift removes barriers at that threshold. Click here to read more.
The videocast will be on a separate page of the DDH site, but also streamed on YouTube.
An Epic Hymn: Fund Honors Teresa M. Gilmore
A new fund will honor Teresa M. Gilmore, music educator and grandmother of Yvonne T. Gilmore. By creating the fund, the Gilmore family pays tribute to her life and to the enduring power of sacred music, arts innovation, and courageous congregations. The Gilmore family also celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Disciples Divinity House, an institution to which they were first connected through her.
Teresa Marlene Gilmore (1933-2010) grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas, and attended the University of Kansas, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education in 1955. In 1956, she married Wilfred Gilmore and moved to Sioux City, Iowa, where Mr. Gilmore was serving in the Air Force; they finally relocated to Washington, DC. Soon after her arrival in DC, she met Arthur A. Azlein, a pastor who was introducing himself door-to-door in their neighborhood, and joined the new Michigan Park Christian Church. Azlein, a DDH alumnus, was a fellow Kansan. She was among the first African-American members of the congregation, and became the choir director for the senior choir and a member of the Christian Women’s Fellowship.
A pillar of music education and arts innovation, she was a music teacher in the DC Public School System for over thirty years. She co-directed the Region V Children’s Chorus, which performed throughout the DC metro area and at the 1984 World Exposition in New Orleans. Her passion for music and education converged at Michigan Park, where she steadfastly built the ministry of music for several decades. Some of the students that she mentored in the public schools joined the music ministry of Michigan Park and went on to become accomplished composers and musicians. These included Nolan Williams, who became the music editor of the African American Heritage Hymnal, a publication for which she served on the editorial committee.
She raised three children, Pamela (Steve Washington), David (Margo Gilmore), and Kesha Gilmore (Mark Rich), and, in time, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Yvonne recalls, “When I gave birth to my youngest daughter, my grandmother shifted her retirement and came to live with me, making space on her journey to help with Assata, then a preschooler, while I pursued my MDiv, and later to care for my second daughter, Kharis.”
The final lines of a poem that Yvonne Gilmore composed after her grandmother’s death explain, She was a church charter of the gospel of better not more, better living not more stuff, better eating not more food, better rising for we are all phoenix … / she outgrew straight lines before I ever learned to describe them / she was an epic hymn sung in rounds worth repeating.
Incoming House Scholars and Residents
Two new Disciples Scholars will begin in their MDiv studies this fall. Alexa Dava is part of the leadership team at Gilead Church (alumna Rebecca Anderson is the founding co-pastor); she has been a parent educator at a Chicago nonprofit, and is a graduate of Wheaton College. Ainsley Grey is a 2020 graduate of Carthage College, where she majored in Asian Studies and studied in Japan. She has been a HELM Fellow; alumnus Beau Underwood was her pastor in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Two additional MDiv students are new DDH residents: Emily King, a 2019 graduate of Stanford University, and Shradha Jain, a 2019 graduate of the University of Southern California, where former DDH resident David Albertson was a mentor.
New and returning House residents have been moving in to DDH this week. Administrator Daette Lambert has been directing the effort, which involves reduced occupancy to allow for better social distancing, especially given the community kitchen and shared restrooms. Disciples Divinity House is committed to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and to supporting the health and well-being of its community.
Gilmore to provide leadership for National Convocation
Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore will step into a national leadership position within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Effective in December, she will become the Interim Administrative Secretary of the National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (NCCC) and the National Christian Missionary Convention (NCMC) for a two-year period. She will be charged with providing the leadership, management, and vision necessary to undergird the ministries of the NCCC and the NCMC, which are historic organizations of Black Disciples. The Administrative Secretary's office is located in the Office of the General Minister and President in Indianapolis. She follows the 17-year tenure of Timothy James. The news was announced on August 15 at the 26th biennial Session of the National Convocation.
"For the last seven years, it has been my great honor to serve as Associate Dean," she commented. "Furthering the pioneering educational work and mission of Disciples Divinity House in collaboration with Dean Culp, the Board of Trustees, staff, students, alumni/ae, and friends has been my daily privilege and joy. Partnering with emerging scholars, ministers, and 'thought leaders' at DDH and across the denomination to activate theological imagination to support and transform our church and world, and working to launch and lead the Constructive Theologies Project has been a rare gift to me. I am grateful for the enduring cloud of witness and inquiry, baptismal audacity, capacious hope, and creativity that I’ve encountered at our 'House.'"
Yvonne Gilmore's many accomplishments as Associate Dean include creative programming for chapel services and Monday forums; the Constructive Theology Project, which has been funded by the Oreon E. Scott Foundation and Reconciliation Ministry; support and mentoring of students; outreach to alumni/ae and support for the Alumni/ae Council; ongoing care for donors; editorial work with the DDH Bulletin, Grail Sightings, and DDH Facebook page; and support for the 125th Anniversary Celebration and Campaign and other major initiatives. In addition, she serves as one of the Core Trainers for the anti-racism/pro-reconciliation work of Reconciliation Ministries, and she is regularly sought as a guest speaker and preacher across the US.
"This list doesn't begin to capture how admired and beloved she is," added Dean Kris Culp. "She is loyalty personified. Her vision, ideas, and incisive analysis animate meetings and motivate participation. She is generous with insight and with care for others. And, she will always be a DDH alumna. The timing is right for her to move into this crucial arena of ministry and to build on her experience in organizational leadership and theological education and anti-racism work. I could not be more thrilled for her. We have so much to be grateful for and to anticipate eagerly in her next chapter of ministry and leadership."
She will continue as Associate Dean through this fall. That will allow for time for transition, and, importantly, for grateful celebration of her.
In memoriam: John E. McCaw, 1917 - 2020
John Emory McCaw, who had been DDH’s oldest living alumnus, died on June 29 in Des Moines, Iowa. He was 104. The son of a Disciples minister and one of four siblings, he was born March 3, 1917, to C.C. and Mildred McCaw in the small river town of Lomax, Illinois. His parents served as missionaries in the Philippines for three years before returning to the Midwest and eventually to Des Moines, where he became valedictorian of his high school class and graduated from Drake University. He would return to Drake to become the dean of its Bible College, which he led to full accreditation as Drake Divinity School (now defunct). After retirement, he continued to live on the southside of Des Moines, enjoying good health and beekeeping, gardening, fishing, writing newspaper editorials and two novels, and corresponding with many individuals.
John McCaw entered the Divinity School of the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar in 1939 and earned his BD degree. He was later a Fellow at Union Theological Seminary and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. In 1942, he married Maxine Mae Gambs, a concert pianist who studied at Drake University, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and Chicago Musical College. They would raise four children, Clayle, Milva, Maxhn, and Janine, and share 70 years of marriage before her death in 2013.
Mr. McCaw was a member of the Drake faculty from 1950 until 1982. He was instrumental in the construction of Medbury Hall and Scott Chapel and received numerous recognitions, including the Centennial Award, the Dawson Award, the Alumni Distinguished Service Award and the Drake Medal of Service. His leadership to religious and civic organizations included the Des Moines School Board, a mayoral commission, membership in Wakonda Christian Church, service to the regional and general church, and helping to establish the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. In 2013 he established the John and Maxine McCaw Scholarship Fund for Prophetic Living, Teaching and Preaching, an endowed scholarship for seminarians which is administered by the College of Regional Ministers.
He is survived by three children, Milva Lou Sandison, Maxhn H. McCaw, and Janine G. McCaw Mack, and by their partners, children, and grandchildren. Memorial plans have not been announced.
Updates as the year ends
This was not the year we expected or could even have imagined when DDH began its 125th anniversary year. It has been a challenging but rewarding year. Many of DDH’s students finished the academic year in places they did not expect to be—literally dispersed by pandemic responses, sometimes also finding themselves in unanticipated emotional, intellectual, and spiritual places. The 2020 graduates are nevertheless ready to lead and to serve, even as they know the contexts of leadership and service are changing dramatically.
Confronting us all are realities of health precarity, global interdependency, racist brutality, and social suffering. DDH and its students have been challenged, stressed, horrified, enervated, activated, and animated by these days—often some of each in the same day. Students’ questions—about the nature of community, about how to teach, learn, worship, care, comfort, oppose injustice, bring about transformation, heal, and prevent harm—are lived and very real. Seldom have the purposes and contexts for pursuing vocations of ministry, teaching, and community leadership been more manifest than under the life-altering conditions of economic, social, and racial disparities of health and safety in which we are living.
We don’t yet know exactly what campus life will look like in the fall—the University will announce its plans later this month. But we do know that 3 entering DDH Scholars will join 18 returning Scholars plus additional ecumenical residents in a remarkable community of learning and support. By providing full scholarship support, durable connection, and learning that orients lifelong service, DDH will continue to advance preparation for vocations of vision, understanding, and transformation. Scholarships, staff, and building maintenance will not be reduced. Thanks to the generosity of alumni/ae and friends, DDH is as well situated as we could hope for facing current challenges.
For the time being, DDH’s physical offices remain closed, as does the rest of the University, but the building is still “home” for ten students, six of whom are international students. DDH will continue to be a physical home next fall, using valuable lessons learned for creating a safe space. Not all 23 student rooms will be occupied in order to allow for more socially distanced interactions. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at Monday dinners won’t be possible, but conversation will rise in new forms. Study will continue in the library. The Chapel of the Holy Grail will still beckon and orient. As ever, students will go forth to envision and build new communities and ideas.
For 125 years, alumni/ae and friends have given their fierce dreams, their creativity and canny, and their most demanding ideas, not only to DDH but to the world. When we began this academic year, we could not have imagined the scale and scope of changes that would overtake us. To affirm that we are, nevertheless, grateful for what is to come, is to dedicate ourselves to prepare for a future that we cannot fully anticipate and that, ultimately, we will receive from the hands of others. Kristine A. Culp, Dean
Fanfare for 2020 graduates
DDH's 125th academic year concluded on June 12 with an online fanfare for the graduates, Kate Gerike, Kevin Gregory, Savannah Gross, and Victoria Wick, including a short celebration, blessing, and sending forth. All four received the Master of Divinity degree. House Scholar Victoria Wick will provide leadership for the Christian Temple in Baltimore this summer during the pastor's sabbatical; this fall she will return to Chicago for extended Clinical Pastoral Education at Northwestern Memorial Hospitals. Her senior ministry thesis was entitled, Salvation Stories. Kate Gerike, whose senior thesis addressed climate change, misplaced hope, and the power of God in the anthropocene, will complete her internship year with an ELCA congregation in Minnesota. Savannah Gross, who like Gerike was an ecumenical DDH resident for all three years of the degree, is now living in Alabama and considering next steps in her journey as a theologian. Kevin Gregory, who has served as DDH's librarian, has been called to service two United Methodist congregations in Minnesota. Special congratulations to Victoria Wick and Kate Gerike who received the Divinity School's highest recognition of MDiv graduates, the John Gray Rhind Award, for excellence in academic and professional training and promise of significant contribution to public ministry.
Lambert awarded dissertation fellowship; other DDH Scholars recognized
Mark Lambert, a PhD candidate in Theology (pictured), has been awarded a Dissertation Fellowship by the Louisville Institute for 2020-21. His project, "The Sacramental Sickness: The Aesthetic Interplay between Leprosy and the Eucharist in Historical Theology," appraises the relationship between stigmatic illness and historical sacramental theology, especially the medieval Franciscan interpretation of leprosy alongside the sacrament of the Eucharist. Joel Brown, a PhD candidate in Religions in the Americas, has been selected by the Divinity School for the Alma Wilson Teaching Fellowship to support a teaching a course in the College, "Race and Religion in Chicago," that will draw on his archival research. Andrew Packman, a PhD candidate in Theology, was awarded a Dissertation Completion Fellowship by the Divinity School for his work, “The Racial Bondage of the Will: Recalcitrant Moral Self-Frustration, Social Affections, and the Tenacity of Structural Racism.”
MDiv students Aneesah Ettress and Benny VanDerburgh (also pictured) are recipients of Walker Ministerial Scholarships for 2020-21. Named in memory of Disciples leaders Granville T. and Erline Walker, the award recognizes outstanding promise in ministry, particularly in the area of preaching.
Announcements about DDH and COVID-19
Effective 3/17 and continuing until further notice, the physical DDH offices will no longer be open on a daily basis. Administrative staff will work remotely. We look forward to hearing from you by email, telephone, mail, and on facebook.
All University of Chicago courses will be taught remotely for the spring quarter. DDH scholarship recipients will receive stipendiary and scholarship support as planned for the spring quarter.
Approximately half of the usual number of students will continue living at DDH during the spring quarter; we believe that this decreased number will help minimize everyone's chances of exposure to the virus. Building maintenance will continue with enhanced cleaning protocols. We are all practicing vigilance for each others' health and learning new habits of mindfulness for each others' well-being.
Monday chapel services, dinners, and programs will be suspended for the spring quarter. Guest rooms will not be available for rental, and groups may not schedule meetings in the building until further notice. The Board of Trustees will hold its April meeting remotely, and the Alumni/ae Council will postpone its meeting until the October.
DDH is following the lead, recommendations, and guidelines of the University of Chicago. Additional details and resources, including health-related contact information, are available at the University’s COVID-19 website, which is constantly being updated.
These are unusual times and unusually stressful times. Many things basic to everyday student life and the wider context of our lives seems to have shifted and to continue to shift rapidly. I and the DDH staff are committed to this community and its health and safety, as well as to easing whatever stresses we can. We are grateful, too, for the support of alumni/ae and friends, to how our connections and care extend across the miles and the generations.
Kristine A. Culp, Dean
Duncan and Nguyen begin service as trustees
Patricia Duncan and Vy Nguyen have begun elected terms on the Board of Trustees of the Disciples Divinity House, effective January 1. They are both DDH alums.
Patricia "Tish" Duncan brings the perspective of a rising biblical scholar and professor to her service on the Board. An MDiv and PhD graduate of the University of Chicago, she is Assistant Professor of Religion at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. She is a New Testament scholar, widely admired teacher, ordained Disciples minister, and the author of Novel Hermeneutics in the Greek Pseudo-Clementine Romance. One of her students, Paige Spencer, became a House Scholar this past fall when she entered the MA program in the Divinity School. She and her family live in Fort Worth.
Vy Nguyen is Executive Director of the Week of Compassion. As the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Week of Compassion works with partners to alleviate suffering throughout the world. He brings global and ecumenical awareness, many years of experience building relationships among churches, volunteers, and partner organizations, and nonprofit expertise to the work of the Board. Previously he worked with Church World Service and the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. An MDiv alumnus of the University of Chicago, and a graduate of Texas Christian University, he is an ordained Disciples minister. He and his family live in Alameda, California.
Distinguished trusteeship: Constance Battle and Jim Stockdale
The Disciples Divinity House is grateful for the sage and generous leadership of Constance U. Battle and James E. Stockdale, and for the many years their work has oriented and undergirded DDH’s mission. Dr. Battle’s service was toasted at an event at her home in November. Mr. Stockdale’s service was celebrated during the 125th celebration in May.
Constance Battle, a distinguished physician, nonprofit executive, and professor of medicine, was elected to the Board in 2003. Dr. Battle chaired the Scholarship Committee for several years and brought keen insight about leadership to Board discussions. A Roman Catholic laywoman from Maryland, she sometimes framed her observations as being from an “outsider,” but, in fact, she has known about the Disciples Divinity House and its work for many years.
Dr. Battle first became acquainted with DDH through alumnus Arthur A. Azlein. From 1973-95, she served as Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director of the Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC, where she worked closely with him as he chaired the hospital’s board and served as the minister of the nearby Michigan Park Christian Church. Dr. Battle eventually served as the personal representative for Arthur Azlein’s estate, for which DDH was the sole beneficiary.
Dr. Battle attended Trinity College and the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Science. In 1986 Dr. Battle was named president of the American Medical Women's Association, and in 1994 Washingtonian magazine recognized her as a Washingtonian of the Year. She has served as the chief executive for the National Museum of Women in the Arts and for the NIH Foundation. She would return to GW to teach pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, as a trustee and an alumni association officer, and, beginning in 2003, as a faculty member in the School of Public Health and Health Services. She received numerous teaching awards and is the editor of the textbook, Essentials of Public Health Biology (2009).
James Stockdale arrived at the Disciples Divinity House as a member of the entering class of 1952. After ordination, he served two congregations in Illinois, Orchard Street in Blue Island and First Christian in Mount Carmel. In the mid-sixties, he was called to University Christian Church in Seattle, Washington. He followed another alumnus, Robert Thomas, and the congregation continued to be a beacon of progressive ministry and community engagement. He served until retirement in 1994.
Recognized as an active and articulate advocate for the House, and bringing a love of interpretation, architecture, and the arts, Jim Stockdale was elected president of DDH's Alumni Council in 1984 and, two years later, to the Board of Trustees. From 1998-2001, he served as its vice president. At different times, he chaired Development and House Committees, and he served on the Nominating Committee. He served on the Centennial Campaign Committee, and it was his phrase that became the theme for DDH’s Centennial, “Threshold to Excellence.”
In Memoriam: Russell M. Fuller
Russell M. Fuller, entering class of 1948, died at home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 15. He was 95. For forty years, from 1955 until his retirement in 1995, he served Memorial Christian Church in Ann Arbor; for his entire life, he worked for peace and justice.
"We find it impossible to describe the exponential power that Russell and Barbara Fuller generated in our local and global community, except to say that they aspired to live by Micah's call to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. Their example inspired all who knew them," the obituary in the Ann Arbor News observed. He died just one day before what would have been his and his beloved late wife Barbara's 72nd wedding anniversary.
Russell Fuller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on February 23, 1924, to Frank H. and Katherine M. Fuller. Following service in the Navy, he received an AB from the University of Michigan--as did Barbara Stauffer. They married in January 1948. That autumn, both began graduate studies at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, where he entered as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar and earned his BD degree and she would earn a Masters degree. In those years, DDH did not grant funding to women; in later years, Barbara claimed her rightful place as an alumna. They both served on the DDH Alumni/ae Council and participated in other DDH events.
He was ordained in 1951 and served pastorates in both Chicago and Tucson. The Fullers returned to Ann Arbor in 1955, when he became pastor of Memorial Christian Church (MCC), now Journey of Faith Christian Church. "He was, first and foremost, our pastor," the congregation remembers. "He continued this tender, attentive care long after his formal retirement, visiting with folks over tea after church and hosting a standing Friday morning breakfast gathering for 'the old timers' and anyone else who'd come along. In addition to sharing God's love through this ministry of presence, Rev. Fuller's passion for justice was contagious." He was active in regional and general church work. The Fullers led forty family camps for the Michigan Region.
In the 1960s, he served as a member and chairperson of the Ann Arbor Human Relations Commission, the Ann Arbor Police Community Relations Commission, and the Civil Rights Coordinating Council. He was involved in the Vietnam War Peace movement and in early efforts for gay rights and AIDS patients. A member of the Disciples Peace Fellowship, he and Barbara helped found and later worked on the staff of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice in Ann Arbor. She directed a Disciples program of reconciliation between the people of the US and Vietnam beginning in 1980. He coordinated the local CROP Hunger Walk for several years.
A voracious reader, Mr. Fuller worked his way through Sojourners' list entitled, "Reading the Classics May Save White Souls," this past summer. He treasured weekly Skype conversations about theology, politics, social issues, and more with Diane Moore of Harvard, a mentee and mentor. He was distressed by the growing divisions in our nation and world and the effects of privilege and inequality.
He is survived by his children, Barbara (Kelvin Seifert), Rusty (Jamie Saville), and Kit/Katherine, and four grandchildren. "He is also survived by the Winnells, the Thanksgiving Community (especially his McCrae girls), every kid who grew up in MCC, and too many others to name, but who call him theirs." He was preceded in death by his wife Barbara in 2014 and their son Robby. A celebration of his life will take place in Ann Arbor on February 29 at 10:30 am, with luncheon reception to follow.
Grateful for what is to come - in 100 seconds
Katherine Dey extends an extraordinary legacy
Katherine A. Dey was a lifelong member of the Disciples of Christ in part because her grandmother, who raised her, had seen the need for a congregation in northern Virginia and, in 1913, co-founded what would become the Wilson Boulevard Christian Church in Arlington. Katherine became one of the first two women elders of that congregation and the first female board chair in the Capital Area region.
During her lifetime, Katherine Dey also established two scholarships at the Disciples Divinity House: the M. Elizabeth Dey Scholarship in honor of her grandmother, and the Drum and Tenant Scholarship in honor of dear friends. She died in October 2017, at age 96. After a final gift was received this fall, her bequest of $465,601.88, had increased the total endowment for the Dey Scholarship to $365,576, and for the Drum and Tenant Scholarship to $299,616.
Like her grandmother, and also like her friends Florence Drum and Flo’s mother, Eleanor Tenant, Katherine Dey was a doer in the church and in life. She lived modestly in a two-bedroom home across from the public library in Arlington, Virginia. But, to use a phrase from the parable in Luke 12, she was rich toward God and others.
She knew what dedication and hard work meant. During World War II, she had moved to Florida to serve as a “Wendy the Welder”—that is, welding parts of ships and planes before “Rosie the Riveter” could even begin. During her 32-year career with the National Security Agency, she drove a car pool for the long daily commute to Fort Meade, Maryland. After retirement, she volunteered full-time for the local Red Cross and supported the humane society and her congregation, First Christian Church of Falls Church, Virginia.
Her generous estate gift was preceded by great generosity and attention during her lifetime. She built the scholarships through annual gifts, beginning in 1979. She corresponded with successive deans at DDH and, after the scholarships were first awarded (in 1993 and 1995), with their recipients.
“Dear Dean Culp,” she wrote in 1995. “To start off with, please call me Katherine. My grandmother, M. Elizabeth Dey (which is pronounced DIE) and I always refer to her as Mom, was born on December 17, 1876, the 4th of 10 children, on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Being 4th in line she quickly learned how to care for others.”
She continued, “Mom died in July 1968 at 91½ years old and because of her life, her concern for others, her religious convictions and insight into human nature and what she meant to me I felt something should be done to mark this. … In 1979, I saw the opportunity to establish a memorial to Mom in a way I thought best reflected her impact upon the church and humanity in general. Thus, the establishment of the M. Elizabeth Dey Fund.”
DDH alumnus Ray Schultz had been the minister at Wilson Boulevard since 1966. His pastorate was important to Ms. Dey, as well as to Ms. Drum, who had served on the pulpit committee that called him. He introduced Katherine Dey to DDH, and embodied its spirit.
The first recipient of the Dey Scholarship was Stephanie McLemore, who has now served for many years as the chaplain of the University of Lynchburg. Danielle Cox, one of Stephanie’s students who is now a senior minister in Avon, Indiana, became a recipient of the Drum and Tenant Scholarship. Perhaps most gratifyingly, Lee Hull Moses, another Dey Scholarship recipient, became one of Katherine’s own ministers. (Lee is now chief of staff in the Office of the General Minister and President of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.)
“Wow! You sent us a winner!!,” Katherine wrote on September 19, 2004. “Rev. Lee preached today and I think she went over great…. And do you know what—it’s an irony—or whatever you want to call it—but today would have been Florence’s (Drum) 80th birthday!! Wow—if that’s not something—!!!!”
What an extraordinary gift and legacy Katherine Dey has passed on to next generations of ministers and leaders from her grandmother, her church, her dear friends, and through the accumulation of her steadfast “doing,” generosity, and faithful attention. That is something. Indeed.
Inaugural Yu Scholar Announced
Aneesah Ettress, a second-year MDiv student, has been named the first recipient of the newly endowed Dr. Geunhee Yu and Mrs. Geunsoon Yu Scholarship. The scholarship recognizes high promise for innovative pastoral and intellectual leadership, especially within multicultural contexts.
Selection of the recipient is guided by the examples of Dr. Geunhee Yu and Mrs. Geunsoon Yu, two remarkable individuals whose intelligence, faith, love, and leadership have profoundly shaped the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and their own family. From 1992 until his retirement in 2011, Dr. Yu served as the inaugural Executive Pastor of the North American Pacific Asian Disciples (NAPAD). He had been the first among the NAPAD community to earn a PhD in Religion. Under Dr. Yu’s leadership, the number of NAPAD congregations grew exponentially, many new cultural and language groups became part of NAPAD, diverse young leaders were nurtured, and educational initiatives were created.
Ms. Ettress is a 2016 graduate of Occidental College. A post-baccalaureate fellowship supported her her work on an initiative to transform Occidental College’s Arts & Humanities curriculum. Recently she was selected as the Hannah Holborn Gray Graduate Student Fellow in Digital Scholarship at the University of Chicago Library.
The newly endowed Dr. Geunhee and Mrs. Geunsoon Yu Scholarship will help to ensure full tuition, stipend, and housing for innovative religious leaders and emerging scholars and to make possible opportunities for extended internships and study-travel for generations to come.
2019 Incoming Scholars
Welcome new House Scholars Emily Springer (MA), Danny Sanchez (MDiv), Landon Wilcox (MA), Aneesah Ettress (MDiv), Monica Carmean (MDiv), Paige Spencer (MA), Benny VanDerburgh (MDiv), and Ross Allen (MDiv). Two are active at Chicago area new church starts. Monica Carmean is a member of Gilead Chicago, and Aneesah Ettress is a member of Root and Branch. Three come from Disciples-related colleges: Emily Springer (Bethany), Paige Spencer (TCU), and Landon Wilcox (Lynchburg). We are also pleased to welcome new House Residents Yi Liu, Dhruv Nagar, Abdullah Naveed, Linden Smith, Ania Urban, and Jiayi Zhu.
125th Celebration continues at GA
DDH’s 125th anniversary celebration continued at the biennial General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Des Moines, Iowa. Alexis Vaughan Kassim, Alumni/ae Council co-president, welcomed about one-hundred alums and friends to a luncheon on July 23.
The Council wanted to mark the anniversary in a special way, and decided to honor two individuals. “So many alums are doing great work in academia, local churches, in justice and mission organizations, and our Disciples general ministries,” she explained. “David Vargas and Clark Gilpin exemplify not only the excellence of that work, but also its breadth.” Mr. Gilpin and Mr. Vargas each spoke in response to the award, and their remarks are published here. Garry Sparks, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University, introduced them.
Alumni Beau Underwood and Tim Lee, who helped lead the Assembly as its First and Second Vice Moderators were acknowledged. Disciples General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens, an alumna, brought greetings and spoke of her admiration of the honorees. Dean Kris Culp sounded the theme, “Grateful for what is to come,” in her remarks.
Continuing the anniversary theme, President of the Board of Trustees April Lewton invited participation in the 125th anniversary campaign. The goals support the enduring mission of the House: to provide scholarships and immersive learning opportunities, and to make the historic building more accessible and welcoming. Over $2.5 million is already pledged or committed. “Each and every gift conveys hope for and belief in a future where community, curiosity, and courage continue to shape the world.”
Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore and current student Victoria Wick concluded the program, leading the hymn of gratitude: O God, we praise thy holy name; God of Love, O God of Love. Our gratitude we here proclaim, hand in hand and heart to heart. For every gift, for every friend, for fellowships that never end….
On June 14, Disciples Divinity House marked the conclusion of its 124th academic year and celebrated its graduates. Among them were Disciples MDiv graduates Jack Veatch and Ellie Leech, AMRS graduate Devon Crawford, and ecumenical resident Noriko Kanahara, who earned her PhD in the Department of History. Veatch was ordained on July 14 at the First Christian Church in Stow, Ohio, on July 14, and will study at the Ecumenical Institute of the WCC in Bossey, Switzerland, next year. Leech, a member of Chicago Christian Church, will continue to serve children and youth there while she completes CPE and other ordination requirements. Look for the inspiring Convocation address by Allen V. Harris, DDH trustee and Regional Minister of the Christian Church in the Capital Area, entitled, “Reviving Our Passion for Faith Seeking Understanding: The Wilderness Imperative for Now.”
125th Anniversary Campaign announced: $4 million for scholarships, internships, and accessibility
The trustees have launched a $4 million campaign to undergird scholarships, to create new immersive learning opportunities, and to enhance accessibility to our beloved “House.”
For 125 years, the Disciples Divinity House has fostered an atmosphere electric with possibilities for excellence in ministry, scholarship, and public leadership. Its singular residential scholarship program and intellectual community, offered in connection with the University of Chicago Divinity School, prepares men and women to be the creative thinkers and courageous leaders needed in the church and wider world today.
“Plans for the 125th anniversary have been in the works for five years,” explained trustee Chad H. Martin, who is chair of the 125th Anniversary. “And believe it or not – the most difficult part of the entire planning process was determining our theme. Of course, we bask in the history of the House. And rightly so: DDH, for being a three-story building on the corner of 57th Street and University Avenue, with a full-time staff that you can count on one hand, has had a super-sized impact. That is worth celebrating.”
“However, no one—not the trustees, alumni/ae, dean, staff, or students—wants to describe DDH only in terms of what has been done in the past. So, when Larry Bouchard offered the phrase, grateful for what is to come, we knew that captured the essence of our celebration.”
“As part of preparing the House for what is to come, we are raising funds to support and enhance its mission for the next 125 years,” Martin announced at the Anniversary Dinner on May 25. “We started the silent phase a year ago – and the response has been overwhelmingly positive and generous. Much of this generosity is expressed through commitments that will fully endow at least six new scholarships at $250,000 each. In fact, we were able as a Board yesterday to formally create the Dr. Geunhee and Mrs. Geunsoon Yu Scholarship. THAT is our mission in action, and evidence the campaign is already a success.”
“And to give a sense for the level of generosity that has already been expressed in the silent phase, over $2.5 million is already pledged or committed. We have already raised over 60% of our overall $4 million goal, with another significant amount in the commitment process. But we still need to raise additional funds.”
Cash gifts may be made through pledges that will be fulfilled over the next three years. And any estate gift that evidences the house as a future beneficiary will be counted. Each and every gift conveys hope for and belief in a future where community, curiosity, and courage continue to shape the world.
That generosity will support three crucial purposes: 1) Funding for critical ministry and scholarship and, closely related, 2) funding for internships and immersive learning. An expansion of scholarships, both in number and in innovative use of funds, will help ensure that students are ready to provide critical ministry and scholarship for our globalized and swiftly changing world. Additionally, we want to raise 3) funding to ensure the House is a welcoming place. “One of the most unique things about the House is that it remains a ‘house’ – a physical place for students, staff, and community to intersect, " Martin observed. "We want the House to be a welcome place to all, and we think addressing first floor accessibility takes us in the right direction for the next 125 years.”
We give thanks for the remarkable legacy of the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago as we celebrate its 125th anniversary, and for the individuals, churches, and organizations who have made that legacy possible. In that spirit, we are also grateful for what is to come.
2019 Senior Ministry Projects
The spring schedule featured presentations of culminating projects by three June 2019 MDiv graduates: Chelsea Cornelius on "Becoming Real: A Neonatological Theology"; Ellie Leech on "By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them: Sexual Misconduct and Betrayal in Christian Congregations"; and Jack Veatch on "God Talk: Exploring Hip Hop as a theological conversation space through Kendrick Lamar's DAMN." Ms. Cornelius and Ms. Leech will be chaplain residents next year. Mr. Veatch will be ordained at First Christian Church, Stow, Ohio, on July 14, and study next year at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland.
125th Anniversary Plans
The Disciples Divinity House will celebrate a historic 125th anniversary in 2019. The celebration will take place on May 24-26, Memorial Day Weekend, in Chicago. Speakers for the weekend include Teresa Hord Owens, Sandhya Jha, Stephanie Paulsell, W. Clark Gilpin, Robert M. Franklin, the Honorable Betty Sutton, actor Drew Powell, Ayanna Johnson Watkins, Bonnie Miller-McLemore, Cynthia Lindner, Holly McKissick, Julian DeShazier, Lee Hull Moses, Vy Nguyen, Garry Sparks, Braxton Shelley, Santiago Piñón, and more.
On Friday, Honorary Co-Chairs JoAnne Kagiwada and Clark Williamson will welcome guests to the Disciples Divinity House. After worship and a barbeque supper, Rebecca Anderson and Yvonne Gilmore will co-host a DDH StoryHour. Hannah Fitch will provide soulful music.
Saturday will feature a lecture, three panels, and focused discussion sessions, sponsored under the auspices of the Hoover Lectures. Larry Bouchard, Professor of Religion at the University of Virginia, will enunciate the anniversary theme, “Grateful for what is to come,” which will echo throughout the weekend. Historians W. Clark Gilpin and Susan E. Schreiner will respond by exploring “gratefulness and timefulness.”
What are our responsibilities to a future that cannot be fully known? How can gratitude for past and present communities ready us to move onward with courage and vision? How might art, worship, community engagement, theology, and preaching, attune us to the demands of the future?
At a time when the future may seem particularly uncertain and may provoke anxiety and despair, critical awareness of the past and present is especially crucial. For if the past is acknowledged with recognition of the unexpected gifts and hard-won knowledge that constituted it, and the present received as an opportunity to respond with gratitude for these past gifts, then the challenging unknown of the future might elicit sage and courageous ministry, scholarship, and leadership. The point is not to be more optimistic, but rather to engender gratitude, thought, and action.
A panel of distinguished academics will explore teaching and learning for what is to come: Harvard professor and Christian Century columnist Stephanie Paulsell, Morehouse College President Emeritus Robert Franklin, Vanderbilt practical theologian Bonnie Miller-McLemore will speak with Divinity School Dean David Nirenberg presiding. Another panel of innovative practitioners Sandhya Jha, Ayanna Johnson Watkins, and Holly McKissick, with Julian DeShazier presiding, will invite ministry, thought, and action towards what is to come.
A gala dinner will take place on Saturday evening at the Quadrangle Club, with Dean Kris Culp, Board President April Lewton, and 125th Anniversary Chair Chad Martin. Trustee Gaylord Yu and actor Drew Powell (of TV series Gotham, Ponderosa, and Malcolm in the Middle) will serve as Masters of Ceremony.
On Sunday, Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), will preach at University Church, offering a compelling message for these times.
Disciples minister and writer Thandiwe Dale-Ferguson is planning morning prayer for the quiet of the extraordinary Chapel of the Holy Grail. Opportunities for a focused conversation with practitioners and scholars will be offered on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday morning. Family-friendly activities are being planned, with childcare for the youngest children and activities for older children.
The celebration will be immediately preceded by a Divinity School and DDH Ministry Alumni/ae gathering, featuring reflections by Cynthia Lindner on “Multireligious formation as a perspective on ‘public ministry,’” with responses by faculty and alumni/ae from varied religious traditions.
The 125th celebration will be followed by the Second Annual Amy A. Northcutt Lecture to be given by the Honorable Betty Sutton, the former Congresswoman and Gubernatorial candidate from Ohio. The event remembers Amy Northcutt, a former DDH Board President who was CIO of the National Science Foundation at the time of her death. A panel, hosted by Verity Jones, will focus on women and transformative leadership and feature Constance Battle, Ronne Hartfeld, JoAnne Kagiwada, and Gail McDonald.
Registration closes May 10. The weekend’s events are supported by the Hoover Lectures, so registration costs have been minimized. A commemorative mug is offered free with registration by March 31.
Geunhee and Geunsoon Yu Scholarship
A new endowed scholarship will honor Dr. Geunhee Yu and Mrs. Geunsoon Yu, two remarkable individuals whose intelligence, faith, love, and leadership have profoundly shaped the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and their own family.
The Dr. Geunhee Yu and Mrs. Geunsoon Yu Scholarship will help ensure full tuition, stipend, and housing for Disciples Divinity House students and make possible opportunities for extended internships and study-travel.
From 1992 until his retirement in 2011, Dr. Yu served as the inaugural Executive Pastor of the North American Pacific Asian Disciples (NAPAD). He had been the first among the NAPAD community to earn a PhD in Religion. Under Dr. Yu’s leadership, the number of new congregations grew exponentially, many new cultural and language groups became part of NAPAD, diverse young leaders were nurtured, and educational initiatives were created.
Dr. Yu carried forward and imaginatively extended a legacy passed on to him from the founders of NAPAD, David and JoAnne Kagiwada, Soongook Choi, and Harold Johnson. Among the young leaders that Dr. and Mrs. Yu encouraged were Sandhya Jha, April Lewton, Timothy Lee, Vy Nguyen, and John Donggook Roh, all DDH alumni/ae.
For decades, the mission of the Disciples Divinity House has been entwined with NAPAD’s and that of its predecessor organization, American Asian Disciples (AAD). David Kagiwada, one of the founders of the organization and a DDH alumnus, was instrumental in connecting Geunhee Yu with AAD and bringing him into denominational leadership in Indianapolis. JoAnne Kagiwada has served on the DDH Board of Trustees since 1984. Another founder, Soongook Choi, also served as a trustee.
The new scholarship was announced at the twentieth biennial NAPAD Convocation, which met in Portland, Oregon, August 8-11, 2018. Gaylord Yu, a current trustee of the Disciples Divinity House, and his brother Gideon Yu were inspired to establish the scholarship to honor their parents, to celebrate the long partnership between DDH and NAPAD, and to ensure innovative pastoral and intellectual leadership for future generations.
Dean Culp commented, “Dr. Yu became Executive Pastor during my first year of deanship. He has been an exemplary colleague, teaching me and many others what leadership can make possible for NAPAD and for the whole church. We do not know what the future of the church will look like, but we do know that leaders like Dr. and Mrs. Yu make all the difference. This scholarship will honor them by helping to prepare compelling leaders into the future.”
Joan Bell-Haynes and Melinda Keenan Wood have been elected to the Board of Trustees, effective January 1, 2019. Both are ordained Disciples ministers, and they are alumnae of the Disciples Divinity House.
Joan Bell-Haynes is Executive Regional Minister of Central Rocky Mountain Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). From 2005-17 she led the United Christian Parish in Reston, Virginia, an ecumenical congregation comprised of four denominations. She was the First Vice Moderator of the General Assembly of the Christian Church from 2013-15. A recipient of the Capital Area’s Bridge Builder Award, Ms. Bell-Haynes has been active in interfaith work. She has served on the board of the Christian Church Foundation and Disciples Church Extension, and as Secretary of the National Convocation. She is originally from Georgia, where she was a founding member of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur. She was married to the late Oscar Haynes.
Melinda Keenan Wood is the immediate past president of the Alumni/ae Council. In September 2017, she became the senior minister of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Durham, North Carolina. From 2002-17 she was the senior minister of Pershing Avenue Christian Church in Orlando, Florida. Ms. Keenan-Wood’s service to the wider church includes chairing the Week of Compassion Committee and extensive engagement in the Florida region. A member of the DDH entering class of 1997, she came to her MDiv studies with a background in nonprofit work. With her spouse Lanny, an educator, architect, and STEM advocate with PLTW (Project Lead the Way), they have one adult child, Thompson.
Michael E. Karunas concluded service as a trustee at the end of 2018, after completing a three-year term. He is Senior Minister of Central Christian Church in Decatur, and a MDiv graduate. He previously served congregations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Centralia, Illinois. He and his spouse Amy Zeittlow, a fellow Divinity School ministry alum, are the parents of three children. He was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was mentored by Russ and Barbara Fuller. Mr. Karunas, in turn, has been a mentor to current students Andrew Packman and Hannah Fitch. We are grateful for his commitment, including service to the Development Committee, as a member of the student-trustee delegation to Heidelberg, Germany, and, previously, on the Alumni/ae Council.
Kagiwada to conclude service as trustee
JoAnne H. Kagiwada will conclude her service as a trustee at the end of the year. She was first elected to the Board of Trustees in 1984, making her its longest serving current member.
Ms. Kagiwada’s leadership, including as Vice President, member of the Executive Committee, and longtime chair of the Nominating Committee, has been transformative. She has helped to foster a collegial, future-oriented style of shared work and to recruit an enviably talented, diverse, and committed board. She had joined the board when its twenty-one members included only one other woman, Leverne Pfile; women students had first been admitted to DDH as residential scholars less than ten years before that.
She first came to know the Disciples Divinity House through her husband, the late David T. Kagiwada. An alumnus and BD graduate of the Divinity School, Mr. Kagiwada was an influential pastor and denominational leader. At the time of his death, he was Senior Minister of Crestview Christian Church in Indianapolis. The Kagiwadas were among the founders of what is now the North American Pacific/Asian Disciples.
A graduate of the University of California-Berkeley Law School, JoAnne Kagiwada’s distinguished career focused on non-profit organizations. As Executive Director of the Legislative Education Committee of the Japanese American Citizens’ League, she helped to ensure passage of a $1.25 billion redress program on behalf of Americans of Japanese ancestry who were unconstitutionally deprived of their civil liberties and incarcerated in concentration camps by the US government during World War II. From 1978-88, she was Director of International Affairs for the Christian Church. She has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including as a vice president of the National Council of Churches. She is a regular volunteer at the Oakland Peace Center.
She has also made indelible contributions as a mentor to emerging leaders, including graduates Sandhya Jha, April Lewton, and Vy Nguyen, and trustee Gaylord Yu. Each of them offered remarks for a luncheon in her honor in October. Her daughter, Stacy Kagiwada, was present, representing also her sister Stephanie and brother Scott.
“As a leader, JoAnne has been participating in institutions that are about building healthy and meaningful communities for a long time,” Ms. Lewton observed. “In her lifelong service across the church and in wider society, these are commitments that she makes known and encourages others to consider and actively do: that as a whole, we must do good, and, always, we must mentor and accompany our young people.”
Ms. Lewton, who is President of the Board of Trustees, spoke on its behalf: “We are humbled, inspired, and so, so grateful for the leadership and wisdom that you have given over the years to this board and to the DDH community of scholars, alums, and our wider church community. We strive to continue to carry your commitments of healthy systems, mentoring, and caring deeply for others in all that we do.”
JoAnne Kagiwada will serve, with Clark Williamson, as Honorary Co-Chair of the 125th Anniversary Celebration in May 2019.
Upcoming Symposium explores The Design
The Design at 50: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Recommendations, a symposium at Brite Divinity School on January 14, will mark the 50th anniversary of "The Design," the governing document for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Brite President Newell Williams collaborated with Chuck Blaisdell to create the event. Blaisdell, a current member of the DDH Alumni/ae Council and recently retired pastor and former regional minister, DDH Dean Kris Culp, and Bill Lee, former Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), are the featured speakers. Responding are Tim Lee, a Brite Professor and DDH alumnus who is the current Second Vice Moderator; Lori Tapia, National Pastor for Hispanic Ministries; and Texas pastor Dawn Weaks. More here including registration for the event.
Martin chairs 125th
Chad H. Martin serves as the chair of the 125th Anniversary of the Disciples Divinity House, which will be marked in 2019. He has been leading a team of members of the Board of Trustees and Alumni/ae Council in formulating plans. A member of the Board of Trustees since 1998, he served as its President from 2010-15. He is the Chief Financial Officer of MeridianLink. A lifelong Disciple, he is a graduate of Texas Christian University (BS) and of Stanford University (MBA). Chad and Crista Martin live in California and are the parents of two children.
A sister celebration
Dean Kris Culp and Board of Trustees officers Mareta Smith and Pamela James Jones, with Dr. Theodore Jones, traveled to Heidelberg, Germany, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Theologisches Studienhaus (TSH) of the University of Heidelberg on October 31. TSH dean Heike Springhart and EKD prelate Dagmar Zobel will travel to Chicago in May for DDH’s 125th Anniversary.
Owens, Jha receive 2018 Alumni Citations awards
Sandhya Jha (2001) and Teresa Hord Owens (1999) will be awarded the 2018 Alumni Citations on October 18th, 2018. Jha and Owens were nominated for the awards and selected by the Divinity School Alumni Council. The Alumni Citations honors alumni for their accomplishments and service, seeking to be responsive to timely events in the recipients' lives. Read more about the Alumni Citations award and this year's recipients here.
2018 Incoming Scholars
Welcome new Disciples Scholars (L to R): Luke Soderstrom (PhD), Virginia White (PhD), Hiatt Allen (MDiv), and Sarah Zuniga (MDiv). Sarah Zuniga arrived in early September after serving as a Disciples Peace Fellowship Intern this summer. As an undergraduate at Eureka College, she had previously interned with Refugee and Immigration Ministries in Washington, DC, and at the Hong Kierkegaard Library in Northfield, Minnesota. She is interested in ecological ethics, and religious leaderships. Hiatt Allen, a 2017 graduate of American University in Washington, DC, plans to pursue a joint MA in Public Policy. His undergraduate work combined politics, communications, and economics, and it included internships at federal agencies. During a gap year, he interned at Crestwood Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Luke Soderstrom will enter the PhD program in Theology to consider resources in Christian theology and mysticism for thinking about intellectual and developmental disability. He continues to work with Disciples Higher Education and Leadership Ministries (HELM). Virginia White enters the PhD program in Religious Ethics. She is thinking through how globalization and neoliberalism can “render the adjudication and claiming of responsibility irreducibly complex and easily avoided, and implications for reorienting ethical thought." This summer, she has been assisting DDH’s Board and Alumni/ae Council members to prepare for the 125th anniversary.
Daette Lambert became administrator of the Disciples Divinity House on August 13, after working part-time as Assistant Administrator for the last three years. She brings six additional years of educational administration experience to the position, including as Staff Assistant to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and, subsequently, Admission Counselor for Transfer Programs at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, and as Information Manager in the PhD Program Office at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. An alumna of Truman State, she earned a BA in Spanish, and a MAE in Elementary Education. Ms. Lambert and her husband Mark Lambert, a House Scholar and PhD candidate in Theology, are the proud parents of Hogan, Valen, and Mary Mattie. Ms. Lambert succeeds Marsha G.-H. Peeler, who retired after 18 years of service as administrator.
DDH at Obra, National Convocation and NAPAD
This summer, the Disciples Divinity House participated in service, learning, and celebration at the Biennial Hispanic Fellowship Assembly, July 12-14, in Tempe, Arizona; the 25th Biennial Session of National Convocation, July 19-22, in Birmingham, Alabama; and the 20th Biennial North American Pacific/Asian Disciples Convocation, August 8-11, in Portland, Oregon, this summer. Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore attended the Obra Hispana Assembly and National Convocation. Dean Kris Culp was present at the NAPAD Convocation.
Here are some highlights:
1. David Vargas, trustee and alumnus, was one of twelve recipients of the Somos Uno award at Obra Hispana.
2. Claudia Highbaugh, trustee, at National Convocation.
3. Chung Seong Kim was elected and installed as Executive Pastor of NAPAD; DDH alumnus Tim Lee presided as Moderator. Yeahwa Lee and granddaughter are also pictured.
4. Lori Tapia was elected and installed as the National Pastor of Obra Hispana; Disciples General Minister and President and DDH alumna Teresa Hord Owens and Central Rocky Mountain Regional Minister and DDH alumna Joan Bell-Haynes participated in the installation service.
Kagiwada and Williamson Honorary Co-Chairs
JoAnne H. Kagiwada and Clark M. Williamson have been named Honorary Co-Chairs for DDH’s 125th Anniversary Celebration. The celebration will be held May 24-26, 2019, Memorial Day weekend, in Chicago.
“JoAnne Kagiwada and Clark Williamson have given exemplary leadership to the Disciples Divinity House,” said April Lewton, President of the Board of Trustees. “Their life contributions also exemplify what we are grateful for and why we are celebrating 125 years of the Disciples Divinity House.”
As honorary co-chairs, Ms. Kagiwada and Mr. Williamson will preside over a weekend filled with special events. The 125th Celebration will feature a DDH StoryHour, lectures and discussion, music and worship, a gala dinner at the Quadrangle Club, preaching by Teresa Hord Owens, the second annual Amy Northcutt Lecture, food, festivity, and time to explore the University and the neighborhood.
JoAnne Hirasuna Kagiwada is currently the longest serving member of the Board of Trustees, having first been elected in 1984. A graduate of UC Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall), her distinguished career has focused on non-profit organizations. As Executive Director of the Legislative Education Committee of the Japanese American Citizens’ League, she helped to ensure passage of a $1.25 billion redress program on behalf of Americans of Japanese ancestry who were unconstitutionally deprived of their civil liberties and incarcerated in concentration camps by the US government during World War II. From 1978-88, she was Director of International Affairs for the Christian Church. She has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including as a vice president of the National Council of Churches.
Ms. Kagiwada first came to know the Disciples Divinity House through her husband, David Tamotsu Kagiwada, an alumnus and 1954 BD graduate of the Divinity School. Pastor of Crestview Christian Church in Indianapolis at the time of his death in 1985, David Kagiwada was perhaps best known for leading Disciples of diverse and historically antagonistic Asian cultures into the formation of the American Asian Disciples (now NAPAD). In 1995, JoAnne Kagiwada created the David T. and JoAnne H. Kagiwada Fund at DDH.
Clark M. Williamson is the Indiana Professor of Christian Thought Emeritus at Christian Theological Seminary, and a BD and PhD alumnus of the Disciples Divinity House and the Divinity School. A pioneering architect of post-Holocaust Christian theology, he is an impassioned advocate for theology that is intellectually credible, morally plausible, and consistent with love of God and neighbor.
He has said that “the purpose of Christian theology is to bring the church to self-understanding and self-criticism,” and those purposes find compelling 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.
Mr. Williamson has been a trustee of the Disciples Divinity House since 2007. He and his late wife created the Barbara and Clark Williamson Fund at the Disciples Divinity House. In 2015, DDH’s Alumni/ae Council honored Mr. Williamson with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
On July 6, eighteen years to the day that she began her position as Administrator of the Disciples Divinity House, Marsha G.-H. Peeler will retire.
During those 18 years, she has ensured the day-to-day financial and physical well-being of the Disciples Divinity House. Her daily oversight has guided major capital projects, including the restoration of every window in the building and, underway now, replacement of the main roof; she has managed unplanned events with aplomb, such as electrical outages, minor floods, and more. She has administered changes to health insurance coverage and student billing, and planned for Monday dinners, Board meetings, and new students by the dozens.
Mrs. Peeler came to the Divinity House having grown up around the University and with years of experience working in the University herself. She worked at the Divinity School as Assistant Program Coordinator of the Martin Marty Center and faculty secretary, in the Department of Medicine University as a medical secretary, and in the Comptroller's office.
Head Resident Colton Lott reflects, “I am thankful for Mrs. Peeler, for the knowledge she has (and freely shares!) about the House, the University, and life in Chicago, and for the compassion she showed as she made our House a home.” House resident and office assistant Matthew Johnson celebrated her ability to tell long stories with humor and spirit. He observed that her devotion to the House, as a place and as a set of relations, is more than merely a matter of professional obligation.
Students and alumni/ae are central to her own reflections. “Look at the students and all of the places that they go. Look at all of the work that they go on to do,” she noted. We know that Marsha Peeler’s work is embedded in the soundness of DDH’s financial accounts and in its windows and walls. And surely part of her indomitable spirit has also accompanied graduates in their relations and vocations.
Marsha and Walter Peeler are the parents of three adult children, Connie, Brandy, and Christopher, and the proud grandparents of Marsha, Grayson, and Kai’Aire. The Peelers plan to move to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to be near their grandchildren.
Daette Lambert has been named Administrator effective in August. She has served part-time as Assistant Administrator since July 2015. She brings six additional years of educational administration experience to the position, including as Information Manager in the PhD Program Office at The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, and, at Truman State University, as Staff Assistant to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. She and her husband Mark Lambert, a House Scholar and PhD candidate in Theology, are the proud parents of Hogan, Valen, and Mary Mattie.
Mark Miller-McLemore is retiring as Dean of the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt Divinity School on June 30 after 23 years of leadership.
A DDH-Chicago alumnus, he earned his MA at the Divinity School. As Dean of DDH-Vanderbilt, he revitalized house culture, starting monthly House Dinners, an annual retreat, and an end-of-year Graduation Celebration. During his tenure, 103 graduates were ordained, and 14 have completed PhDs. $1.5 million in grants were received, including from the Lilly Endowment for a Transition into Ministry initiative that placed graduates in two-year pastoral residencies.
“I’m grateful for Mark Miller-McLemore’s invaluable leadership to DDH-Vanderbilt,” said Kris Culp. “He’s been my closest colleagueship in Disciples theological education. Both DDHs have been strengthened by the collaboration that Mark has made possible.”
Mr. Miller-McLemore will continue to teach at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Leadership and Ministry. He is married to fellow DDH-Chicago alumna, Bonnie Miller-McLemore, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture at Vanderbilt; they have three grown sons. He plans to give more attention to family, music, and writing projects, including a book, Theopragmatics, now under contract with Rowman and Littlefield.
On June 8, Disciples Divinity House marked the conclusion of its 123rd academic year and celebrated its graduates. These individuals, eight Disciples scholars and one ecumenical resident, received their degrees from the University of Chicago Divinity School in June or will receive them later this year.
Jonathan Cahill (MDiv) will be a chaplain resident at the Cleveland Clinic. His senior ministry thesis, Can Two Walk Together?, explored “partnership” between the Disciples of Christ and the Community of Disciples in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It built on his summer 2017 travel fellowship, an opportunity made possible through Global Ministries and with DDH funding.
Hannah Fitch (MDiv) envisions pastoral ministry after one more quarter in Chicago. She served as vice president of the Divinity Students Association (DSA) for two years, and as Director of Alternative-Worship at LaSalle Street Church. Her ministry thesis, Posture and Praxis: A Role for an Evolving Church, looked to sources from Hildegard of Bingen to Larry Bouchard for insight on constructing a spiritual path for the “unchurched” of current times.
Burton Guion (MA) will tutor elementary school children in inner-city Milwaukee through Americorps beginning in August. While at DDH, he has revived the fresh food garden in the backyard.
Andrew Langford received his PhD in New Testament and Early Christian Literature. His dissertation, Diagnosing Deviance: Pathology and Polemic in the Pastoral Epistles, was advised by Margaret M. Mitchell. He has taught and written on the Bible and disability. In addition to writing and teaching, he serves as Pastoral Associate at Emmaus Lutheran Church in Eugene, Oregon.
Colton Lott (MDiv) will be ordained June 30 in Ada, Oklahoma, and has been called as minister of First Christian Church, El Reno, Oklahoma. He served as DDH’s Head Resident from 2016-18. His senior ministry thesis, A Theological Exploration of the So-Called Dying Church, combined theological perspectives with the Eriksons’ theory of human development, to suggest how churches can live the span of their existence to its completion, even with “generativity.”
Joshua Menke (MDiv), who is pursuing ordination in the ELCA, will move to Europe to complete a congregational residency. His senior ministry thesis, The Eschaton Nearby: Contestations of Space and Time at Standing Rock, highlighted implications of Christian eschatology for how communities inhabit place and relate to one another justly. He formerly taught near the Standing Rock reservation.
Luke Soderstrom (MA) will enter the PhD program in Theology at the Divinity School. He will explore questions of interpreting the non-linguistic and non-rational that arise in intellectual and developmental disability using resources from Christian mystical traditions. He serves Disciples Higher Education and Leadership Ministries (HELM) as an assistant to its president, Chris Dorsey.
Shelly Tilton (MA) has been admitted to the PhD program at the University of Virginia, where she will focus on religion, media, and culture. She has been awarded a summer study fellowship by the Disciples Divinity House to go to Heidelberg, Germany, to the Theologisches Studienhaus (TSH) and for language study. She served as the Divinity School’s representative to the Graduate Students Association.
Virginia White (MDiv) will continue as a PhD student at the Divinity School. She will build on work from her senior ministry thesis, Be Thou My Vision?: Moral Perception in a Neoliberal World, to examine the intersections of political-economy and moral formation in religious ethics. During her MDiv studies, she served as the DSA Treasurer, and completed a DDH-supported internship focused on social justice ministries with the Oakland Peace Center and Week of Compassion in Oakland, California.
In addition, Kristel Clayville, who participated in a prior convocation, received her PhD for her dissertation entitled, Responsible Hermeneutics: Interpretation of Religious Texts in the Environmental Ethics of Hans Jonas and Holmes Rolston II. She is the Acting Director of the Zygon Center at LSTC, and Senior Ethics Fellow at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. She was a visiting professor at Eureka College this year.
Speaking at the Convocation was Pamela James Jones, Vice President of the Board of Trustees and Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Central Michigan University.
Hubert G. Locke
Hubert Gaylord Locke, former DDH Trustee, died on June 2 at his home in Seattle. He was 84.
An admired and consequential civic leader, scholar, and minister, Hubert Locke was 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. Previously he taught at Wayne State University and the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
His scholarship delved into matters of conscience, religion, and public life, particularly, the Holocaust. 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 US Holocaust Museum. He was the author or editor of eleven volumes, including Searching for God in Godforsaken Times and Places: Reflections on the Holocaust, Racism, and Death (2003) and his definitive The Detroit Riot of 1967, reissued on the fiftieth anniversary of the event with a new afterword.
Mr. Locke was born on the Old West Side of Detroit, Michigan, on April 30, 1934. He earned a BA (Latin and Greek) from Wayne State University in 1955; a BD from the University of Chicago in 1959; and a MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan in 1961.
After graduating from the University of Chicago, he became the minister of the Church of Christ of Conant Garden in Detroit and executive director of the Citizens’ Committee for Equal Opportunity, a civil rights organization. Even though Detroit had received “national acclaim as a model community in race relations in the United States,” as Mr. Locke put it, black neighborhoods knew the reality of police brutality. In 1966, he was recruited by the mayor to work with the Detroit police commissioner, and played a pivotal role in mitigating the effects of the 1967 riot.
Throughout his life, he continued to advise mayors, governors, and university presidents. His role in public life was once described as “a sort of civic-wise-man-in-residence, counseling patience and understanding in politicians and offering a voice of reason on contentious issues from race relations to growth management.”
For his public service and scholarship, he was awarded seven honorary doctorates and numerous other honors. He was first elected a trustee of the Disciples Divinity House in 1998 and served consecutive terms until 2014. He made estimable contributions to Board deliberations, regularly engaged DDH students, and helped to attune DDH to the future.
His 2007 charge to DDH’s graduates 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.
He is survived by a sister, Joyce Bridgeforth; daughters Gayle P. Simmons and Lauren M. Locke; a grandson and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on July 28 at University Christian Church in Seattle, where he was a longtime member.
2018 Convocation Speaker
A Convocation Service with dinner to follow on June 8 will mark the close of DDH's 123rd academic year. Pamela James Jones, Vice-President of the Board of Trustees and Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Central Michigan University, will speak. She is an MDiv and PhD graduate of the Divinity School and a former DDH Resident. A special feature of the evening's events will be the opportunity to honor the distinguished service of Marsha G.-H. Peeler, who will retire as Administrator on July 6.
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. 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.
Senior Ministry Presentations
Several Senior Ministry Presentations will be given at the Disciples Divinity House this spring. The culminating project for all MDiv students at the University of Chicago Divinity School is the ministry thesis and its presentation. This year, many of the graduating students are also part of the DDH community, either Disciples scholars or Ecumenical residents, and the DDH Common Room will host their presentation. Here is the schedule:
Monday, April 16: Colton Lott, "A Theological Exploration of the So-Called Dying Church." 7:00 pm at DDH
Monday, April 23: Virginia White, "Be Thou My Vision?: Moral Perception in a Neoliberal World." 7:00 pm at DDH
Tuesday, May 1: Josh Menke, "The Eschaton Nearby: Contestations of Space and Time at Standing Rock." 7:00 pm at DDH
Monday, May 7: Jonathan Cahill, “Can Two Walk Together? The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo.” 7:00 pm at DDH
Monday May 14: Hannah Fitch, “Posture and Praxis: A Role for an Evolving Church.” 7:00 pm at DDH
Tuesday, May 15: Luke Allgeyer, “You Are a Pilgrim and This Is a Pilgrimage," 7:00 pm, Swift 106
Friday, May 25: Nadan Cho, “As the Spirit Leads: Reimagining and Experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Modern Particularity.” 6:00 pm at DDH
Mark G. Toulouse will give the Divinity School's 2018 Alumnus of the Year lecture in Swift Hall on Thursday, April 19, 2018, at 4:30pm. He was selected for the honor upon recommendation from the Divinity School’s Alumni Council to the Board of Trustees of the Baptist Theological Union.
From 2009 until his retirement in 2017, Mark Toulouse served Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto as Principal and as Professor of the History of Christianity. Under his leadership, Emmanuel introduced several new academic programs, including the PhD degree, the MA degree, and the Certificate of Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy, all offered conjointly with the University of Toronto. His work has included the creation of Muslim and Buddhist Studies programs. Prior to his appointment at Emmanuel, he spent twenty-three years at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, eleven of which were spent as Dean and then as Executive Vice-President of the school. He began his work in theological education in 1984, when he joined the faculty of Phillips Theological Seminary, then in Enid, Oklahoma.
Mr. Toulouse received his PhD in the History of Christianity from the University of Chicago in 1984. He has written or edited ten books, including Joined in Discipleship: The Shaping of Contemporary Disciples Identity (1992 and 1997); Makers of Christian Theology in America (1997), Sources of Christian Theology in America (1999), Walter Scott: A Nineteenth-Century Evangelical (1999), God in Public (2006), and most recently co-authored The Altars Where We Worship: The Religious Significance of Popular Culture (2016). His research and teaching have been supported by grants from the Association of Theological Schools, the Lilly Endowment, the Louisville Institute, the Wabash Centre for Teaching and Learning, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Connaught Fund at the University of Toronto. An ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Mr. Toulouse regularly conducts workshops for ministers and lay people on topics pertaining to North American Christianity, Disciples history and theology, religion and public life, and theological education.
Spring quarter events announced
Spring quarter begins March 26. The first forum of the quarter features Angie Heo, Assistant Professor of the Anthropology and Sociology of Religion at the Divinity School, on April 3. Several Senior Ministry presentations have been scheduled also as part of our Monday programs: those of House Scholars Jonathan Cahill, Hannah Fitch, Colton Lott, and Virginia White. Dates and details are available in the calendar of events.
"Guests are welcome for these celebrations of learning and leadership," says Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore. "The entrance to the Disciples Divinity House has a wide landing and wide doors. Ring the bell and you may be greeted by any number of individuals. Cross the threshold and enter into shared conversation, shared meals, and shared learning."
Lambert explores “The Sacramental Sickness”
Illness has often been a site for moral and theological inquiry--in medieval times and in our own. For a while now, House Scholar Mark Lambert has been thinking theologically about stigmatizing illness, and writing about it while drawing on medieval thought and contemporary medical ethics. His efforts have culminated in a dissertation proposal which has just been accepted and is entitled, "The Sacramental Sickness: The Perceptual Interplay between the Eucharist and the Vestigial Leper-Christ in Medieval Theology."
Mr. Lambert explains, "Leprosy as an illness serves as a site for moral and theological inquiry; it frames and manifests moral and theological questions about the nature of bodies, vulnerability, and social responsibility in light of bodily frailty. But most importantly, the evocative and ambiguous visage of leprosy renders this illness a potent, symbolic lens for exploring questions of perception, exemplified in the vestigial leper-Christ: veiled divinity embodied in visceral materiality."
He will focus principally on "medieval theologians’ creative employment of a network of theological symbols—the leper/leprosy, the Eucharist, and Christology—to grapple with the ambiguities and anxieties of corporality." He explains, "The guiding thread of this project is the assertion that medieval leprosy was interpreted as masking a deeper, hidden reality. For a medical hermeneutic, leprosy was the shockingly visual manifestation of an internal disorder or imbalance. For a theological hermeneutic, leprosy could serve as either the visual betrayal of a hidden sin or the grotesque veil of the divine. But both hermeneutics reveal a preoccupation with perception and appearances: a preoccupation shared with medieval discussions of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Consequently, this dissertation will focus on the medieval concern with perceiving the divine in the material: primarily embodied, on the one hand, in the hagiographical topos of a leper disappearing to reveal a veiled Christ, and on the other, eucharistic miracles wherein Christ is literally-bodily perceived in the Host (as a finger, baby, etc.). These twin topoi are combined in Franciscan theology."
The conclusion shifts to the 19th century and an "iconoclastic ministry" in the leprosy settlement on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. "Father Damien and Mother Marianne serve as constructive models for imaginatively and sensitively reconfiguring theological symbols so as to address the relational disruption wrought by stigmatizing illness."
Veatch selected for Young Preachers Festival
House Scholar Jack Veatch was selected as a sponsored participant of the Festival of Young Preachers 2018, held in Atlanta on January 3-5. The Fund for Theological Education enabled him to participate along with a preaching mentor. He selected Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore as his mentor. Watch and listen to him preach here. Former resident Braxton Shelley, now a professor at Harvard, was among the workshop leaders. Jack Veatch is pictured here with Divinity School alumnus Ernest A. Brooks, who has been installed as the new president of the Academy of Preachers.
Gavel passed from Hull Moses to Lewton
We give gratitute to Lee Hull Moses, who has served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2007, and, for the past three years, as its president. We are grateful for her vision and creativity, and for what her leadership has meant for DDH and its students. She is the Senior Minister of the First Christian Church of Greensboro, North Carolina, where she also served as mentor to DDH alumnae Thandiwe Dale-Ferguson and Judith Guy who completed full-time internships in Greensboro.
On January 1, the gavel passes to April J. Lewton, alumna and Vice President of Development and Marketing at the National Benevolent Association (NBA). A trustee since 2010, she has served as the chair of the Development Committee for the past two years. Her wider church leadership includes service as the former Moderator of the North American Pacific Asian Disciples (NAPAD).
In Memoriam: Dorothy Messenger
Dorothy Coffman Messenger died on November 5 in Edmond, Oklahoma. She was 102. She was born March 4, 1915, in Dallas, Texas, to John Richard Coffman and Rhe Harper Coffman. She attended Texas Christian University, where she met G.L. “Andy” Messenger. They were married August 27, 1936, and both graduated from TCU in 1937. She earned the Bachelor of Science Degree in Business.
After college, they moved to Chicago, where G.L. entered the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. She was employed at the International Council of Religious Education, which later merged with the Federal Council of Churches to become the National Council of Churches. Her responsibilities included meeting arrangements for scholars working on the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Their first full-time pastorate was at Canyon, Texas, where they began serving in the fall of 1939 and where their daughter, Myrna (Ranney), was born. There followed two more Texas pastorates, at Center and at Denton, and the birth of their two sons, MacDiarmid and Scribner. They served the Glen Oak Christian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and then in Oklahoma at First Christian in Stillwater, Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, and First Christian, Woodward. In Oklahoma, Dorothy was employed for 28 years in the field of accounting.
Dorothy Messenger was active in all phases of church life. She was moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma, 1982-84, president of the Oklahoma Christian Women's Fellowship, and an elder. She taught church school classes with all ages, led retreats and numerous workshops, and spoke in churches across Oklahoma. She volunteered in many interdenominational projects. She was beloved as a teacher, adviser, and mentor. She was predeceased by her husband, to whom she had been married for almost 67 years. In 2005, she created the G.L. “Andy” and Dorothy Coffman Messenger Fund at the Disciples Divinity House. She is survived by her daughter and two sons, and by numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held November 16 at Southern Hills Christian Church in Edmond.
In Memoriam: Katherine A. Dey
Katherine A. Dey, friend of Disciples House Scholars and benefactor, died October 5, in Arlington, Virginia, due to pneumonia complications. She was 96. In a quiet, determined way, she established two named scholarships at the Disciples Divinity House, the M. Elizabeth Dey Scholarship and the Drum and Tenant Scholarship. The first scholarship remembered her beloved grandmother, "Mom." Ms. Dey saw the opportunity to remember her in a way that reflected "her life, her concern for others, her religious convictions and insight into human nature, and what she meant to me." The second scholarship fulfilled her friend Florence Drum's desire to honor her own mother, Eleanor Tenant. All four women--Katherine and Elizabeth Dey, Flo Drum and Eleanor Tenant--were "doers" associated with the Wilson Boulevard Christian Church in Arlington. DDH alumnus Ray Schultz was the pastor of the church during a formative period. Katherine Dey sought to pass this heritage of strength and action to next generations of ministers and church leaders.
Born March 21, 1921, Katherine and her sister Frances were reared on Wilson Blvd. by their paternal grandparents, M. Elizabeth and Edward S. Dey. After 1939 graduation from Washington-Lee High School, she worked as a typist in the Arlington Circuit Court Clerk's office until 1942 when she moved to Jacksonville, Florida, to work on National Defense projects. For over two and a half years, she worked as a Class A Welder at the St. John's River Shipbuilding Company, where 61 Liberty Ships were built and launched. When the contract completed, she went to work as an Aircraft Mechanic for a year at the Jacksonville Naval Air Base, repairing war-damaged fighter aircraft wings and replacing glass windows. In 1948, Katherine began her 32-year service with the Department of Defense, National Security Agency, retiring in 1980.
She was a lifetime member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In 1974 she was the first female church board chair and one of the first two female elders elected in the Capital Area of the Christian Church. In 1983, she became a volunteer driver in the Community Volunteer Services Division of the Arlington Chapter, American Red Cross; three years later, she became volunteer Transportation Coordinator, continuing for over 10 years. In recognition of her exemplary volunteer service, Katherine was awarded the first Chapter Board Chairman's "Inspiration Award" in 1994. In 2010, she was recognized for 27 years of voluntary service to the Arlington Red Cross Chapter. She had served a total of 23,375 volunteer hours. She is survived by loving cousins and devoted friends who cherish her legacy of humor, generosity, and faith. Her sister, Frances predeceased her. Memorial contributions can be made to the Disciples Divinity House or to the First Christian Church of Falls Church, Virginia.
New Disciples Scholars
Welcome new Disciples Scholars (L to R): Luke Soderstrom (MA), Victoria Wick (MDiv), and Rachel Abdoler (PhD). Luke Soderstrom is MDiv graduate of Western Theological Seminary who serves part-time as an assistant to HELM President Chris Dorsey. He was just joining a Disciples congregation in Michigan when he began his MA studies last year; this year he is a new Disciples House Scholar. He is interested in pursuing PhD work in theology. Victoria Wick, a member of the Christian Temple in Baltimore, is a 2015 graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis who had been working full-time in student services there. Her background, vocational discernment, and the appeal of an atmosphere of ideas, conversation, and engagement propelled her toward DDH and the Divinity School. Rachel Abdoler, who completed her MDiv as a Disciples House Scholar and with a commitment to interfaith engagement, enters the PhD program in the History of Christianity to pursue a fascinating project on medieval Christian communities in majority Muslim contexts whose little-translated texts were written in Arabic.
DDH welcomes the return of two MDiv Scholars after a year away on full-time internships: Devon Crawford, who interned with the national office of the NAACP in Baltimore as it responded to these consequential times, and Virginia White, who furthered her understanding of nonprofit organizations and theological reflection while working with Week of Compassion, the Disciples disaster relief and humanitarian assistance program fund, and with the Oakland Peace Center. DDH also welcomes six additional new residents who are beginning MA and MDiv studies at the Divinity School, and the return of former resident Uk Ryel, who is pursuing his PhD at CTS.
Enhancing Life Capstone Conference
During the past two years, The Enhancing Life Project has explored the aspiration of human beings to live better. Given the profound expansion of human power through technology as well as advances in genetics, ecology, and other fields, the vulnerability and endangerment as well as the enhancement of life are dominant themes in the global age. Kris Culp is one of the 35 Enhancing Life Scholars from around the world who will present research results at the Capstone Conference at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center. Andrew Packman and Darryl Dale-Ferguson are among the students giving "night talks" as part of the conference on Friday, August 4.
Alumna Terri Owens elected General Minister and President
Disciples Divinity House alumna Rev. Teresa (Terri) Hord Owens was elected by an overwhelming majority at General Assembly on Sunday, July 9, as the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. AlumnaeYvonne Gilmore and Alexis Kassim made powerful speeches in support of Rev. Owens, who is the first African-American woman to lead the denomination and to lead any mainline Protestant denomination. Rev. Owens has been Dean of Students at the Divinity School since 2005, and she serves as Senior Minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Downers Grove, Illinois.
“We saw in Terri that unique combination of pastoral leadership, active presence in all expressions of the Church, and administrative experience that the search committee believed was most needed,” said Search Committee Chair Jackie Bunch. “She has experience as a local pastor, theologian and leader. The search committee recognized that leading the Church in this day and age requires a certain business acumen as well as a heart for ministry. We see that Terri brings that special mix of academic, executive, and pastoral qualities that are required for leading the Disciples through this time in our North American culture. She has a background of bringing together diverse groups for dialogue that will serve the Church well.”
A Disciple since young adulthood, Rev. Owens comes to the position in a time of renewed emphasis on the issues of race, particularly in the United States. "We need to stop demonizing differences as deficiencies," Rev. Owens said. "We should seek to understand, to work through our differences in priorities, opinions, methods, and goals. This will not be easy, but imagine what an example this will be for the world if we can bridge the gaps in politics, identity, geography and theology."
Rev. Owens's election follows the 12-year tenure of the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, who was the first woman to lead a mainline denomination in the United States. She will serve a six year term with an option for re-election in 2023 for an additional six-year term. Rev. Owens's installation service was held on July 12, the final evening of the General Assembly (Disciples of Christ).
Underwood and Lee Installation
Alumni Beau Underwood and Tim Lee were installed as First and Second Vice Moderator of the General Assembly of the Christian Church on July 12. Sue Morris, a fourth-generation Disciple and member of First Christian Church of Omaha, Nebraska, who is the president of Heritage Services, was installed as Moderator. She has been serving as Moderator-elect. Belva Brown Jordan, an associate dean at the Claremont School of Theology and dean of the Disciples Seminary Foundation in Claremont, California, was installed as moderator elect. The moderator team for 2017-19 is standing together with Rev. Owens, newly elected General Minister and President, around the communion table during closing worship in the bottom photo to the right.
Alumnus Beau Underwood has served as the senior minister of First Christian Church in Jefferson City, Missouri, for the past two years. He previously served as the senior director of advocacy and communications at Sojourners in Washington, DC, and an assistant minister at National City Christian Church. He is a graduate of Eureka College and an MDiv/MA in Public Policy graduate of the University of Chicago.
Alumnus Timothy S. Lee is an ordained minister and an historian of Christianity at Brite Divinity School. He is an expert on Christianity in Korea. He is a PhD graduate of the Divinity School in the History of Christianity, where he also earned a certificate in Ministerial Studies. He was ordained in 1996 at Chicago Christian Church (DOC), under the mentorship of the late Rev. Soongook Choi. He has given significant leadership to the Disciples of Christ, including as NAPAD Moderator.
Machado at GA
Daisy L. Machado, Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, was presented the Distinguished Alumna Award at DDH's General Assembly luncheon on July 11. The Alumni/ae Council selected her as the nineteenth recipient of the award. Ms. Machado earned her PhD in 1996 from the University of Chicago Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar.
The award commends her as a "trailblazing scholar and minister" and as an "esteemed mentor, dean, teacher, colleague." It recognizes her: "For excellence in teaching in and beyond the classroom; for tenacious, transformative leadership in theological education; for inspiring and guiding emerging scholars, especially through the Hispanic Theological Initiative; for wise advocacy for Latino/a faculty members; for advancing the historical and conceptual study of borderlands; and for courageous dedication to those who are forgotten and pushed aside, to Las Desaperacidas."
The luncheon began with music by House Scholar Hannah Fitch. Trustee David Vargas shared the invocation. TCU professor and Alumni/ae Council member Santiago Pinon introduced her, using the image of "spelunking" to depict her extraordinary leadership and teaching and her courage in mapping new terrains in scholarship. Dean Culp and Melinda Wood, President of the Alumni/ae Council, presented the award. Ms. Machado spoke in response. Her remarks challenged the audience to critical analysis, presence, and action. Remarks were also offered by alumna Teresa Hord Owens, newly elected General Minister and President, by Lee Hull Moses, President of the Board of Trustees, and by the dean.
An article regarding the work of DDH Resident and recent graduate, Braxton Shelley, MDiv and PhD from the Department of Music in Music Theory, was recently featured in the June 2017 UChicago Arts newsletter. The article, titled "Tuning Up: Braxton Shelley takes a pioneering look at the structure and meaning of gospel music," was originally published in Tableau, the magazine of the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago.
"Shelley is 'one of a kind in so many ways,' says his adviser, Steven Rings, associate professor in Music. His dissertation takes a musicological approach—a close reading of notes, chords, harmonies, and forms—which is a first for gospel. 'There is no precedent in music theory, if you can believe it,' says Rings. Musicology and music theory initially focused on European classical music, and more recently on contemporary music like the Beatles. Shelley is the first to apply this approach to understanding how gospel music works." Read the full article here.
Shelley has accepted a faculty position at Harvard University's Department of Music.
Amy A. Northcutt
Alumna and former President of the Board of Trustees, Amy A. Northcutt, passed away peacefully on May 6, 2017. She was 57. She was diagnosed on April 27 with a brain tumor. She died from complications related to the tumor. Amy is survived by her husband, Craig Middlebrook, of Falls Church, Virginia, and their children, Henry (17) and Ella Bo Lei Middlebrook (13). She is also survived by her sisters, Nancy Trench (Winston) of Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Kay Lynn Northcutt, the writer, a Disciples minister, and DDH alumna, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Amy was preceded in death by her parents, Clinton and Thelma Vaden Northcutt.
Born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, on December 18, 1959, Amy Northcutt graduated as valedictorian from Putnam City West High School in 1978 and matriculated at Smith College. She spent her junior year at Harvard University and graduated from Smith in 1982 with a BA in Government. She entered the University of Chicago in 1982 and earned her AMRS degree from the Divinity School in 1983. She served as Youth Minister of Western Oaks Christian Church in Oklahoma City before attending Boston College Law School, from which she graduated magna cum laude with a JD in 1987.
Ms. Northcutt was serving as Chief Information Officer of the National Science Foundation (NSF) at the time of her death. She was named to the office in January 2012, and had responsibility for NSF's information technology investments, governance, policy, and planning. “She enacted a continuous Information Technology modernization approach which has brought innumerable advances to our day-to-day lives,” NSF Director France Córdova said. “These contributions will impact and improve NSF’s business operations for years to come.” She was recognized by FedScoop as one of the "Top Women in Tech 2017".
She had held positions at NSF as Acting Office Head, Information and Resource Management and, from 2001-2011, as Deputy General Counsel. Prior to NSF, Ms. Northcutt was the Vice President for Administration of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Before moving to Washington, DC, in 1991, she practiced law at Crowe and Dunlevy in Oklahoma City. She was a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association. She served on numerous boards of directors and received many awards and recognitions throughout her career. Most recently she served as a Director for the In Trust Center for Theological Schools as well as the Worldwide Assurance for Employees of Public Agencies.
In 1993, Ms. Northcutt became a member of DDH’s Board of Trustees, serving until December 2010. She served as its president from 1999-2005. During her presidency, the Board grappled with accelerating tuition costs and significant capital expenditures; over $2 million was added to the endowment. The long range planning process clarified the work of the House and of its Board, and the Board evolved to a new model of work that incorporated study and fostered a “think tank” approach. She was the first woman to serve as president. We counted on her warmth and intelligence, on her ability to plan and lead, and on her love of the House and commitment to its mission.
Amy Northcutt was a person of strong and committed faith. In Washington, DC, she attended the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, where she served as Council President. She knew herself to be a beloved child of God, and she gratefully opened her heart and home freely to all, particularly those in need. She was an organ donor.
Her life was celebrated at a memorial service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC, on June 17. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to create a scholarship in Amy’s memory to support women pursuing theological studies. Donations can be made to the Amy A. Northcutt Fund, checks payable to "The Disciples Divinity House" at 1156 East 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60637-1536, or online.
DDH luncheon 2017
Join us for the Disciples Divinity House luncheon in Indianapolis at the General Assembly on July 11, 2017 at the J.W. Marriott. The Alumni/ae Council will present the biennial Distinguished Alumnus/a award, and it's a wonderful time to get re-acquainted with old friends, and to meet new friends. Tickets are $25. They can be purchased online here or by
e-mailing email@example.com to reserve tickets.
Yvonne Gilmore Eureka
Associate Dean Gilmore will preach Friday, May 5, at Eureka College's Baccalaureate at 6:00 pm in Becker Auditorium. In addition to being Associate Dean at DDH, Gilmore serves as a member of the Board of Directors of HELM, co-teaches a course in the Divinity School's Arts of Ministry sequence, and is a poet and a spoken word artist. She is in demand as a speaker and preacher and as an anti-racism trainer with Reconciliation Ministry. Gilmore has preached, lectured, and/or performed at varied educational institutions and denominational events, and as a member of Cornel West Theory she has performed in a number of venues and been interviewed on the radio. You can read more here.
Culp’s 25th anniversary
On April 28, during the spring meeting of the Board of Trustees and the Alumni/ae Council, DDH celebrated the work of Dean Kristine A.Culp and her completion of twenty-five years of service as the dean of Disciples Divinity House. Since 1991, she has provided outstanding leadership to the Disciples Divinity House as well as in the Divinity School. The first woman to become chief executive of one of the theological education institutions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Dean Culp led the Disciples Divinity House through its centennial anniversary in 1994. She is currently engaged in preparations to mark DDH’s 125th anniversary in 2019. Dean Culp will complete twenty-six years of service on June 30.
The celebration began in the late afternoon with a reception and a panel discussion at the Disciples Divinity House. Alumni/ae Larry Bouchard, April Lewton, Teresa Hord Owens, and Andrew Packman discussed the theme of vulnerability and glory from Dean Culp’s work, with special reflection on her visionary leadership, and the innovative possibilities that have extended from the mission of the Divinity House in the church, the academy, and beyond over the past twenty-five years.
After the panel discussion, everyone enjoyed dinner at the Piccolo Mondo restaurant in Hyde Park. Trustee Marshall Dunn offered a word of prayer before the meal. As guests were ready to start on dessert, the president of the Board of Trustees, Lee Hull Moses, and Alumni/ae Council President Melinda (Lindy) Keenan Wood read excerpts from some of the letters that alumni/ae and friends sent in to celebrate Dean Culp, and they presented her with the full collection of letters and notes. It was a delightful evening for all.
Laurie Zoloth, a leader in the field of religious studies with particular scholarly interest in bioethics and Jewish studies, has been appointed dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School. She presently serves as a Charles McCormick Deering Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, holding appointments in the Department of Religious Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and in the Feinberg School of Medicine. University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier announced her appointment as dean, which will begin July 1, 2017. Her research explores religion and ethics, drawing from sources ranging from Biblical and Talmudic texts to postmodern Jewish philosophy, including the writings of Emmanuel Levinas. Her scholarship spans the ethics of genetic engineering, stem cell research, synthetic biology, social justice in health care, and how science and medicine are taught. As a founding board member of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning, she also researches the practices of interreligious dialogue, exploring how religion plays a role in public discussion and policy.
Ms. Zoloth served as a professor of ethics and Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University before joining the religious studies and medical school faculty at Northwestern. She was the inaugural director of the Jewish Studies program at San Francisco State University and director of graduate studies in religious studies at Northwestern. At Northwestern, she was founding director of the Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and founding director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society at the Feinberg School of Medicine. Zoloth also served as the president of Northwestern’s Faculty Senate.
She is author of Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice and co-editor of five books, including Notes from a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics and Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought. She has been the president of the American Academy of Religion and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She is an elected member of the Hastings Center and a life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.Her work on bioethics and health care led her to serve on the NASA Advisory Council, the space agency’s highest civilian advisory board; the International Planetary Protection Committee; the National Recombinant DNA Advisory Board, and the executive committee of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. She served as chair of the first bioethics advisory board at the Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute and has testified in front of Congress, the President’s Commission on Bioethics and state legislatures.
Ms. Zoloth began her career as a neonatal nurse working in impoverished communities. She said those early years are central to how she views religious studies and bioethics—an approach that brings together theoretical exploration with an understanding of how arguments of theology and moral philosophy can address societal challenges.
She succeeds Dean Richard A. Rosengarten, who continues as associate professor of religion and literature. Her appointment follows a national search, informed by a Divinity School faculty committee chaired by Dan Arnold, associate professor of the philosophy of religions. (Adapted from a UC press release.)
Moderator team 2017-19
The General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has forwarded the names of four individuals to serve as the moderator team of the Christian Church for 2017-19. Two of those four are Disciples DIvinity House alumni, Beau T. Underwood and Timothy S. Lee. They are nominated to be the FIrst and Second Vice Moderators. Sue Morris, a fourth-generation Disciple and member of First Christian Church of Omaha, Nebraska, who is the president of Heritage Services, is the nominee for Moderator. She has been serving as Moderator-elect. The new nominee for Moderator-elect is Belva Brown Jordan, an associate dean at the Claremont School of Theology and dean of the Disciples Seminary Foundation in Claremont, California.
Alumnus Beau Underwood has served as the senior minister of First Christian Church in Jefferson City, Missouri, for the past two years. He previously served as the senior director of advocacy and communications at Sojourners in Washington, DC and an assistant minister at National City Christian Church. He is a graduate of Eureka College and a MDiv/MA in Public Policy graduate of the University of Chicago.
Alumnus Timothy S. Lee is an ordained minister and a historian of Christianity at Brite Divinity School. He is an expert on Christianity in Korea. He is a PhD graduate of the Divinity School in the History of Christianity, where he also earned a certificate in Ministerial Studies. He was ordained in 1996 at Chicago Christian Church (DOC), under the mentorship of the late Rev. Soongook Choi. He has given significant leadership to the Disciples of Christ, including as NAPAD Moderator.
The election will be held at the General Assembly of the Christian Church, which meets in Indianapolis in July 2017.
Terri Owens nominated
The General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) voted this evening to forward the name of Rev. Teresa (Terri) Hord Owens to the 2017 General Assembly as the nominee for General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). An MDiv alumna of the Disciples Divinity House and the University of Chicago Divinity School, she is currently dean of students at the Divinity School and Senior Minister of First Christian Church of Downers Grove, Illinois.
Terri Owens is a native of Terre Haute, Indiana, and a descendant of one of Indiana’s oldest African-American free settlements.She earned her bachelor’s degree in Government with a minor in Afro-American Studies from Harvard University. She began her professional career in the area of information technology, spending twenty-three years in the area of management consulting, data management, and data warehousing. She previously held senior management positions with IBM, Ernst & Young, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and SBC, consistently earning recognition for excellence and leadership. She was an active lay leader in drama and other ministries under the pastorate of Dr. T. Garrott Benjamin Jr at Light of the World Christian Church in Indianapolis, before accepting a call to ministry.
She earned the Master of Divinity degree at the University of Chicago Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. She was ordained at Light of the World Christian Church, wearing the robe of her paternal grandfather, the late Rev. Noel Hord. In August 2005, she was appointed Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Alongside her work at the Divinity School, Ms. Owens serves as Senior Minister of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Downers Grove, Illinois. She is the first person of color to serve as pastor of this predominantly white congregation. A small congregation with a large heart to serve and give, FCCDG’s ministry reaches to the homeless in DuPage County, as well as families with children in the surrounding area. The church hosts an annual Back-to-School Fair, serving nearly 800 people each year. Unity, liberty and love are the core values of this congregation that seeks to be the presence of Christ in the community. Under Rev. Owens’ leadership, FCCDG is now an open and affirming, anti-racism, pro-reconciliation congregation.
She was the preacher for the opening worship service at the 2015 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in July 2015, and is widely sought after as a preacher, speaker and workshop facilitator. Her ministry and intellectual interests include a theology of reconciliation, cultural intelligence, developing inclusive and multi-cultural congregations, and the mentoring of youth and young adults. She is married to Walter Owens Jr, with whom she will soon celebrate 30 years of marriage. They are the proud parents of an adult son, W. Mitchell Owens III. More here.
Bell-Haynes to Central Rocky Mtn Region
On February 4, 2017, the Board of the Central Rocky Mountain Region unanimously voted to call Joan Bell-Haynes to serve as its Executive Regional Minister. Rev. Bell-Haynes comes to the CRMR from United Christian Parish of Reston, an ecumenical congregation comprised of four denominations, where she has served since 2005 as co-pastor. An alumna of the Disciples Divinity House and the University of Chicago Divinity School and a graduate of Albany State College in Georgia, she was ordained to ministry jointly by Maywood Christian Church, Maywood, IL, and Park Manor Christian Church, Chicago, IL, in August 1999. She previously served as associate pastor of Community Christian Church, Kansas City, MO, and University Christian Church, Hyattsville, MD. She has served as First Vice Moderator of the General Assembly and as Secretary of the National Convocation. She has also served on the board of the Christian Church Foundation and Disciples Church Extension Fund. She was the 2017 co-recipient of the Christian Church Capital Area Bridge Builder Award.
"Gilead exists to connect people to God and each other through beautiful, creative worship; delicious and abundant food; and true stories that save lives." That's how alumna Rebecca Anderson, an ordained Disciples minister, and her former Divinity School classmate, Vince Amlin, an ordained UCC minister, describe the new church they're starting in the Rogers Park neighborhood in north Chicago. "We're open and affirming, anti-racist, local, organic, slow church, just peace, free range, real butter Christians."
They are collaborating with singer and songwriter Vince Wilson and other talented folks. Gilead's first service was held on January 22, filling the room at the Peckish Pig, 623 Howard Avenue, with shared story, food, and song. The next service is planned for February 26 at 5:00pm. In the meanwhile, find them on Facebook and at www.gileadchicago.org
Chicago winter is upon us. The temperature has dropped, and the nights are long. The atmosphere is ready for study, the development of worthy questions, and vibrant conversation—indoors.
On January 30, Jenny Trinitapoli, Associate Professor of Sociology, will speak about her work on the role of religion in the AIDS epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa. Wesley Sun, Director of Field Education and Community Engagement at the Divinity School, has published several graphic novels. He will join us to discuss his work on February 13.
Two alumnae who are Chicago area ministers will return this quarter. Laura Jennison Reed, recently called as the permanent minister of Villa Park Christian Church, will preach on March 6. Allie Lundblad, minister of the Christian Church of Arlington Heights, will join with colleagues in the Constructing Theologies Project to offer reflections on justice and transformation on February 6.
Several opportunities allow for exploration of theology, history, and biblical interpretation, including two sessions of the Disciples History and Thought Seminar led by W. Clark Gilpin, where theology and interpretation is this year’s theme. House Scholar Andrew Langford, PhD candidate in Bible and Early Christian Literature, will consider the stigma of illness in relation to the pastoral epistles on February 27. Stefan Aderhold, who is with us from Heidelberg University this year as an AMRS student, will talk about the Protestant Reformer Martin Bucer and religious identity on March 6.
House Scholars Judith Guy and Shelly Tilton will preach. Last year, Judith completed a full-time internship at First Christian Church in Greensboro, NC, where she explored storytelling and biblical interpretation. Shelly is a first-year MA student interested in Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture, who previously served as Associate Minister of Saguaro Christian Church, Tucson, Arizona.
As the weather grows wintry and fierce, the atmosphere of Monday evenings invites us to gather again in the warmth of dinner, fellowship, and study. The complete schedule is here.
Ned R Lavengood Sr, a former trustee, died December 29, 2016, in Wilmington, NC. He was 87. Born in Wabash, Indiana, he attended Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where he studied trumpet and conducting. He graduated from International Business College in accounting, earned his BS from Indiana University and an MBA at New York University. He was a veteran of the Korean War (101st Airborne). He served as a trustee of the Disciples Divinity House for 28 years until he stepped down in 2006. He said that he came to each meeting looking to bring or make one significant contribution. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was always an important part of his life. He served as Elder and sang in the choir at Park Avenue Christian Church in New York City, and later at the First Christian Churches in Downers Grove, Illinois, and in Wilson, North Carolina. He was an elder emeritus at the First Christian Church in Wilmington.
He considered himself to be an entrepreneur, and was involved in many types of business ventures in New York, Chicago, and North Carolina. He was a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable at Metropolitan Life NYC, and served with Keyes Fiber as Midwest Regional Sales Manager. More recently, he and his wife, Sibyl, were co-owner of Sibyl’s Antiques and Collectables. An avid Heisey Glass collector, he served as President of the NC Heisey Glass Collectors and on the board of the National Heisey Collectors of America.
He was a Mason for over 60 years, and played trumpet in a Shrine band, and he was a bugler for the American Legion. A great believer in volunteer work, he felt you should leave a community better off than when you arrived: “Put more in than you take out!” In New York, he was Secretary of the Tri Faith Housing Authority, President of the Gramercy Town and Village Lions Club, and night mayor every Wednesday night for Mayor Lindsay. In Chicago, he was President of Toastmasters International, and started the first group home for boys in DuPage County. He played French Horn in the Wilson Brass Band, and started a program to feed the homeless in Wilson. In Wilmington, he was involved with the Salvation Army Band, volunteered at Rachel Freeman Elementary School, was a Guardian Ad Litem, and a tutor at the Cape Fear Literacy Council. He and Sibyl were founding members of the Parents Council at UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Wilmington, where they served as Co-Presidents.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Sibyl McCulloch Lavengood, daughter Traci Lavengood Gemmell (Nole Gemmell), son Ned Jr (Melissa), and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be held January 6 at First Christian Church, Wilmington, NC.
Douglas Collins has been called to be the new associate minister of Allisonville Christian Church in Indianapolis. He will serve with Senior Minister Diane Spleth. He begins ministry at ACC in January.
A Disciples Divinity House Scholar and a BA graduate of Eureka College, Mr. Collins received the MDiv degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School on December 9, and was ordained on December 17 at his home congregation, First Christian Church, Albany, Oregon. Cynthia Linder preached at his ordination service. She was his minister in Albany before becoming the Director of Ministry Studies at the Divinity School. Presiding were FCC Pastor Douglass Anne Cartwright and Oregon Regional Ministers Doug and Cathy Myers Wirt. Dean Kris Culp and fellow House Scholars and Eureka alums Judith Guy and Colton Lott participated in the service; Kiva Nice-Webb was the soloist.
CTP Fall Conference
The Constructive Theologies Project (CTP) convened its fall conference, “Justice: Applied Theology and Transformation,” on November 10-12. Dietra Wise-Baker, Minister of Liberation Christian Church in St. Louis, conversed with the group about theological resources for defining and locating justice in congregational leadership and community organizing. They watched the documentary, “Injustice Anywhere,” and a short film by Tosin Morohunfola, “On Sight,” and discussed the role of film and media in contemporary theological formation. Throughout the conference, CTP members employed a dialogical approach to community reflection, “witness and response.” The next conference will take place at Claremont School of Theology in late February 2017. The project is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation. Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore is the project director; Allie Lundblad coordinates the CTP.
New Disciples House Scholars announced
Four persons are new Disciples Divinity House Scholars for the 2016-17 academic year: Burton Guion (MA), Shelly Tilton (MA), Jack Veatch (MDiv), and Stefan Aderhold (AMRS). In addition, Judith Guy returns to her final year of the MDiv program after a year-long internship in Greensboro, North Carolina last year. DDH is also pleased to welcome seven additional persons as new residential members of the community: Marshall Hatch, Matthew Johnson, Ellie Leech, Yanjie Niu, Sarath Pillai (returning after a year), Braxton Shelley, and Luke Soderstrom.
Burton Guion (MA) is a 2015 magna cum laude graduate of Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, where he majored in Philosophy/Religion and English. He was a Missouri Bright Flight Scholar and, at Drury, a Trustee Scholar and a recipient of the CW Titus Study Abroad Language Scholarship. He helped to create the Drury Humanities Society and served as its president. From 2012-15 he was an intern at National Avenue Christian Church in Springfield, which is his home congregation. This past year he was a Community Development intern at Grace Settlement House in St. Louis, where he helped to manage Neighborhood College, an adult education program.
Shelly Tilton (MA) is a 2013 MDiv graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, where she received the William A. Newcomb Prize and was awarded honors for her senior thesis. An ordained Disciples minister, she served as the Associate Minister of Saguaro Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona, for two years under the Congregational Immersion Project of DDH at Vanderbilt. She will enter the MA program to pursue questions about sacredness, aesthetics, philosophy, and religion and possible doctoral work. She was raised in the Church of Christ and was a summa cum laude graduate of Freed-Hardeman University, where she majored in philosophy.
Jack Veatch (MDiv) is a 2015 graduate of Kent State University, where he majored in Business Management. At Kent State, he interned at United Christian Ministries (UCM) and gave leadership to initiatives with the Muslim Student Association and with TransFusion. He seeks to combine ministry and advocacy for social justice. He was raised in the First Christian Church, Stow, Ohio, and was nourished by the region’s Camp Christian as an attendee and as a counselor; he was a member of the Ohio region's Youth Council. He was an NBA Xplor resident this past year; he worked with the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry and was based at North Hollywood Christian Church.
Stefan Aderhold (AMRS) is an alumnus of the Theologisches Studienhaus (TSH) at Heidelberg University. He was part of the DDH-TSH exchange/conference in 2015 and again this September. He is also pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Heidelberg and working with Prof. Christoph Strohm on Martin Bucer’s writings and on how religious identity is shaped in the reinterpretation that occurs between and among confessional traditions. He has been active in the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), with Christian Endeavor, and especially with scouting (VCP), to which he has given outstanding leadership on a regional level (Baden-Wurttemberg). He notes, “Globalization makes us question our cultural identities, beliefs, emotions, and responsibilities. How do we confront different beliefs? How can we connect with others without giving up our religious identity?”
MDiv alumni/ae retreat
The Disciples Divinity House and the Divinity School co-sponsored a retreat for younger MDiv alumni/ae on September 16-17. Twenty-eight alums gathered from across the continent, Canada to Florida, and from a wide range of ministerial careers to converse about “Integrity, Multiple-Mindedness, and Innovation” with professors Kris Culp, Cynthia Lindner, and Dwight Hopkins, and to share the gifts of collegiality and reflection. Aaron Smith and Paul Ford are pictured here.
Kris Culp explored “integrity” through the autobiographies of Dorothy Day and Malcolm X. Cynthia Lindner talked about “multiplicity,” the subject of her recent book, Varieties of Gifts. Dwight Hopkins shared his approach to “innovation” and his plans for future research. These seminars, together with the play Ultra American, provided rich fodder for understanding and complicating narratives about ministry and the well-lived ministerial life.
A $15,000 grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation provides significant support for both the alumni/ae retreat and the Constructive Theologies Project. Both events resource the development of peer leadership projects and of new models of alumni/ae learning. An intergenerational retreat is being planned in consultation with the DDH Alumni/ae Council for fall 2017. Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore is the project director.
Reformation and Improvisation: A conference report
On September 1-9, DDH hosted “Reformation and Improvisation – Then and Now,” the second conference/exchange with the Theologisches Studienhaus (TSH) at Morata-Haus at the University of Heidelberg. A group of 22 students and trustees from the two institutions met for a week of seminars, immersions, and shared reflections in Chicago. Virginia White and Stefan Aderhold offered reflections at the end of the conference.
“The idea of travel reminds me of movement—movement across distances, across time, across cultures. It seems to me that movement is at the heart of reformation and of improvisation,” explains House Scholar Virginia White, who was one of the participants. “To reform we have to move our attention between the present and the past. We have to know where we have been, and begin to separate what worked from what didn’t. To reform we must be bold enough to move things around, to change traditions, to discard old ways. To improvise, we take this consideration of the past, and turn toward the future, ready to make meaningful changes.”
“This necessity to let go of the old, to let some things die in order to make space for something new, is certainly a part of our Disciples of Christ heritage. We heard it loud and clear in the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery—a document which calls for the immediate end of a local and entrenched church structure—which we read with Professors Gilpin and Schweiker. And, I would say, it is right at the heart of our shared Christian identity—in the very story of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. In this sense, reform is that which helps us to clear space for that which is to come.”
The 500th anniversary of the Reformation will be celebrated in 2017, counting from 1517, when Dr. Martin Luther posted 95 theses for debate in Wittenberg, Germany. Last year, a delegation from DDH traveled to Heidelberg for the first conference/exchange, and both DDH and TSH delegations traveled together to some places in Germany that were formative for Luther’s thought. This year’s DDH-TSH conference paired the theme of reformation with that of improvisation, finding both themes highly germane to the realities of the city of Chicago and of American Protestantism.
One of the TSH participants, Stefan Aderhold, remained in Chicago after the exchange. He had been admitted to the Divinity School’s Master of Arts in Religious Studies program, and is now studying and living at the Disciples Divinity House. He will return to Germany for doctoral studies on Melanchthon next year.
“Reformation was not finished in the 16th century and will hopefully never be completed,” Mr. Aderhold noted. “Melanchthon was seen as the Reformation's mastermind. He was a thinker, a thoughtful theologian. His best abilities have been his biggest weakness though. He was gripped by self-doubt, he agonized about nearly any decision and became sick. His good friend Luther sent him a letter giving him comfort by finding the right words. He wrote: ‘Be a sinner, and sin bravely, but believe more bravely still.’ We cannot live without making mistakes. We are sometimes weak; or broken. Wrong decisions are part of our everyday life. Doing nothing can be even more wrong. But what Luther tells Melanchthon can teach us at least two things: First, it’s okay to do mistakes. We cannot be perfect. Having faith in God while we are acting is the best we can do. And second, others are struggling with the exact same thing.”
“To be a Christian means to be on the road,” he said, sounding a related theme to Ms. White’s reflections about movement. “If we understand ourselves as students instead of holding the truth in our hands, we are making space for the other and for improvisation, as Erin Brown told us yesterday. This activates some kind of fertile creativity. At the same time, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel but ground ourselves on our community’s history of more than 2000 years. We are on the road, reflecting constantly, trying out new ways, and driving still.”
“Let us keep driving, let us exchange and learn from each other, let us be disciples more than teachers, let us not overlook cultural, social, ethnic, religious and racial issues, but let us shape all these challenges in a creative way. On the whole, let us be at the wheel together,” he concluded, speaking of TSH and DDH together.
“Improvisation requires a lot from us,” Virginia White observed. “It requires that we be humble enough to encounter difference and be changed by it. Ultimately, I think improvisation is about letting ourselves be moved. Whether it is moved to laughter, or moved to wonder, or even moved to tears, our best improvisations come from being moved. That’s what we have done this week.”
Second DDH-TSH Exchange/Conference
The second Disciples Divinity House -Theologisches Studienhaus (TSH) at Heidelberg University exchange met September 1-9 in Chicago around the theme, "Reformation and Improvisation - then and now." The first exchange/conference was held last summer in Heidelberg. Dean Culp, Trustees Paul Steinbrecher, Mareta Smith, and Michael Karunas, along with House Scholars Joel Brown, Jonathan Cahill, Douglas Collins, Judith Guy, Mark Lambert, and Virginia White hosted a group of students and association members from a sister institution at the University of Heidelberg, where Heike Springhart is the Director.
Together they read Martin Luther and James Baldwin on freedom and love, talked with Professor Curtis Evans about religion and race in South Chicago, toured Chicago neighborhoods, and attended the Jazz Festival. They shared meals and worship, examined immigration and migration, crossed lines drawn by race and wealth, explored changing forms of hospitality and ministry.
The conference was generously resourced by additional guests, including Divinity School professors Clark Gilpin and William Schweiker, who reflected on reformation and improvisation in relation to the Disciples of Christ and other US churches as "communities of persuasion." The delegations also met with four editors at the offices of The Christian Century magazine—Debra Bendis, Amy Frykholm, David Heim, and Elizabeth Palmer—and with young Chicago clergy innovators Erin Brown, Kathryn Ray, and Andrew Packman. They surveyed the landscape of Chicago via a Chicago Architectural Foundation tour on the Chicago River.
Jha and Gilmore to be featured at 2017 GA
Speakers for the 2017 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have been announced. Alumna Sandhya Jha of the Oakland Peace Center and Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore will keynote the "Justice" and "Transformative Leadership" learning tracks. The General Assembly will convene in Indianapolis, July 8-12, 2017. The DDH luncheon and a StoryHour event are in the works. Make plans to attend now.
In Memoriam: Clyde Curry Smith (1929-2016)
Clyde Curry Smith, alumnus, died August 5 in River Falls, Wisconsin, of congestive heart failure. He was 87. An expert in ancient history, the Old and New Testaments, and ancient Greek and Semitics, he taught at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls from 1965 until his retirement in 1990. The author of numerous scholarly monographs and articles, his numerous awards and recognitions included an honorary doctorate from Fairfax University.
Clyde Curry Smith was born in Hamilton, Ohio, the only child of Mabel Ethel Ola (Curry) and Clyde Charles Smith. Mr. Smith earned his AB in Physics from Miami University of Ohio, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and with honors in 1951 and, in August of that same year, his MS in Mathematical Physics. He entered the Divinity School of the University of Chicago in the fall of 1951; he earned BD, MA, and PhD degrees as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. He was ordained in 1954.
In 1951 while attending a church conference for college students in Ohio, he met Ellen Marie Christine Gormsen of Lakewood, Ohio, a student at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. On June 13, 1953, they married at her home congregation, the Lakewood Christian Church. In 1958, they moved from Chicago to Winnipeg, Canada, where Clyde began his academic career at St. John's College, University of Manitoba. Ellen began her career as a teacher and eventually gave extensive public service; she died in July 2015.
Clyde and Ellen Smith were well known for their civic work in River Falls, including Mr. Smith's notable service for the River Falls (Public) Library Foundation. They volunteered readily and gave generously throughout their lives.
Their legacy includes an extraordinary gift of $329,000 to the Disciples Divinity House to support women and men preparing for leadership in the church and the academy. Clyde considered the gift to have come through Ellen's inheritance, but the gift expressed the shared roots and commitments of their lives. They jointly supported and tended the gift. The gift was only part of his contributions to the Disciples Divinity House. He served as a special assistant to Dean Blakemore, he sent at least one student to the University as a House Scholar, and he served on the Alumni/ae Council. In addition, his scholarship, academic service, and teaching distinguished the House and the Divinity School.
Clyde Curry Smith is survived by his son Harald and daughter Karen, their spouses, and seven grandchildren. A memorial service will be held November 12, 2016.
Alums provide NAPAD leadership
The biennial North American Pacific Asian Disciples (NAPAD) Convocation met August 3-6 in Sunnyvale, California. John Roh was the Moderator, and Timothy Lee is the Moderator-Elect. April Lewton preached for the closing service; Chris Dorsey also preached. Sandhya Jha led anti-racism training. JoAnne Kagiwada, one of NAPAD's founding figures, provided leadership in worship.
Celebrating “the immigrants’ daughter” and an astonishing gift
April 16, 2016, would have been Ellen Marie Christine Gormsen Smith’s eighty-fifth birthday. On that day, friends, colleagues, and family— husband Clyde Curry Smith, children Harald and Karen and their spouses, seven grandchildren, and extended family—gathered from far and near to celebrate her birthday and her life. There was an abundance to celebrate: friendships and family, to be sure, and also gifts of teaching and service, faithfulness, Danish heritage, and generosity to the Disciples Divinity House.
Ellen Marie Christine Gormsen was born on April 16, 1931, in Lakewood, Ohio, to a Danish immigrant family within a Danish Brotherhood Community primarily established by her great-uncle, Jens (James) Gormsen. Her father, Henry Emil Gormsen, had joined his uncle’s world in 1922; her mother, Louise Marie Jensen, came from Denmark to be his wife in 1929. More than did her younger sister, Anna Margaret, she experienced the ambivalence of being the “immigrants’ daughter.”
Ellen was educated at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, receiving the Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 1953. On June 13 that same year, she married Clyde Curry Smith of Hamilton, Ohio, then a Disciples Divinity House Scholar who would receive the BD (1954), AM (1961), and PhD (1968) degrees from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. After their Chicago years, they moved to Winnipeg, Canada, where their two children were born. In 1965, they moved to River Falls, Wisconsin, where Mr. Smith joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin—River Falls, and Mrs. Smith’s career eventually led to extensive public service.
William E. Crowl, alumnus and former Associate Dean, gave the eulogy at the April 16 service. “Ellen’s whole adult life was marked by her work for the common good,” he observed.“Her family—parents, husband, and children—were central in her labors. But so, too, were the unnamed and unknown she encountered wherever she lived and worked.”
The Smiths had met at a church conference for college students in Ohio and served together as staff at Camp Christian. They were married in her home congregation, the Lakewood Christian Church. Those connections in the Disciples of Christ grew deeper over the years.
In 2002, the Smiths called Bill Crowl to inquire about making a gift to the Divinity House. Mrs. Smith had received one-half of her parents’ estate. While profoundly appreciative for that, the Smiths said they “did not need the money.” Instead, they decided to create a charitable gift annuity with the Christian Church Foundation that could provide income in retirement for Ellen with the residual ultimately benefiting the Disciples Divinity House. Bill Crowl, together with Gary Kidwell of the Foundation, worked with them to make that possible.
Ellen Smith’s family legacy, combined with the Smiths’ shared commitment to the Disciples of Christ and the Disciples Divinity House, provided for a significant gift to the Divinity House. They shepherded and shielded that gift, including reducing the payout of the annuity in 2009 after the economic decline.
The Disciples Divinity House received a check earlier this year from the Christian Church Foundation for the magnificent sum of $329,380.37. After Ellen’s death, Clyde decided to terminate the gift annuity so that the residual could be distributed during his lifetime, and the check represented that distribution.
This astonishing gift, provided by “the immigrants’ daughter,” is among the very largest that the Divinity House has ever received. The gift was fashioned from the fullness and faithfulness of the lives of Ellen Marie Gormsen Smith and Clyde Curry Smith. It was made all the more remarkable in that Clyde Smith made it possible for the Disciples Divinity House to receive the full fruition of their plans during his own lifetime. We are deeply grateful for Ellen Smith, for Clyde Curry Smith, and for this astonishing gift—indeed, for the many remarkable gifts of the Smiths’ lives and work.
In Memoriam: Thomas V. Stockdale (1933-2016)
Thomas Virgil Stockdale, alumnus and Minister Emeritus of Union Avenue Christian Church in Saint Louis, died June 9 in St. Louis. He was 82.
An eloquent and poetic thinker as well as a beloved and insightful leader, he served the historic Union Avenue Christian Church for fifteen years as its Senior Minister. In his work and life, the arts of ministry spanned preaching, worship, social change, education, administration, community outreach, and also the arts of poetry, music, visual arts, and film.
Born to Catherine and Virgil Stockdale on July 27, 1933, in Peoria, Illinois, Tom Stockdale became class president of his high school and received his B.S. from Bradley University in Peoria in 1955. That same year he married Patricia Gibson. They would raise four children and share 61 years of marriage, a marriage that their children describe as "one of those rare friendships and loves that lasted a lifetime."
In 1956, Mr. Stockdale entered the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar, from which his older brother Jim was a recent graduate. Tom Stockdale earned his B.D. degree from the Divinity School in 1960 and was ordained. He served congregations in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, and Nebraska before becoming Senior Minister of Bethany Christian Church in the Capital Area Region, where his significant ministry included a new building and the establishment of the Stevens Ministerial Fund, which has now supported Disciples seminarians at DDH and elsewhere for decades.
In 1986, he was called to Union Avenue, where he was devoted to congregational life and worship and to community outreach initiatives including opening the doors of the church to Food Outreach, which fed men living with HIV/AIDS. He was instrumental in welcoming youth groups from all over the country to stay in the Urban Mission Inn and serve in various ministries in St. Louis. A lover of the arts, he encouraged and supported the congregation's stellar choir and for the music director to begin the Union Avenue Opera Theater. He was a founding creator of the Interfaith Sidebar (Film and Faith) of the St. Louis Film Festival. He was an avid photographer, golfer, and a lover of Labrador retrievers. He was a patron of the arts in many forms including photography, painting, sculpture, music, cinematic arts, theater and poetry.
Mr. Stockdale served more than once on the DDH Alumni Council. In 2006, he helped to assemble and edited a collection of prayers by alumni/ae, Winged Words: Prayers for Common Worship and Common Life, with Sandhya Jha, Phil Points, and Dean Kris Culp. His own keen words and observations were prized by fellow alumni/ae. For example, in his 2004 memorial of Wayne Selsor, published in the DDH Bulletin, he wrote: Selsor knew how to coax a Holy Spirit out of sacred earthy stuff, which is to say - he knew we are never fully spirit or body, until we are a joyous, playful, bright, intelligent, and redeemed unity of both. ... Selsor was a unique spokesman for the life of faith: Godly, human, and winsome. We might substitute "Tom Stockdale" for "Selsor."
In addition to his wife Pat and his brother Jim, he is survived by four children, Pam Milley (Roy Krieger), Peggy Stockdale (Michael Heck), Tim Stockdale (Liz), and Katie Horner; nine grandchildren; and his trusted Labrador, Harry Truman.
Kaufman to speak at Convocation
The Disciples Divinity House will mark the close of the 121st academic year and celebrate its graduates on Friday, June 10. Angela A. Kaufman, Minister to the University and the Church Relations Officer at Texas Christian University since 2004 and a DDH Trustee, will speak at the convocation in the Chapel of the Holy Grail. Her remarks are entitled, "Journeys of Grit and Grail."
At TCU, she provides moral and ethical leadership for the campus, and works with student religious organizations and campus ministries in addition to leading the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Robert Carr Chapel, and the Office of Church Relations. She previously served in campus ministry at DePaul University in Chicago. She earned her MDiv degree from the Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar.
4 House Scholars + 4 sermons x April 3 = COFFEE!
Four House Scholars will preach in four Illinois Valley Cluster (IVC) Disciples congregations on April 3; their honorarium will be a commercial-grade coffee maker and warmer that will be an enduring gift to House students. House Scholars Hannah Fitch and Colton Lott "brewed" the idea in collaboration with the Illinois Valley Cluster of the Christian Church in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Preaching for coffee are: Colton Lott (first year MDiv) at First Christian Church, Pekin, IL; Danielle Cox (graduating MDiv) at First Christian Church, Creve Coeur, IL; Van VanBebber (second year MA; not pictured here) at First Christian Church, Peoria, IL; and Hannah Fitch (first year MDiv) at Sunnyland Christian Church, Washington, IL.
Preparing for the 125th anniversary, 1894-2019
A task force, convened by trustee Chad Martin, invites your ideas, suggestions, and hopes for observing DDH's 125th anniversary. A brief survey makes it easy. Please reply by March 31.