Disciples Divinity House

of the University of Chicago

125th Anniversary plans announced

March 11, 2019 —  

The Disciples Divinity House will celebrate an historic 125th anniversary in 2019. The celebration will take place 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 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.

Scholarship honors Geunhee and Geunsoon Yu

February 22, 2019 —  

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.”

Bell-Haynes and Wood join Board; Karunas concludes service

January 02, 2019 —  

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.

The indelible imprint of JoAnne Kagiwada

December 29, 2018 —  

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

December 10, 2018 —  

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.

Chad Martin leads plans for DDH's 125th anniversary

November 15, 2018 —  

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.

Happy 100th to sister institution, Theologisches Studienhaus Heidelberg

October 31, 2018 —  

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

October 19, 2018 —  

Sandhya Jha and Teresa Hord Owens were honored as inaugural recipients of the University of Chicago Divinity School Alumni Citations by the Divinity School’s Alumni Council on October 18, 2018. Jha and Owens were nominated for the awards and selected by the Divinity School Alumni Council. The Alumni Citations honor alumni for their accomplishments and service, seeking to be responsive to timely events in the recipients' lives. Owens’s citation recognized the excellence of her ministerial leadership and the significance of her election as the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which made her the first woman of color to lead a mainline Protestant denomination. Jha’s citation notes her work as founder and director of the Oakland Peace Center and her multiple publications, which are emblematic of her commitment to intellectual curiosity and excellence, interdisciplinary research, and service to community.

2018 Incoming Scholars

October 03, 2018 —  

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. 

Lambert succeeds Peeler as administrator

August 27, 2018 —  

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.