Summer in the Keys of Scholarship, Identity, and Community

My first year of doctoral work ended in fairly typical fashion.  A deluge of papers and readings made the last month of courses exciting, nail-biting, and very rewarding. As May gave way to June, I celebrated with friends and family of those graduating from Drew while beginning work as a research assistant for Professor Terry Todd.  My research revealed the complex relationship between politics, gender, sexuality, and trans-national conservative evangelicalism in the late 1970s. This narrative added yet another storyline to an already multifaceted historiographic account of the Religious Right’s ascendancy in the United States.  My summer had officially begun in a key of scholarship. I moved out of the archive and left behind the not-so-cooperative microfilm machines. My next summer destination was a conference at Indiana University’s Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture. The university is known for its innovative journal, Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation. The Center in particular foregrounds “change” in conversations between political scientists, sociologists, scholars of religion, and historians within their respective fields.  The conference discussions pushed me to reflect on why many scholars are nervous about studying the biblical text; how the field of American religious studies understands […]

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New York City Walking Tour Becomes Annual Part of GDR Orientation

Each year incoming students to Drew University’s Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) conclude orientation week with a walking tour of New York City. Now in its third year, this tour is an annual reminder that scholars attend not only to scholarly methodology—but to simple, human truth. A poignant moment toward the end of the tour expressed this well. As students and faculty gathered outside a nondescript apartment building, they read the words of its former occupant, Simone Weil: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. It is given to very few minds to notice that things and beings exist. Since my childhood I have not wanted anything else but to receive the complete revelation of this before dying.” These words, inscribed on a bronze plaque just north of Riverside, captured the intent of the tour—to recognize the many philosophical and theological icons all around us. Under the capable guidance of Dr. Ernie Rubinstein, Drew’s theological librarian, our group did just that. We began at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Its entrance, called the “Portal of Paradise,” includes 32 sculptures of biblical matriarchs and patriarchs positioned amongst carved references to New York City landmarks, Kabbalah spirituality, […]

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GDR Students Participate in 16th Annual Patristics Conference at Oxford

In early August, the two of us along with Dr. Virginia Burrus traveled to Oxford University, where we joined other scholars in conversation about late ancient Christianity.  Since its inception in 1951, the International Patristics Conference, which meets every four years, has provided opportunities for scholars to present their work to a critical, but sympathetic audience.  Convening for the sixteenth time, this year the week- long conference featured a series of sessions recognizing the contributions made to the field of Patristics by former directors of the conference and other pioneers of the discipline—Henry Chadwick, W.H.C. Frend, Robert A. Markus, G.C. Stead, and Maurice Wiles, among others. The conference was about history as well as historiography, as scholars from all over the world, both junior and senior, discussed and debated the interpretation of ancient texts, figures, and events.  It was also about history in the making for some of us first time presenters!  The experience of giving a paper in the span of only 12-15 minutes—a tradition at Oxford—permitted us merely to gesture toward our topics. However, the brevity of presentation time allowed for further dialogue on the perfectly groomed lawn of Christ Church College, in the echoing corridors of the […]

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GDR Students Awarded HRC Summer Institute Fellowship for Studies in Queer T …

Queer scholarship and queer theory are becoming burgeoning sites of academic creativity, and Drew University’s Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) is at the forefront of this work.  Following in the footsteps of last years’ participants, Peter Mena and Sara Rosenau, this year Drew students Jake Erickson and Natalie Williams were awarded the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Summer Institute Fellowship for scholars of religion working on LGTBQ issues of queer hermeneutics, writing, advocacy, varieties of justice, and religious pluralism. This year’s Summer Institute was held at Vanderbilt University, and it brought together 17 Fellows and a number of established faculty, including Traci West, professor of ethics at Drew. This program offers younger queer studies scholars new critical perspectives and mentoring voices in their studies. Now in its second year, it has been described as “inspiring” and “transformative.” Below are two brief reflections from Erickson and Williams on their summer experiences. Jake Erickson (Theological and Philosophical Studies) Our gathering this past summer is on my mind a lot, persistently, and queerly of course.  It keeps firing my imagination about what could be, about what kinds of scholarly communities could exist, and about what kinds of new scholarship could exist for and from queer […]

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Edwards-Mercer Prize takes Alumnus to World Methodist Council

In 1999, I received the MPhil in Theological and Religious Studies from Drew’s Graduate School. Since I was writing my dissertation on early American Methodism, I needed to travel to repositories in distant places. The Edwards-Mercer Prize enabled me to visit the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England.  While searching for correspondence from English Methodist Jabez Bunting, I discovered original documents written by John Wesley, apparently torn from his journal. These holographic entries were misfiled in a box of letters for almost one hundred years. Curiously, they were not included in the Jackson and Bicentennial editions of Wesley’s Works. My wife Thelma, also a Drew alumnus, helped me transcribe the journal entries, which were published in Methodist History July 2000. I later received my PhD in 2004. Subsequently, I was invited to apply for the position of director of studies at the Charles Wesley Heritage Centre (CWHC) in Bristol, England. Scott Kisker, another Drew alumnus, and his wife were leaving the post to have their second baby. During my eighteen- month tenure at the CWHC, Thelma provided hospitality at Charles Wesley’s house while I guided several ex-patriot researchers through the terrain of Wesleys’ Bristol. I convened two major international consultations, […]

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