In Search of a New Dean

—J. Terry Todd What qualities would you like to see in the next dean of the Theological School?  “A visionary,”  “someone who’s caring,” “a spiritual leader,” “someone who understands and promotes diversity in all its forms,” “somebody who gets budgets,” “committed to promoting an educated clergy,” “holy boldness,” “gotta have a sense of humor.”  These are just some of the terms I heard in December during listening sessions with students, faculty, and staff as we prepared to launch our search for the next Dean of the Theological School. As chair of the search committee appointed by Dr. Virginia Samuel Cetuk, who continues to lead the Theological School as Dean for the Interim, it’s my privilege to work with a dynamic group of colleagues who care so deeply about the future of the Theological School and of Drew University – Traci West, Professor of Ethics and African American Studies, Kenneth Ngwa, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Tanya Bennett, Director of University Religious Life and Associate Professor in the Practice of Christian Ministry, Elias Ortega-Aponte, Assistant Professor of Afro-Latina/o Religions and Cultural Studies, and Danna Nolan Fewell, Professor of Hebrew Bible, who agreed to join the Committee even during her sabbatical! Members […]

Posted in GDR

Greetings from the GDR Chair

Dear alumni/ae, current students, faculty, staff, and friends, This is my first opportunity to introduce myself to many of you. A member of the Theological School New Testament faculty for some fifteen years, I took over from Virginia Burrus last July as Chair of the Graduate Division of Religion. I previously had the privilege of chairing the GDR from 2004 to 2009, the first five years of its existence. This won’t come as any surprise to those of you who know her, but Virginia left the GDR in superb shape administratively. I’m sure many of you will want to join me in wishing her every success as she begins a new chapter of her professional life as the Bishop W. Earl Ledden Professor of Religion at Syracuse University. This is also a time, however, to celebrate a new addition to our faculty. This spring Dr. Gerald Liu joins us as Assistant Professor of Homiletics. Gerald holds a Ph.D. in Homiletics and Liturgics from Vanderbilt University. His dissertation was titled “Musics and the Generosity of God” and has now evolved into his first book project. It argues that “all sounds manifest divine generosity.” Gerald further describes his project as an attempt […]

Posted in GDR

Faculty Booknotes, 2008-2013

—Shelley Dennis, GDR Student Drew faculty have been exceedingly busy over the past several years.  Not only have they been facilitating ministerial formation of Theological School students and shaping the scholarship of the doctoral candidates in the Graduate Division of Religion, but they have been prolific in their own scholarship as well.  An exhaustive list of every single publication of every single faculty member would be—well, exhausting—so, just to give you a small sample of their work, we are featuring books released by faculty over the past five years.  Kudos to all our faculty on their recent books!   S. Wesley Ariarajah. Your God, My God, Our God: Rethinking Christian Theology for Religious Plurality. Geneva, Switzerland: WCC Publications, 2012. In today’s religiously plural world, theologian S. Wesley Ariarajah believes that authentic Christian faith demands that we rethink central concepts of the Christian theological tradition. Ariarajah’s work is based on the conviction that some of the basic doctrinal formulations about God, Sin, Christ, Salvation, and Mission can in fact be rethought for our day, helping us to affirm deeply the Christian faith while still respecting other religious experiences in their distinctiveness. In this book, Ariarajah traces the biblical roots and theological […]

Posted in GDR

Entangled Worlds: The Thirteenth Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium a …

—Shelley Dennis, GDR Student Since 2001 Drew University has hosted the Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium, a conference which gathers renowned scholars from a stunning breadth of scholarly disciplines to engage in theoretical conversation and theological construction which is at once self-deconstructive in its pluralism and constructive in its affirmations.  This conference epitomizes Drew’s unique approach to religious scholarship, an approach that emerges from the complexity of the contemporary contexts theology must consider.  No doubt this abundantly multifaceted approach has infused your own religious scholarship. But despite the profound depth and breadth of the scholarship represented annually at TTC, something has been missing: you, our alumni/ae.  We would like more of you to use TTC as a way to remain involved in the Drew academic community.  This year TTC will feature an Alumni/ae Breakfast on Sunday, March 30th.  Catch up and reminisce with former classmates and mentors, network, and meet current students and faculty throughout the conference, and particularly during this special time set aside just for you. This thirteenth colloquium in the series, titled “Entangled Worlds: Science, Religion, Materiality” and scheduled for March 28-30, will consider ways in which theological and religious studies intersect new scientific stories of relationality, such as […]

Posted in GDR

Course Spotlight

The Interdisciplinary Seminar in Women’s Studies: A Student Reflection —Peter McLellan, GDR Student   This past fall, my first as a PhD student in New Testament and Early Christianity at Drew Theological School, I took the Interdisciplinary Seminar in Women’s Studies, which was team-taught by Professors Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre and Traci West. I am not the most obvious candidate to write this article on the experience of taking this course. After all, I spent much of our sessions silent. Certainly, I spoke up to the degree I felt necessary, but as I have experienced in past courses in any sort of gender and race studies as a well-educated, progressively-oriented, male-identified poststructuralist, my struggle to engage further in class discussion was driven by an anxiety over speaking as a straight white man in an explicitly decolonizing space. In the end, what could I say with confidence and certainty anyway in response to any of the pieces in Gloria Anzaldúa and AnaLouise Keating’s This Bridge We Call Home? Was there a way for me to speak in the face of Musa Dube’s African postcolonial feminist biblical scholarship, so different from my own projects in New Testament studies from a white North American experience? […]

Posted in GDR

GDR Student Christian Kakez-A-Kapend Receives Fellowship

Christian Kakez- A- Kapend is one of the students selected as the 2013-14 Dempster Graduate Scholars who will receive awards carrying a value of up to $10,000, to further pursuit theological studies. Christian is a full-time student entering into his second year of doctoral work in Systematic Theology at Drew University. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church (South Congo conference). Dempster Graduate Fellowships are founded by the Ministerial Education Fund through General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Division of Ordained Ministry with the main goal of supporting doctoral students who are committed to serving the church by becoming seminary lecturers and educating the next generation of United Methodist ministers. The fellowships are awarded on the basis of the students’ academic achievement, intellectual excellence, commitment to Christian ministry, clarity of spiritual purpose, and promise of usefulness in teaching careers. The fellowship is named for Rev. John Dempster, an innovative preacher and a pioneer in United Methodist theological education, who is credited with founding of Garret Biblical Institute (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary) and Boston University School of Theology. For an overview of the Dempster Graduate Fellowship, please visit

Posted in GDR

Greetings from the Chair

Dear GDR Graduates, Students, Faculty, and Friends, A year ago in our summer newsletter, I wrote of transitions, and now, somewhat to my own surprise, I find myself turning to the same topic again. Of course, transitions are part of the rhythm of the academic year, and from that perspective it is no surprise that we celebrate a wonderful graduating class yet again, along with annually awarded honors and prizes.  But we must also mark other departures from our community, while celebrating what their lives and work have meant to us.  Most of all, we mark the death and honor the life and work of our most beloved colleague Otto Maduro, who passed away on May 9th of this year, at the still-youthful age of 68, having served on Drew’s faculty for twenty-one years.  It was the enormous good fortune of our community to be able to enjoy with Otto and his family, in Drew’s Craig Chapel on May 3rd, a “celebration of life,” as he put it—of his life, and also of the great gift of life itself, which Otto embodied so wonderfully. We also face changes in leadership.  This summer Theological School Dean Jeffrey Kuan leaves Drew to […]

Posted in Uncategorized

2013 GDR Prize Winners

Academic study at Drew is rigorous, to put it mildly.  Yet every year some students surpass the goals set for them and merit special recognition.  This year the GDR community gathered in the Ehinger Center on May 8, 2013, for the traditional Dean’s Reception, to celebrate the academic year’s end and to honor the achievements of its students.  Drinks and a lovely spread of hors d’oeuvres were enjoyed, and after some initial remarks on the (philosophically weighty!) topic of exemplarity, GDR Chair Virginia Burrus presented the prizes. With a GPA of over 4.0, second year Theological and Philosophical Studies student Elijah Pruitt-Davis took home the Bishop Edmund S. Janes Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement.  Leah Thomas, who has served as Teaching Assistant for three different courses in three different disciplines, was given the James McClintock Prize for the Outstanding Student-Teacher in recognition of her exceptional ability, dedication and promise as a teacher.  And Sara Rosenau’s stellar performance on her comprehensive exams—all QDs!—earned her the James Pearsall Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement, awarded to a Ph.D. student who has completed the comprehensive exams with exceptional academic distinction. Two fortunate students, both in Liturgical Studies, won awards to support their research-related travel […]

Posted in GDR

Course Spotlight: Africana Studies and Religion—A Student Reflection

I earned an M.A. in African and African American Studies from a rather well-known university in Ohio a few years ago.  With the exception of a class on African Literature, I spent most of my time in that program studying 20th-century African American history and literature.  Considering the title of my degree, I have inwardly felt like a fraud when it came to the “African” part of it.  Sure, I came out of that one course understanding the relationship between Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, and Joseph Conrad’s, Heart of Darkness.  However, I knew more about Du Bois’s theory of “double-consciousness” than I did about post-colonial theory and orality.  So, when I learned that Professors Althea Spencer-Miller and Kenneth Ngwa were co-teaching Africana Studies and Religion this past spring semester, I felt compelled to sign-up.  I knew that I couldn’t make up for every “Africana” course I didn’t take in the past. But I also knew that I could add more resources to my toolkit as I continue to think about and research the histories and cultures of persons of African descent. I came away from this class understanding how cultural formalism can be used to evaluate the oral […]

Posted in GDR