GDR | Graduate Division of Religion | Drew University

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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? […]

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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 http://www.gbhem.org/ministry/dempster-graduate-fellowship

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Fourteen GDR Students Awarded Doctoral Degrees

On Friday, May 17, 2013, the faculty, staff, and students of the Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) gathered in Craig Chapel to celebrate the annual hooding ceremony.  Assistant Professor of Church Music Mark Miller played the organ, as first faculty and then students processed into the chapel, donned in brightly colored academic regalia.  There graduates and their families and friends were greeted by Drew’s President, Vivian Bull, who affirmed the crucial importance of the GDR to the University.  Theological School Dean Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan also extended his welcome and congratulations, observing that 2013 marks the 100th year of doctoral education in religion at Drew—an auspicious year in which to graduate!  Finally, GDR Chair Virginia Burrus discussed the symbolism of the graduate hood itself as a marker of identity and belonging: lined in silk with the school’s colors, its opening trimmed in dark blue velvet to denote the Doctor of Philosophy degree, the hood connects its bearers with a deep history of intellectual training while also signifying their enduring ties with Drew.  Invoking their vocation as scholars and teachers, Burrus left the graduates with a passage from the early fifth-century Christian writer Palladius:  “Words and syllables do not constitute teaching—sometimes those […]

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GDR Student Matt Riley Pursues Religion and Ecology Beyond Drew

Doctoral candidate Matt Riley is testimony that one needn’t wait until after graduation to make a tangible contribution to scholarship in one’s field.  Riley is currently working as a Research Associate at the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale, the largest international and multi-religious project of its kind, and has been intimately involved with some of the groundbreaking and award-winning scholarly work produced by this innovative forum. Recently, Forum Co-Founder and Co-Director Mary Evelyn Tucker has teamed up with evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme to produce an Emmy Award winning documentary film, book, and Educational DVD series called Journey of the Universe.  This series draws together insights from the sciences, the humanities, and the world religions to create a one-of-a-kind narrative of the human place in the cosmos. As part of the Journey of the Universe project, Riley created Curricular Materials which contain science guides, bibliographies, discussion questions, and other teaching resources. These curricular materials have been used by educators in university settings, religious organizations, and other fora of ecological education. Riley reflects, “It has been a fascinating journey to be a part of and it is an aspect of my work at the Forum which will continue long […]

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