Committed to feminist theology, Trinity Lutheran Seminary and ELCA’s Quality of Call Initiative for Women in Ministry appointed Denise Rector as the seminary’s first Doctor of Residence (DSIR).
Womanist theology is an understanding of God and the world that focuses on the experiences and ideas of black women. Trinity, part of Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, has made increasing efforts to give voice to historical and contemporary exploration of the Christian faith based on the unique experiences and contributions of women of African descent.
The DSIR is awarded to ELCA women of color who complete their dissertations in theology, biblical studies, or religion. The position supports the practical and professional demands of doctoral students as they complete their dissertations in areas that serve the ongoing reform of the church.
Rector is completing his doctorate at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Her dissertation explores the feedback loop between historiography (how we imagine and write history) and epistemology (how we know) in the construction of African-American racial identities throughout United States history and in the Church.
“I became interested in studying women’s theology when I realized that I did not see myself – a black woman – or the history of black women represented in the teachings of some of the theology courses I was taking. “, said Rector. She finds that feminist theology “recognizes the importance of including people…whose rich cultural understandings of the divinity of God do not always manifest themselves in church on Sunday mornings.”
Rector said it is essential to explore these questions faithfully and theologically and understand their effect on how Church history and American history are incorporated into teachings of God’s creation. “For a long time there has been an Americanist religion that does not always reflect the racial and ethical variety of creation.”
Feminist theology “recognizes the importance of including people…whose rich cultural understanding of the divinity of God may not always come to church on Sunday mornings.”
Kathryn Kleinhans, dean of Trinity, said the seminary is committed to looking at American history “through marginalized groups and telling their stories of history, theology and ethics that we don’t yet have. told”.
In 2021, ELCA Gender Justice and Women’s Empowerment and ELCA Quality of Call Initiative, funded by anonymous donors, supported Trinity’s activities related to the ELCA Womanist Theology Initiative. The project allows students from all ELCA seminaries to take courses focused on feminist theology, regardless of which seminary offers the course.
The Rector’s appointment also builds on the success of “Hush No More: Perspectives From Womanist Theologians,” a series of seminars hosted by Trinity in the fall of 2021 on the development of womanist interpretations of Scripture and womanist perspectives on the pastoral.
Mary J. Streufert, ELCA’s director for the Quality of Call initiative and for gender justice and women’s empowerment, said the doctoral student in residence is an investment in women.
“Supporting women of color working in areas such as feminist theology is also an investment in ministerial imagination and training within ELCA,” Streufert said. “I can’t wait to see the Holy Spirit continue to work.”
Rector, who plans to complete her dissertation in 2024, said black female seminary professors are rare.
“Being here at Trinity Lutheran Seminary has been like landing in the most beautiful nest for someone starting a teaching career,” she said. “Dean Kleinhans wants to bring in professors of color to be part of the diversity of academia so that students are exposed to theology taught with a culturally rich, expansive, and inclusive outlook.”
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