The Rev. Melanie Jones first scholar to serve as Crump Visiting Professor and Black Religious Scholars Group Scholar-in-Residence
Seminary of the Southwest, and the Black Religious Scholars Group, Inc. (BRSG) announced recently a partnership that will enable the community at Seminary of the Southwest to live into the promise that diversity and reconciliation hold for all of God’s people.
Each year for the next five years the Seminary and BRSG will identify, prepare, and support a Black religious scholar to serve a one-year term as Crump Visiting Professor and Black Religious Scholars Group Scholar-in-Residence. Teaching required courses and electives and contributing to community life and worship, this scholar will join with the faculty in formation of leaders to lead conversations across boundaries of race and ethnicity.
Created as a response to the call issued by The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, for the church to focus on evangelism and racial reconciliation and to address needs expressed by Southwest students and graduates, this new partnership recognizes that our communities are living in a time of racially motivated hostility that has created a new urgency in addressing issues of race in Seminary of the Southwest’s theological training.
“This past year has shown how important the work of racial justice and reconciliation is in the United States. Seminary of the Southwest believes that this work must include our own community of learning. It is our sincere hope that this partnership and what we learn from it will be a model for other seminaries to collaborate with aligned organizations to foster racial and ethnic diversity in their institutions, the church, and the world,” said The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest.
Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas, Executive Director and co-founder of BRSG, said, “The Black Religious Scholars Group acknowledges this partnership as an exemplary way in which theological education and the church can live into the promises of our ideals during an era that may otherwise suggest that all hope is lost in a church and society in deep crisis. As an organization that is committed to linking divine justice to social justice, the BRSG is intentional in its efforts to collaborate with Christian believers across racial and denominational lines who are committed to a more representative and inclusive world. Through this burgeoning partnership, we will work together in order to continue to have and hold onto a rich and robust faith that not only saves souls but also saves lives without losing minds. The work that we are embarking upon is built on a steadfast belief that our shared Christian witness is far stronger than persistent economic insecurity, rising cultural intolerance, growing political divisions, and increased anti-immigrant attitudes. Moving beyond gestures of good will by a well-meaning institution towards more systemic and sustainable efforts, this new partnership between the BRSG and Seminary of the Southwest also serves as a hopeful beacon of great promise and wonderful possibility to other likeminded institutions. Thus, we are convinced that what once may have seemed fortuitous now appears to be nothing less than ordained.”
“Working with the Black Religious Scholars Group to design this venture has been an exciting and hopeful process. We will be challenged; we will learn; and we will be changed. We are eager to welcome Melanie Jones, who will be the first scholar to hold this position and who will enrich us with her unique gifts. We hope that she will benefit as a teacher and scholar from living and working in the Seminary of the Southwest community,” said Kittredge.
The first scholar to serve as the Crump Visiting Professor and Black Religious Scholars Group Scholar-in-Residence will be The Rev. Melanie Jones. Jones is a womanist ethicist, millennial preacher, and intellectual activist. As an emergent scholar in theological education advocating for social transformation in the Church, classroom, and global community, Jones was quickly recruited to serve on the BRSG executive board. In her role as the BRSG Director of Social Media and Public Outreach, she has poised herself as a leading millennial voice with a global public platform teaching in lecture halls and preaching in pulpits across the globe, and traveling to cities in North America, Australia, Bahamas, Bermuda, Ghana, New Zealand and United Arab Emirates. Her extensive teaching experience ranges from undergraduate teaching to graduate and seminary teaching in both face-to-face and online courses in humanities, theology, ethics, gender/sexuality studies and writing.
Jones is the Co-Curator of the #MillennialWomanism editorial forum hosted on the recently launched Black Theology Project (btpbase.org) site. Her writings and sermons are accessible to scholars, students and general society as they are featured widely in popular digital and print publications including The Feminist Wire, Chicago Theological Seminary Challenge & Response Magazine, The Forum for Theological Exploration Blog, Alpha Kappa Alpha Ivy Leaf Magazine, Sunday School Publishing Board — National Baptist Convention, USA, Urban Ministries, Incorporated, Urban Faith App and ROHO. She is a third-generation Baptist preacher and the youngest ordained clergywoman at South Suburban M. B. Church in Harvey, IL, where she serves as Associate Minister and leads the women’s ministry. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science from Howard University and a Master of Divinity with a certificate in Black Church Studies from Vanderbilt University Divinity School. Currently, she is a Doctor of Philosophy candidate at Chicago Theological Seminary and was recently named a 2017-2018 Doctoral Dissertation Fellow by The Louisville Institute.