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LPTS to inaugurate fall lecture series with new endowed lecture

Sep 14, 2006

Louisville Seminary will inaugurate fall lecture series with new endowed lecture

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will inaugurate the endowed Henry H. and Marion A. Presler Lectureship as part of a new fall lecture series to be held October 25-26, 2006. Established to honor the lifetime missionary service of the Presler couple, the new lectureship will be offered in conjunction with the annual Edwards Peacemaking Lectureship and feature two outstanding thinkers and writers who will focus on the reconciling work and study of missions, peace, and justice.

Henry H. Presler and his spouse, Marion Constance Anders Presler, were missionaries, serving for a time as faculty members at Leonard Theological College in Jabalpur, Madya Pradesh, India. Henry Presler spent two years at Louisville Seminary before becoming a Methodist and transferring to Boston University School of Theology. This was during the time of the Great Depression when the Methodists were sending missionaries and the Presbyterians had suspended overseas activities due to financial constraints.

Presler treasured his earlier formation in theology and the practice of ministry at Louisville Seminary, and out of love and appreciation for his experience there, the Preslers left a bequest that Louisville Seminary endow a lectureship on mission, focusing on “American sending bodies.”

Louisville Seminary is hopeful that the new lecture will inspire the Seminary community and its wider lifelong learning community about issues of global mission and the role of American denominations in their historical and present witness in mission. Future topics of the lectures will vary, but the overall theme is Jesus Christ’s commission to the church in Matthew 28:19-20, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

“The old-line churches have long debated whether to give priority to ministries of peace and justice on the one hand or to ministries of evangelism and mission on the other,” said David Sawyer, professor of ministry and director of Lifelong Learning and Advanced Degrees at Louisville Seminary.

“Former Presbyterian Church Moderator Clinton Marsh used to say that that debate was like asking which was more important in an automobile (a non-hybrid one, to be sure) – the alternator or the battery. One without the other won't keep the car running for very long.”

“By combining the new Presler Lectureship in world missions with the Edwards Lectureship on Peace and Justice, we've created an exciting new fall event in which we can hold justice and evangelism where they belong, side by side in the passions of the church,” said Sawyer.

To inaugurate The Edwards-Presler Lectures on Justice and Mission, and the Presler Lecture specifically, Dr. Dana L. Robert, a leading historian of Christian mission and professor from Presler’s alma mater, will present “The Great Commission and Global Christianity in the 21st Century,” on October 25 at 10 a.m. in Caldwell Chapel.

Dana L. Robert is the Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission at Boston University School of Theology, where she has been teaching since 1984. With her husband M.L. Daneel, an expert on African indigenous religions, she directs the Center for World Christianity and Mission at Boston University. She has directed over forty doctoral dissertations in the history of world Christianity and mission studies, and former students hold teaching and ministry positions around the world.

Robert is a United Methodist from Louisiana. She earned her BA from Louisiana State University and the PhD from Yale University. For twelve years, she has traveled annually to Zimbabwe, where she conducts research and helps to facilitate a program in Theological Education by Extension among indigenous churches. Among her publications are numerous articles and books, including American Women in Mission: A Social History of their Thought and Practice (1997), ‘Occupy Until I Come’: A. T. Pierson and the Evangelization of the World (2003), Christianity: A Social and Cultural History (co-author 1997), and African Initiatives in Christian Mission: Vol 1 The Mission Churches (editor, 2003).

Robert’s lecture will be teamed up with “Nihilism: Religion and Response” by womanist theologian Dr. Delores S. Williams, who will deliver the Edwards Peacemaking Lecture on October 26 at 7 p.m. The generous gifts and bequests to endow both lectures make it possible for the Seminary to offer the fall lecture series to the public, free of charge.

Delores S. Williams is the Paul Tillich Professor Emerita of Theology and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. She is a native of Louisville, Ky., and a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Williams graduated in 1965 from the University of Louisville with the BA. She earned her MA from Columbia University and the PhD from Union Theological Seminary. Williams’s research and teaching have focused on the emergence of womanist theology and on religion and popular culture. Her groundbreaking book, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk, (1993) is considered a classic. Her forthcoming book, Black Theology in a New Key, Feminist Theology in a Different Voice, promises to join it.

She is a member of the American Academy of Religion; the Society for the Study of Black Religion; Feminist Scholars in Religion; and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. She has served as the board chairperson of the Green Hope Project, a residential rehabilitation program for women as an alternative to incarceration, and she was a member of the strategy team of Harlem Initiatives Together, a group working with Harlem residents to improve community life.

In her role as the Edwards Peacemaking lecturer, Williams honors Dr. George Edwards and his wife, Jean. Dr. Edwards, an alum of Louisville Seminary (BD ‘51), served the Seminary for 27 years as Professor of New Testament. Together the Edwards have long been active in Christian efforts for peace and social justice.

Established in 1986, the Edwards Peacemaking Lectureship endowment supports a visiting lecturer to teach a course or speak at another lifelong learning event. Recent Edwards lecturers have included peace educator and jazz musician Harry Pickens, Rev. Dr. Joan M. Martin, Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics at The Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in Cambridge, Mass., Dr. Nancy Ramsay of Louisville Seminary, Dr. William Wiggins of Indiana University, Dr. Hugh Halverstadt of McCormick Theological Seminary, Dr. James B. McGinnis of the Institute for Peace and Justice in St. Louis, Mo., and Dr. J. Alfred Smith of Allen-Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, California.

For more information about the free fall lecture series or accommodations contact the Office of Lifelong Learning, 800.264.1839 or 502.895.3411, ext. 429.
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