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AME Church Bishop Vashti McKenzie to speak at Commencement, May 22

by Louisville Seminary | May 13, 2011
Professor Dianne Reistroffer selected as Baccalaureate preacher

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will hold its 158th Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 22, 2011, at Second Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., at 3:30 p.m.

The Rt. Rev. Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Bishop of the 13th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, is the Commencement speaker. Her address is entitled "Which One of You?"

Bishop McKenzie serves as the 117th elected Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Her historic election in 2000 represents the first time in the 200-year history of the AME Church that a woman had obtained that level of Episcopal office. In 2005, she again made history by becoming the first woman selected as the head of the denomination, as the presiding prelate of the Council of Bishops.

McKenzie is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, where she began a successful career in journalism, radio, and Christian media broadcasting. After joining the AME Church, she earned her Master of Divinity degree from Howard University Divinity School and the Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. She has served as a congregational pastor and was featured in Ebony Magazine’s "Honor Roll of Great African American Preachers." McKenzie preaches and speaks to diverse groups across the country and around the world. In April 2011, she was the guest speaker of Louisville Seminary’s Women at the Well Retreat for women of color in serving in ministry. She also is the author of four books, including Not without a Struggle and Strength in the Struggle, focused on leadership and professional growth for women.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzieAs Bishop of the 13th Episcopal District, based in Nashville, Tenn., she has launched an innovative agenda among her congregations with an aim to “Rebuild lives, Churches, and Communities” through numerous social ministries, with educational services among her priorities. Bishop McKenzie values theological education and, under her leadership, AME Church students have been encouraged to study at Louisville Seminary, and they have done so with distinction.

“Over the years, Louisville Seminary has been honored to count among its alums men and women of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who have honored their denomination and Louisville Seminary with their study and preparation for continued ministry in the church,” said President Michael Jinkins, who will be presiding at his first Commencement ceremony since becoming President of the Seminary in September 2010.

These alums have included the late Louisville activist Rev. Louis H. Coleman Jr. (MDiv ’79); Rev. Charmayne Davis (MACE), who directed the first Freedom School in Louisville and is currently studying in the Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program; Rev. Erika Taylor, a graduate of the Marriage and Family Therapy program (2006), who is a therapist and pastor Greater Taylor Chapel AME Church in Franklin, Ky.; and Rev. Shielah Robinson, who graduated in 2010 with dual degrees in divinity and marriage and family therapy.

Commencement Exercises

Louisville Seminary will confer the following degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, Master of Arts (Religion), Master of Theology, and Doctor of Ministry. Of the 42 potential graduates, 19 are women and 23 are men. Three in the graduating class will receive dual degrees with their Master of Divinity degree, one the Juris Doctorate from the University of Louisville, one the Master of Spirituality degree from Bellarmine University, and one the Master of Arts (Religion) from Louisville Seminary.

The 158th Commencement will also mark a significant milestone in the Seminary’s history. Several men and women will be recognized for their continuing studies on behalf of the church as the Certificate in Black Church Studies is awarded for the first time to six students. In addition, Certificates in Pastoral Studies and Pastoral Counseling Supervision will be awarded.

As part of the ceremony, the Devoted Service Awards, which recognize individuals for their dedicated service in the life of the Church, will be presented to the Commencement Speaker and to Elder Carolyn Jordan, Moderator of the Synod of Living Waters, which comprises 12 presbyteries in the four-state region of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Graduate awards also will be announced recognizing student accomplishments in a variety of areas, including, preaching, theology, the integration of theology with marriage and family therapy, field education, and overall academic achievement.

Baccalaureate Service

Dianne ReistrofferPrior to Commencement, at a morning worship service, Dr. Dianne Reistroffer, Director of Field Education and Methodist Studies and Professor of Ministry, will deliver the Baccalaureate sermon, “God Bless this Mess.” The Baccalaureate will be held in the Seminary’s Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel at 10:30 a.m.

Each year, members of the graduating class select the Baccalaureate preacher and create the worship service. A member of the Louisville Seminary faculty since 1998, Dr. Reistroffer is an experienced pastor and educator, with dual standing as a clergy member in the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Presbytery of Western Kentucky of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She earned degrees from the College of St. Teresa, Winona, Minnesota, (BA); Villanova University, Pennsylvania (MA); Boston University School of Theology (MTS, MDiv); and the University of Wisconsin, Madison (PhD), with additional study at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has received numerous awards during her tenure at Louisville Seminary, including the 2000 Metroversity Grawemeyer Special Merit Award for Instructional Development for her course, “Faith and Money.” In 2000, during her years as Seminary Dean, she also earned for Louisville Seminary a $300,000 grant from the Luce Foundation in order to establish a comprehensive academic support services program for seminary students. She also has been recognized for her coaching models for guiding faculty work in curriculum and course assessment. Her guidance of students through their practical education experiences has endeared her among the graduates as a significant contribution to their formation for ministry.

Founded in 1853, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is one of ten Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminaries. The Seminary is committed to nurturing an inclusive learning community in which men and women can follow God’s call to theological education and prepare to serve in an increasingly pluralistic world.

Caldwell Chapel is located on the campus of Louisville Seminary at 1044 Alta Vista Road, Louisville, Ky., 40205, and Second Presbyterian Church is located at 3701 Old Brownsboro Road.

For more information contact Louisville Seminary at 502.895.3411 or toll free at 800.264.1839.

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