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J. Deotis Roberts, pioneer of black theology, will speak at 154th commencement exercises

by Louisville Seminary | May 01, 2007
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will hold its 154th commencement exercises on Sunday, May 20, 2007, 3:30 p.m., at Second Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky.

The Seminary will confer the following degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, Master of Arts in Religion, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Ministry. Of the 39 potential graduates, 15 are women and 24 are men.

Through partnerships with two local universities, Benjamin Robbins will graduate with the dual degree in Master of Divinity and the Masters in Business Administration (University of Louisville), and Charles Tinsley Stewart will receive the dual Master of Arts in Religion and the Master of Arts in Spirituality degree (Bellarmine University).

Several of the twelve December 2006 graduates will join their class to receive diplomas at the May exercises.

In the Seminary’s non-degree programs, diplomas in pastoral studies will be granted to three individuals, and the Certificate in Pastoral Counseling Supervision will be granted to seven students.

The Commencement speaker will be Rev. Dr. J. Deotis Roberts, author, professor, and pioneer of black theology and modern American theology. His commencement address, “The Presence of God’s Kingdom,” will be based on the biblical text from Matthew 6:7-14.

J. Deotis Roberts is the founder and president of the J. Deotis Roberts Research Library and Institute. Author of more than fourteen books and more than one hundred scholarly articles, he is regarded as one of the most prominent theologians in the world.

Roberts earned his Ph.D. in philosophical theology from the University of Edinburgh and later received from the university the D.Litt. Degree. He was called to teach theology at Howard University Divinity School in Washington, D.C., where he educated students for many years.

Because of the tumultuous climate of the Black Power movement and student activism on Howard University’s campus, Roberts became actively engaged in the intersection between the question of black liberation and classical theological notions of forgiveness and reconciliation. These reflections gave rise to his groundbreaking book, Liberation and Reconciliation, in 1971.

Reconciliation and dialogue have been the two abiding themes of Roberts’ distinguished career as theologian, minister, peacemaker, and activist. Within these themes he has also written, Bonhoeffer and King: Speaking Truth to Power (2005), A Black Political Theology (2005), and Seasons of Life, his autobiography that will be released this summer.

Roberts is former president of the highly regarded American Theological Association and past president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Ga.; and founder of the Foundation for Religious and Educational Exchange, Inc.

During commencement exercises, the Devoted Service Award will be presented to Dr. Roberts and to two Presbyterian synod moderators: Patrick Smith, president of Martha Grace Foods, Inc., and an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Sheffield, Ala., serving the Synod of Living Waters, and Dwight Corrin, an attorney in Wichita, Kans., serving the Synod of Mid-America. These awards recognize individuals for their dedicated service in the life of the Church.

Prior to Commencement, LPTS Professors Johanna W. H. van Wijk-Bos and Amy Plantinga Pauw, will deliver the Baccalaureate Service sermon, “The Upheaval of Grace,” (Psalm 68:1-20 and 2 Corinthians 6:1-10) at a 10:30 a.m. worship service. The Baccalaureate will be held in the Seminary’s Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel. Each year, the graduating class selects the Baccalaureate preacher or preachers.

Johanna Bos, professor of Old Testament, is the first to be installed to the professorship in Bible, named in honor of the Seminary’s first woman graduate, The Rev. Dora Emma Pierce (B.D. 1961).

The senior member of the faculty, Bos teaches Hebrew Bible, Hebrew language and electives in liberation theology. She has become widely known as a feminist biblical scholar and theologian with an emphasis on the participation of women in the Bible and the life of faith. She has taught in multi-racial and multi-cultural settings in Montpelier, France, with students from across the French-speaking world, and in Salvador, Brazil, with black and native Brazilian women. She conducts workshops and seminars in the wider church on a frequent basis. An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), she engages herself with issues of justice for women and disadvantaged groups locally and in the global arena.

Bos earned degrees from Leiden University, Faculty of Theology, The Netherlands, and Union Theological Seminary, New York. A pioneering woman in theological teaching, she was the only woman in 1976 to receive a doctorate from Union Theological Seminary in New York and the first woman to receive academic tenure at Louisville Seminary.

She writes regularly for both scholarly and popular publications. Some of her books include Making Wise the Simple: The Torah in Christian Faith and Practice (Eerdmans, 2005), Reasoning With The Foxes: Female Wit in a World of Male Power (No. 42 in the Semeia series), co-edited with J. Cheryl Exum (Atlanta: Scholars Press. 1998), Reimagining God—The Case for Scriptural Diversity (Westminster John Knox, 1995), and Called Out With: Stories of Solidarity in Support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Persons (Westminster John Knox, 1997).

Amy Plantinga Pauw studied at Calvin Seminary before completing her M.Div. at Fuller Seminary in 1984. In her doctoral studies at Yale she became particularly interested in the writings of Jonathan Edwards. Since joining the faculty at Louisville Seminary in 1990, she has taught a variety of courses including Christology, ecclesiology, and feminist ethics, and the theologies of Jonathan Edwards, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

A renowned theologian in the Reformed tradition, Pauw says that Louisville Seminary is a place where she can explore, along with her students, issues and ideas that are vital to the Church’s future. “Teaching theology is at least two-fold for me," she says. "One part is conveying to students a sense of the diversity and elasticity of the Christian tradition on the perennial issues of the faith: How do we know God? Who is Jesus Christ? How is God involved in the world’s suffering? What do we hope for? The other part is to encourage students to be theologians themselves, to join the church’s ongoing conversation about how to be faithful to God and each other in our time and place.”

Pauw serves on the editorial boards of the Columbia Reformed Theology Series, Yale University Press’ edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, and various journals. Her writing interests include feminism and Reformed theology, Jonathan Edwards, and Christian practices. She was a 1997-98 Lilly Faculty Fellow, pursuing research on The Supreme Harmony of All: Jonathan Edwards’ Trinitarian Theology published by Eerdmans Press (2002). She is co-author with Louisville Seminary Professor Susan Garrett of a devotional guide for pre-teen children, entitled Making Time for God: Daily Devotions for Children and Families to Share (Baker Book House, 2002), and with Serene Jones she co-edited Feminist and Womanist Essays in Reformed Dogmatics (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2006).

Founded in 1853, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is one of ten Presbyterian Church (USA) seminaries. It is also approved by the United Methodist, the African Methodist Episcopal, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal denominations to educate their pastors and professionals. The Seminary is committed to nurturing inclusive study, experience, and exploration that seek to learn from the wisdom of minority voices. As a community with a multicultural vision, Louisville Seminary is a center of theological education that values and embraces the diversity of perspectives.

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