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Yale professor Shannon Craigo-Snell called to teach theology

by Louisville Seminary | Jun 30, 2011
The Board of Trustees of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary has called Dr. Shannon Craigo-Snell as Professor of Theology, with tenure. The Yale University professor will officially join the Seminary community July 1, 2011.

Last November, the Seminary began its search for a constructive theologian, an individual with wide interests, and “whose energies are devoted to teaching and scholarship which freshly and faithfully articulate Christian faith for the contemporary world.” Among more than 70 applicants, Craigo-Snell quickly rose to the top as the candidate who best fit that description.

“Our students will serve in perhaps the most pluralistic society in history. They will be called upon to interpret diversity with integrity, reverence, and respect. Dr. Craigo-Snell is committed to bringing theology alive in the context of the global church. Her ability to engage students in theological conversations that are simultaneously biblical, Christian, historical, systematic, doctrinal, theatrical, multi-religious, and multi-cultural are well-suited to the Seminary’s mission of preparing men and women for ministry in a multi-religious world,” stated President Michael Jinkins.

Craigo-Snell earned degrees (PhD, MPhil, MA, and MDiv) at Yale University and Yale Divinity School. Since 2001, she has taught in the Religious Studies department at Yale University, where she also earned several Yale fellowships and professional research grants. Her students have included undergraduates with diverse religious backgrounds in the secular context of the University; denominationally diverse Divinity School students; and doctoral students in religious studies. These varied contexts have been part of her formation as a constructive theologian.

“My own calling is to be a theologian of, in, and for the church,” she stated. “I am called to teach and write in service to the church, thus I am excited about teaching in the seminary setting. Louisville Seminary is a place where I can bring the interdisciplinary scholarship and attention to religious diversity that I have honed in the university into the work of preparing Christians for ministry.”

The theological search committee, chaired by Louisville Seminary Professor Amy Plantinga Pauw, noted her seasoned abilities as a classroom teacher. In speaking about her own pedagogical style, Craigo-Snell said, “The classroom is a space of communal inquiry in which students are challenged to think rigorously about theological issues and to integrate their learning into a broader context of critical thinking and creative response.”

She seeks to provide students with conceptual frameworks and historical backgrounds necessary to understand Christian theology as dynamically interrelated to history, politics, ethics, and art.

“Modeling how to read texts from various genres—including television, poetry, historical documents, and fiction—theologically, I then ask students to do likewise, making theological sense of the world around them. With divinity students in particular, I strive to instill a love of doctrine and a commitment to ongoing engagement with the rich traditions of Christian theology,” she added.

Craigo-Snell has an impressive publishing record that spans a similar scope of interdisciplinary diversity. In addition to several articles for journals such as The Ecumenist, Quaker Religious Thought, Jump Cut, and Modern Theology, she has written The Empty Church: Theatre, Theology, and Bodily Hope (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), in which she builds on “analogies between theatre and church,” as a way to understand God more fully through the performance of one’s Christian life. She is the author of Silence, Love, and Death: Saying Yes to God in the Theology of Karl Rahner (Marquette University Press, 2008), which integrates the themes in Rahner’s thought with feminism, postmodernism, and liberation theologies on the “relationship between individual and communal understanding of the self,” and co-author of Living Christianity: A Pastoral Theology for Today (Fortress, 2009), a collaborative work between Craigo-Snell and Shawnthea Monroe, a pastor in the United Church of Christ. The book bridges the tensions between church and academy on major theological doctrines from a variety of perspectives.

The search committee also noted that Craigo-Snell “has shown herself to be committed to the well-being of the larger institution.” In addition to her teaching at Yale, she has served on numerous committees, including the University Committee on Majors and the Committee on Teaching in the Residential Colleges. Over the past year, she served as Assistant Director of Graduate Studies in Theology. In the wider academic arena she was the founding co-chair of the Transformative Scholarship and Pedagogy Consultation for the American Academy of Religion (AAR) from 2008 to 2010.

An active member of her congregation, First Presbyterian Church of New Haven, Connecticut, she is currently an inquirer for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA), “with an understanding that I am called to a ministry of teaching and scholarship,” said Craigo-Snell.

“Dr. Craigo-Snell exhibits curiosity, attentiveness, and joy in her vocation as a theologian. She is an articulate speaker and writer who is deeply committed to the life of the church. Her classroom presence is that of a master teacher, one who has thought deeply about the fine art of instruction. We look forward to welcoming her to our collegium and to learning from her in our community life together,” said Pauw.

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