This post continues yesterday’s post. I would recommend you read that one first to get the context for this one.
Note. In yesterday’s post, I made an incorrect assumption in calling all these theologians womanists. I do not know if they identify their work as womanist approaches. Nor am I sure that this term is still used today by African American women scholars in describing their current work, and not the historical origins and influences on their work. So I changed the title of this post.
Today, I want to highlight three more prominent theologians who are African American, women who are at the forefront of conversations about theology, gender, and race in the society and particularly in the Christian Church. I chose these women for three reasons: 1) they are still teaching and writing about theology and Biblical studies in the academy; 2) their books are recent publications; and 3) their lectures and sermons are accessible as YouTube videos.
As before, the theologians are presented here in alphabetical order. I highlighted their most recent books, and the videos of their most recent lectures and interviews. I encourage you to join me in taking time to pause, to find a quiet place to read and watch videos, and to discover the depths and wisdom these theologians have to offer.
Nyasha Junior is a biblical scholar, author, speaker, and faculty member in the Department of Religion at Temple University. She was accepted as a visiting faculty member at Harvard Divinity School for 2020-2021. She describes herself as a “truthteller, a faith-shaker, and a lightbulb-moment facilitator.” She is passionate about getting people to think about biblical texts in new ways.
Video: “Beyoncé, Black Women, and the Bible”, April 28, 2016, 39 minutes
Book: An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation (Westminster John Knox Press, 2015)
While womanist biblical interpretation is relatively new in the development of academic biblical studies, African American women are not newcomers to biblical interpretation. Written in an accessible style, An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation, highlights the importance of both the Bible and race in the development of feminism and the emergence of womanism. This volume provides a history of feminist biblical interpretation and discusses the current state of womanist biblical interpretation as well as critical issues related to its development and future. Although some African American women identify themselves as “womanists,” the term, its usage, its features, and its connection to feminism remain widely misunderstood. This innovative book is perfect for students and others who want to learn more about womanist biblical interpretation.
Lisa L. Thompson
Lisa L. Thompson is Associate Professor and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chancellor Faculty Fellow of Black Homiletics and Liturgics at the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion of Vanderbilt University. Before pursuing the study of theology and religion full time, she worked in case management for programs affiliated with the Department of Juvenile Justice and Alternative to Corrections for Women in North Carolina. As an ordained Baptist minister, Dr. Thompson has served in university and parish settings. She has served as the president of the Black Caucus of the Academy of Homiletics.
Video: “Holy Interruptions”, Black Public Theology Symposium, November 6, 2018, 42 minutes
Book: Ingenuity: Preaching as an Outsider (Abingdon Press, 2018)
Ingenuity introduces a theology and practice of preaching that emerges from the faith and wisdom of black women. Preaching has been resourced and taught from a narrow field of cultural or gendered experiences, historically. Without much support from established channels, black women are left to “figure it out” on their own, and others discern how to preach from a limiting scope. The best preachers understand their own voices and the voices of others. They stretch and grow, and this enables them to preach more effectively. Ingenuity equips readers to negotiate tradition, life experiences, and theological conviction in the creative work that makes way for sacred speech. With Ingenuity, Lisa Thompson offers deep insights for anyone seeking to enlarge their understanding, their language, and their sense of lived experiences, and offers practical help through “In Practice” segments for those who preach.
Emilie M. Townes
Emilie M. Townes is Dean of the Divinity School and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Dr. Townes’ areas of expertise include Christian ethics, cultural theory and studies, postmodernism and social postmodernism. She has been a pioneering scholar in womanist theology. She is an ordained American Baptist clergywoman. Dr. Townes recently served as president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion. She was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009.
Video: “Embodied Leadership”, Women in Ministry Conference Keynote, October 31, 2019, 39 minutes
Book: Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader, edited by Katie Geneva Cannon, Emilie M. Townes, and Angela D. Sims (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011)
Writing across theological disciplines, nine African American women scholars reflect on what it means to live as responsible doers of justice. With some classic essays and some contributions published here for the first time, each chapter in this new volume in the Library of Theological Ethics series presents analytical strategies for understanding the story of womanist scholarship in the service of the black community. The Library of Theological Ethics series focuses on what it means to think theologically and ethically. It presents a selection of important and otherwise unavailable texts in easily accessible form. Volumes in this series will enable sustained dialogue with predecessors though reflection on classic works in the field.
There are certainly many more prominent African American women scholars, but I think these five are a good starting point in our listening to women’s voices in the academy. In a future post, I will highlight the voices of African American women in the pulpits of our Christian churches. As we have seen in these five theologians in the academy, some are, at the same time, preachers in their own churches.