Minorities Prep to Teach Theology

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 28, 2009 | Go to article overview

Minorities Prep to Teach Theology


Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When President Obama began appointing a host of former outsiders to serve on his faith advisory council, religion writers had to scramble to expand their Rolodex to include these new black and Hispanic voices.

For instance, I had never heard of Miguel Diaz, the Cuban-born college professor who is the president's pick for ambassador to the Vatican.

So I was interested to hear that 45 black doctoral candidates who hope to follow in Martin Luther King's footsteps were having a conference at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. One evening, they sat at the feet of the Rev. James Lawson, a peace activist and philosopher who teamed up with Mr. King to organize student sit-ins in 1959 and 1960 to protest segregation in Nashville stores.

I met with two of the candidates' mentors: Sharon Watson Fluker, vice president of doctoral programs and administration for the Atlanta-based Fund for Theological Education (FTE), and Judy Fentress-Williams, an associate professor of Old Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS).

The FTE, which creates scholarships for theological students, says more than one-third of the 253 seminaries and theological schools in North America have no minority professors. Lest anyone blame the religious folks for being racist, the secular religious schools have even fewer professors of color.

But of the 91 black, Hispanic, Asian or Indian scholars that have gone through FTE programs in the past 10 years, 79 percent have teaching positions.

As we chatted at VTS last week, these two women introduced me to a whole realm of black scholars who have made it in academia. Chief among them is the Rev. Emilie Townes of Yale Divinity School, who was the only black woman enrolled during her first year at the University of Chicago's divinity school. …

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Minorities Prep to Teach Theology
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