Celebrating Dr. Cheryl Anderson’s 23 Years of Service
May 5, 2023
“In her very embodiment are the muscle, social, historical, and generational memories of struggle, resilience, beauty, and brilliance. In many ways, she has been an exemplar of Garrett’s vision and mission.”
Dean Mai-Anh Le Tran (Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean & Associate Professor of Religious Education and Practical Theology) offers these kind words to her long-time colleague and friend, Dr. Cheryl Anderson, whose faithful service and love for Garrett and the communities she has served has made lifelong impact.
For 23 years, Dr. Anderson has taught one of her favorite courses—Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.
“I usually teach this course in the fall semester, which means that it was one of the first courses that students experience in their seminary education. It has been an honor to help set the tone for their time at Garrett-Evangelical,” says Dr. Anderson. Those connections helped build some beautiful partnerships with students and colleagues.
“I am deeply grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from my professors at Garrett and from my advisor, Dr. Cheryl Anderson,” said Aaron Dorsey, a 2022 Doctoral Fellow from the Forum for Theological Exploration. “They together have helped me hone my research, to develop as an educator, and to imagine how my academic pursuits can contribute to the flourishing of communities of color.”
But it was not a love and dedication without risk. From 1990 to 1993, Anderson acted as an associate pastor of Grace United Methodist Church (UMC) of Gaithersburg, Maryland. She was the first associate pastor, the first woman, and the first African American to serve that congregation.
“It was a risk for the bishop to appoint me there, but things turned out beautifully.”
Her courage and conviction remained undaunted, and with it, those around her flourished. Anderson is well-known for her thoughtful pressing.
“For most of my career, my research has focused on reading the Bible in the context of HIV and AIDS and the African American community,” says Dr. Anderson. “This approach took seriously issues of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation when reading the Bible. In the U.S. context, it is known as womanist approaches to the field.”
Yet, even in the midst of a busy teaching and preaching ministry, and much like those who influenced her, she made time to connect with her colleagues. “In the midst of her busy schedule, Cheryl took the time to meet with me for lunches,” says Dr. Dong Hyeon Jeong (Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation & Director of the Center for Asian/Asian American Ministry). “Our conversations at Frida’s [Breakfast and Lunch in Evanston] will always be a reminder of how caring, generous, prophetic, and fabulous she is!”
During her entire tenure, Dr. Anderson has tirelessly and intentionally helped Garrett flourish, and she fondly recounts the collaborations that contributed to it.
“My first year on the faculty of Garrett-Evangelical was Rosemary Radford Ruether’s last year. A few months before that academic year began, I told her that I would be honored to teach a course with her. I had an idea for a course, and she had a totally different idea in mind. Her solution? We taught both courses: Feminist Theology and Biblical Interpretation and Women and Goddesses in the Ancient Near East. I’m still impressed that she would take the risk to teach not one but two courses with me when I was just out of my doctoral program.”
Dr. Ruether seemed to sense Dr. Anderson’s bright future and what would become a long list of scholarly contributions, including Fragile Dignity: Intercontextual Conversations on Scriptures, Family, and Violence (Society of Biblical Literature); Ancient Laws and Contemporary Controversies: The Need for Inclusive Biblical Interpretation (Oxford University Press); and Reconsidering Theological Education in an Age of HIV and AIDS: Shifting Away From the Elite Towards the Marginalised (Journal of Constructive Theology) among many other publications, presentations, and workshops she has led.
However, as Anderson recalls, it is not her accomplishments at Garrett that mean the most.
“I would tell other folks about what a supportive environment Garrett-Evangelical has been for me. I have learned from my colleagues, I have co-taught courses with them, and their insights have helped me to deepen my research and my teaching. I have been able to flourish here as an educator and as a scholar.”
It is with the same awe and honor that Garrett students, faculty, and staff send Dr. Anderson forward, that she may be blessed in her time of rest after serving our community so well.
Samantha Eyster (BA, MS) is a first-year seminary student working towards an MA in Faith, Culture, & Educational Leadership (MAFCEL). A member of Garrett’s student council (Two-year Trustee).
She also works as a communications assistant for Marketing and Communications and for the Stead Center of Ethics and Values.