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Forum for Theological Exploration Awards Fellowships to Three Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary Doctoral Students

May 2, 2018
Window with the words Forum for Theological Exploration

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is proud to announce doctoral students Christopher Hunt, Taurean J. Webb, and Bryson White have been selected to receive a 2018 Doctoral Fellowship from the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE). Hunt, Webb, and White are studying in the theology and ethics field of Garrett-Evangelical’s doctor of philosophy program. This is the first time Garrett-Evangelical has had three students in the same field receive the FTE Doctoral Fellowship in the same year.

FTE awarded its 2018 Doctoral Fellowships to 30 students of color across 17 institutions to support their PhD or ThD program in religion, theological studies, or biblical studies. Students in this year’s class will either receive the Fellowship for Doctoral Students of African Descent or the Fellowship for Latino/a, Asian and First Nations Doctoral Students. Each Fellow will receive a living stipend up to $25,000 to help further their studies beyond the coursework stage.

“These students stand on the shoulders of C. Shelby Rooks, Benjamin E. Mays, and others, who created this fellowship at FTE 50 years ago,” said Patrick B. Reyes, FTE director of strategic partnerships for doctoral initiatives. “Each Fellow embodies FTE’s legacy of academic excellence and commitment to communities of color. We’re proud to support them on their journey as they continue to redefine what it means to thrive in the academy.”

As part of the fellowship award, Fellows will have the opportunity to attend the 2018 FTE Forum for Theological Educators, held November 14-16, in Denver, Colorado, prior to the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature. The Forum will provide opportunities for networking, professional development, vocational exploration, and mentoring.

In addition to its fellowships for dissertation stage doctoral students, FTE provides professional development opportunities for PhD and ThD students in the first two years of their studies. FTE developed these doctoral initiatives to help accelerate the completion of doctoral degrees among students of color and to foster diversity across the academy in North America.

Since 1999, FTE has awarded more than 550 fellowships to students of color and has maintained a 97 percent retention rate among its Doctoral Fellows. For a full list of FTE’s 2018 Doctoral Fellows, visit fteleaders.org/2018fellows.

Christopher HuntChristopher Hunt is a PhD candidate in theological and ethical studies and brings an interdisciplinary approach in examining the interconnected nature of religion to various socio-cultural and political phenomena, particularly race, sexuality, and gender. He is currently writing his dissertation on the role of religion in James Baldwin’s literature, entitled: “‘I Know I’ve been Changed:’ James Baldwin’s Queer Praxis of Disidentification as Grounds for a Black Post-Christian ‘Religion of Love.’” His other research interests include African American religion and history, 20th and 21st century theology, African American humanism and naturalism, continental philosophy, queer theory, and queer theology. Hunt was a 2012-2014 FTE doctoral fellowship recipient as well as the 2012-2014 Elizabeth Iliff-Warren fellowship recipient from the Iliff School of Theology at Denver University. 

“To be named a doctoral fellow of the Forum for Theological Exploration, a historic organization committed to uplifting and supporting people of color in the work of theological education, is an incredible honor,” said Hunt. “If it were not for the support of my family and community, and the rigorous education and mentorship I’ve received at the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, particularly that of my advisor, Dr. Nancy Bedford, this would not have been possible.”

Taurean J. WebbTaurean J. Webb is a graduate of Morehouse College and holds a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and religion and master of arts degrees in Black and cultural studies from Columbia University and Northwestern University. He is the former Scholar-in-Residence at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, where he produced writings, researched, and managed the organization’s Palestine justice portfolio. He also formerly served as director of staff and academies at the WEB DuBois Scholars Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. 

Webb’s doctoral research looks at “Blackness” and “Palestinian-ness” as racial formations, and the ways in which an internationalist theological hermeneutic of culture can uncover how these communities organically move against white supremacy and Judeo-Christian hegemony. “For much too long, white supremacy has sought to silence voices of color,” said Webb. “This is especially the case against Black- and Palestinian-descended peoples. The abolitionist theologian’s work, then, is to uncover the already-existing ways and re-imagine new ways for those silences to speak.”

“I am grateful that FTE and Garrett-Evangelical would support such work. I am indebted to those who have irrevocably impacted my theological and political imagination—Drs. Stephen G. Ray, Jr., Anne Joh, Barry Bryant, Nancy Bedford, Itihari Toure, and Barnor Hesse. And to my wife, Tiauna, and parents—Percy and Jacquelyn Webb—who have believed in me when so many have not: this award is just as much my community’s as it is my own.”

Bryson WhiteBryson White holds masters’ degrees in theology and intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University at Northridge. White comes into the academy from the field of community organizing with the PICO National Network in his hometown of Fresno, California. He is an ordained Baptist minister and currently attends the Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Illinois. White is a kidney transplant recipient of sixteen years, and is married to Jennifer White of Richmond, California.

“Theological and ethical studies provide analytical tools to interrogate the malformation of society, while also providing constructive theological alternatives for the reshaping of our public square,” said White. “The world in which we live and navigate is grossly marked by the constitutive evils of white supremacy, patriarchal idolatry, a culture of punishment, and a myriad of other forms of intersecting oppressions. Within this climate, both Christian communities and the nation need crisp and relevant theological scholarship, preaching, and community leadership to reshape our public life together. As an FTE Doctoral Fellow, I will deploy the resources found within Christian theologies to continue to make my contribution as a servant to the church through activism and public scholarship.

 “It is a great honor to have been selected as an FTE Doctoral Fellow. This is a tribute to my wife, my family, faith communities, academic mentors, and colleagues who have invested their time, wisdom, and resources into my journey. It is a special reflection upon my parents, Paul and Sheila White, who encouraged me to think critically about the times in which we find ourselves. Previous FTE Doctoral Fellows continue to play significant roles in shaping the academy, church communities, and society; it truly is an honor to follow in their footsteps.”