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Renowned Theologian and Alumna Emilie M. Townes to Deliver the 2015 Academic Convocation Address

July 22, 2015

The Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes, renowned womanist theologian and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary alumna, will be the keynote speaker at Garrett-Evangelical’s 2015 Academic Convocation. The 2015 Academic Convocation will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 in the Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful and is open to the public.

Townes, an ordained American Baptist clergywoman, currently serves as dean of the Vanderbilt University Divinity School and holds the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair in Womanist Ethics and Society. She is also finishing a four-year term as president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion. Townes received her doctorate of philosophy from the joint Northwestern University/Garrett-Evangelical PhD program in 1989. Since then, Townes has returned to Garrett-Evangelical a number of times over the years to speak and participate in various conferences and events. She also gave the keynote address at the Seminary’s 153rd Commencement, where she received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

“The Garrett-Evangelical community is thrilled to welcome the Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes back to her alma mater,” said Garrett-Evangelical President Lallene J. Rector. “In addition to her being a pioneering scholar in womanist theology, I have always been impressed by her commitment to seeking justice combined with the humility of her way of being. We are proud to call her ours and we are blessed by her contributions to the church and to the academy.”

In her teaching and research, Townes focuses on Christian ethics, womanist ethics, critical social theory, and cultural theory and studies. Her specific areas of interest include health and health care; the cultural production of evil; linkages among race, gender, class and other forms of oppression; and developing a network between African American and Afro-Brazilian religious and secular leaders and community-based organizations. She is the author of “Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope” (Scholars Press, 1993), “In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness” (Abingdon Press, 1995), and “Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil” (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2006). She also co-edited “Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader” (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) with Katie Geneva Cannon and Angela D. Simms, and has published numerous book chapters and journal articles.

Prior to arriving at Vanderbilt, Townes was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology and was the first African American and first woman to serve associate dean of academic affairs at Yale Divinity School, the school’s top academic administrator. Previously, she was the Carolyn Williams Beaird Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and professor of Christian social ethics and Black church ministries at Saint Paul School of Theology. Townes was the first African American woman elected president of the American Academy of Religion, which she led in 2008. She was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. In 2010, the Black Religious Scholars Group honored her as the Distinguished Religious Scholar. Most recently, Townes was awarded the 2015 Pacesetter Award by the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education.

In addition to her doctorate of philosophy from the joint Northwestern/Garrett-Evangelical PhD program, Townes holds a bachelor’s degree in religion and the humanities from the University of Chicago and a master of arts and doctorate of ministry from the University of Chicago Divinity School.