Reverend Dr. Kenneth Ngwa named Professor of Hebrew Bible and African Biblical Hermeneutics
January 23, 2024
Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is thrilled to announce the hire of the Reverend Dr. Kenneth Ngwa as the inaugural Donald J. Casper Professor of Hebrew Bible and African Biblical Hermeneutics. Previously the John Fletcher Hurst Professor of Hebrew Bible and founding director of the Religion and Global Health Forum at Drew University Theological School, Dr. Ngwa carries dual passions for biblical scholarship and understanding how religion affects health outcomes. The Donald J. Casper Chair was established through the generosity of Mary Joy and Jerre Stead, transformational supporters of the seminary, in honor of the pastoral ministry of Jerre’s uncle who served in both the Northern Illinois and Iowa annual conferences of the United Methodist Church.
Born in Cameroon, Dr. Ngwa brings particular focus in African theologies and hermeneutics. His most recent publication is Let My People Live: An Africana Reading of Exodus (Westminster John Knox Press, 2022), which explores how communities both throughout the continent and in diaspora engage the Exodus story to nurture collective thriving. Through analysis of what he identifies as extraordinary womanism, he reveals how the midwives, Miriam, the Egyptian princess, and other female characters have empowered African women to persevere over systemic racism and colonial subjugation.
“In my work as a scholar and teacher, I am informed by postcolonial and decolonial epistemologies and methodologies,” Dr. Ngwa says, “but I am also inspired by the creative and transformative theories, methods, and epistemologies anchored in Africa and the African Diaspora’s lived experiences, and how such approaches to biblical interpretation lead to flourishing human and non-human communities.”
Dr. Ngwa’s research and teaching reflect the goals of Garrett-Evangelical’s broader strategic plan, which places clear emphasis on decolonial hermeneutics and contextual theologies, while also investing deeply in an increasingly global student experience at Garrett. “Dr. Kenneth Ngwa is a brilliant scholar of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, who approaches these sacred texts with the eyes of faith, the insights of rigorous scholarship, and through interdisciplinary and intersectional methodologies that put the ancient in direct conversation with the present,” says Garrett-Evangelical President Javier A. Viera. “He has been recognized for his skill as a teacher, and his research has been funded by organizations as diverse as the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.” Dr. Ngwa’s focus on how communal biblical interpretation can redress structural inequalities emphasizes this intersection between scholarship and its practical applications.
While Dr. Ngwa is new to Garrett-Evangelical, a deep commitment to Black and Womanist biblical interpretation is not. Dr. Ngwa fills the vacancy left when Dr. Cheryl Anderson retired last May, after 23 years of faithful service and brilliant scholarship. Dr. Anderson’s renowned work reading the Bible in the context of HIV/AIDS in Black communities offers particular resonance to Dr. Ngwa’s own focus on the interplay between biblical interpretation and public health. “The new position in Hebrew Bible and African Biblical Hermeneutics signals not only Garrett-Evangelical’s deep commitment to international engagement but also our explicit recognition of the crucial role of Africa in the growth of world Christianity,” says search committee chair Dr. Henk Pieterse.
This historic appointment is part of the seminary’s bold new direction, but it was also a product of communal decision-making. “I want to thank Professor Henk Pieterse for chairing such an effective and thorough search process, along with his colleagues Dean Jennifer Harvey, Professors Esther Acolatse, Julie Duncan, Dong Hyeon Jeong, and our student representative Thehil Russelliah Singh,” President Viera says. “Together they included the entire Garrett community in this discernment process and helped us bring a leading global scholar to the seminary.”
Dr. Ngwa will begin teaching in the 2024 Fall Semester. “I look forward to joining the community to continue the outstanding tradition of historically informed, culturally nuanced, and theologically transformative biblical interpretation that is a hallmark of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary,” he says. The Garrett-Evangelical community awaits his arrival just as eagerly. “We’re fortunate to welcome a pastor, a scholar, and a visionary whose work is transforming his field of study and impacting the lives of people around the globe,” concludes President Viera.