Leading scholars and practitioners highlight spring semester

Interacting with a rich array of prominent speakers is a central part of the YDS student experience. This semester, the events calendar featured the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, the leader of the Moral Mondays movement, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity, the founder of black liberation theology, and many other leading scholars and practitioners.

April 19 - James Cone

James Cone lectures on Black Theology

A theology rooted in the thought and experience of the least powerful, most dehumanized segments of the American population would appear to have little chance of making an impact. But black liberation theology has had a profound influence on churches and the academy and will continue having it.

So testified the man credited with founding black liberation theology, James Cone, in remarks at Yale Divinity School on April 19.

Cone, the Bill and Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, came to YDS as the culmination of this semester’s All School Read program. The YDS community has been reading Cone’s Black Theology & Black Power, the 1969 volume that is credited with establishing the field of black liberation theology and Cone as its principal articulator.

Read the story and watch the video.

From earlier in the semester …

February 1 – Parks-King Lecture by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson delivers the Parks-King Lecture

Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer widely acclaimed for his work on behalf of the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned, delivered the annual Parks-King Lecture at YDS on Wednesday, February 1.

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. EJI recently won an historic ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.

“Stay hopeful and do ‘uncomfortable things’” - Yale News story on Stevenson at YDS.

View a gallery of photos of Bryan Stevenson’s visit and lecture.

February 2 – Sorensen Lecture by Jeremy Waldron

Jeremy Waldron, University Professor and Professor of Law at New York University, delivered the Sorensen Lecture at YDS on Thursday, February 2. Waldron spoke on “A Docket of Dignity: Human Dignity in Eight Cases from Around the World.”

Waldron was educated in New Zealand and at Oxford, and his career has included appointments at Edinburgh, Berkeley, Princeton, and Columbia. His work concentrates on constitutionalism, human dignity, historic injustice, national security issues, and the rule of law, as well as historic political philosophy. An accomplished scholar and author, he has 16 books and edited volumes to his credit, including Torture, Terror and Trade-offs: Philosophy for the White House (Oxford, 2010).

February 3 – Transformational Leadership program with William Barber
YDS welcomed Moral Mondays founder William Barber to the Quad on February 3 for a rousing conversation on building a prophetic movement for justice.
Known for his electrifying speech at the Democratic National Convention last summer, Barber is a minister, head of the North Carolina NAACP, and the leader of a movement to build a progressive agenda and a moral framework that counters the conservative religious constructs dominating the public square.

Read more about this event and about the Transformational Leadership program at Yale Divinity School.

February 6 – Sarah McNamer (part of February medieval studies series)

Sarah McNamer is an Associate Professor of English and Medieval Studies at Georgetown University whose primary interests lie at the intersection of literature and the history of emotion. She lectured on “Playing with Doubt in the Age of Faith.”

McNamer’s book Affective Meditation and the Invention of Medieval Compassion (University of Pennsylvania, 2010) received the Book of the Year award from the Conference on Christianity and Literature. She is also the author of Meditations on the Life of Christ: The Short Italian Text (Notre Dame, forthcoming Fall 2017) and The Two Middle English Versions of the Revelations of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1996).

February 7-9 – Three-part Taylor Lecture by Catherine Keller

Catherine Keller, Professor of Constructive Theology at the Theological School and Graduate Division of Religion of Drew University, gave the Taylor Lectures at Yale Divinity School February 7, 8, and 9. Her lectures explored a “Political Theology of the Earth.”

Keller’s scholarship develops the relational potential of a “theology of becoming.” Her books include Apocalypse Now & Then: A Feminist Guide to the End of the World (Augsburg, 2004); Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming (Taylor & Francis, 2002)and On the Mystery: Divinity in Process (Fortress, 2007).

Keller’s three lectures were as follows:

Tuesday, February 7 – “The Political:  Sovereign Exception or Collective Inception”
Wednesday, February 8 – “The Earth: Climate of Closure, Matter of Disclosure”
Friday, February 10, 4 p.m.  – “The Theology: Kairos of Endless Entanglement”

Watch the Taylor Lectures at the YDS YouTube channel: 1st Lecture, 2nd Lecture, and 3rd Lecture.

February 24 - Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford

Jonathan Reckfordin speaks with Associate Dean Goettler

Jonathan Reckford, CEO of the global nonprofit housing organization Habitat for Humanity, engaged in a public conversation at YDS on February 24 as part of the School’s program in Transformational Leadership for Church and Society. The onetime business executive and pastor discussed his unlikely journey to Habitat and keys to faith-based leadership.

Starting his career on Wall Street, Reckford held executive and managerial positions at Goldman Sachs, Marriott, the Walt Disney Co. and Best Buy. His volunteer leadership at his Presbyterian church in the Minneapolis area eventually led to his appointment as the church’s executive pastor. From there, he was recruited to become Habitat’s CEO, a position that Reckford describes as the dream job for which his entire life and career had prepared him.

February 27 – Miri Rubin

Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary University of London, lectured as part of the February medieval studies series.

Introducing new approaches to the study of social relations in the predominantly religious cultures of medieval Europe, Rubin’s research seeks to understand the message of Christian charity as practiced in medieval communities, and to explore the meanings of the Eucharist, among other topics—all with attention to issues of identity, community, and gender; the boundaries of cooperation; and the threat of violence.


February 28 – Katherine Jansen

Chair of the Department of History at Catholic University of America, Katherine Jansen engages issues including preaching and devotion in the later Middle Ages and power in the medieval world. Her lecture at YDS focused on “The Practice of Peace in Medieval Italy.”

Jansen’s current book-in-progress, Peace and Penance in Late Medieval Italy, contextualizes the practice of settling disputes in Florence in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-centuries—an era well known for violence and civil discord. Her previous books include Charisma and Religious Authority: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Preaching, 1200-1500 (Brepols, 2010), co-edited with Miri Rubin; and Medieval Italy: Texts in Translation (University of Pennsylvania, 2009), edited with Joanna Drell and Frances Andrews. She is also the author of the award-winning book The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton, 2000).

March 6 - Serene Jones

“This is not your mother’s church. This is not your grandmother’s church.” It is, rather, a church, and a moment, bearing profound challenges but also enormous opportunities for transformation and learning. Such were the observations offered by Serene Jones ‘85 M.Div. in her keynote remarks March 6 at the third annual YDS Women’s Event. A former YDS faculty member and now president of Union Theological Seminary, Jones exhorted the large gathering of YDS students, faculty, alumni, and friends to address what she called a “crisis-ridden context” that cries out a theological response.

In her talktitled “Women of Faith Committed to Justice: For Such a Time as This”—Jones said Christianity is going through a period much like the Protestant Reformation of 500 years ago. The profound transformations are often difficult to see for those in the moment and only become apparent “on the other side,” she said. “We are incredibly lucky to be alive in this moment,” she declared, “equipped to do the work that YDS has trained (us) to do.”

The annual event was started by a group of students three years ago to create opportunities for YDS women to come together in a multi-generational gathering for mentoring, connection-building, and mutual support and encouragement.

Srene Jones speaks at a lectern

Watch the video of Serene Jones’ remarks at the YDS Women’s Event.

March 8-9 - Yvette Flunder, Hoskins Visitor

Yvette A. Flunder is a singer and senior bishop of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland, Calif. During her two days at YDS, Flunder participated in two classes, hosted several structured discussions with students, and led prayer and song at Chapel.

The Hoskins Visitorship was established in 1967 in memory of Fred Hoskins, B.D. 1932, by gifts from the churches that he served and from individual friends. The Hoskins Visitor is a Christian leader invited to the School to deal particularly with issues that relate to the reform and renewal of the church. This visitorship is given every second year, alternating with the Luccock Visitorship.

March 31 - Public conversation with Melissa Rogers on “Faith and the White House”

Melissa Rogers, former Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, discussed her White House experience and what she learned from it in a public conversation with YDS students March 31. Now a non-resident senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, Rogers was on campus to guest lecture in the School’s program in Transformational Leadership for Church and Society.

Read more about Melissa Rogers at YDS.