Dean announces faculty promotions

June 12, 2024

Dean Greg Sterling made the following announcement to the YDS campus community today.


Dear Colleagues,

It brings me great pleasure to announce significant promotions and distinctions for several members of our faculty. 

Willie James Jennings has earned promotion to full professor and has been appointed to an endowed chair, becoming the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies. It is nearly impossible to exaggerate the magnitude of Professor Jennings’ accomplishments as a scholar. He has given some of the world’s most prestigious lectures, including Oxford’s Bampton Lectures in 2023, becoming the first African American selected to give the Bampton Lectures in the series’ nearly 250-year history. Every book he has published has won at least one award: The Christian Imagination (winner of the Grawemeyer Award and American Academy of Religion Award for best book in constructive theology), Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible (winner of the Reference Book of the Year Award from the Academy of Parish Clergy), and After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging (winner of the Lilly Network Book Award). Thankfully for us and the field of theology, there is a great deal more on the way from this remarkably original, insightful, and lucid theologian and thinker, including his forthcoming major monograph articulating a new Christian doctrine of creation. 

Sally Promey has also been appointed to an endowed chair and is now the Caroline Washburn Professor in Religion and Art. This well-earned distinction recognizes Professor Promey’s decades of accomplishment as a scholar of religion and visual culture and her leadership of the university’s Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion. A prolific scholar, Professor Promey has dozens of books, chapters, articles, and exhibits to her credit. A new book, Religion in Plain View: Public Aesthetics of American Display, is now in press and scheduled for release from the University of Chicago Press this coming fall. She is also working on three new monographs, including a book critiquing the category “folk” as applied to arts and other cultural artifacts.

Promoted to full professor is Braxton Shelley, Professor of Music, of Sacred Music, and of Divinity. Professor Shelley’s book Healing for the Soul: Richard Smallwood, the Vamp, and the Gospel Imagination (2021) won four major awards: the Lewis Lockwood Award from the American Musicological Society (AMS), given for a book of exceptional merit by a scholar in the early stages of their career; the Emerging Scholar Award from the Society for Music Theory, for a book published no more than seven years after the author’s receipt of a Ph.D.; and both the Ruth Stone Prize and the Portia Maultsby Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. His field-changing article “Analyzing Gospel,” which appeared in the AMS journal, was awarded prizes from all three major American professional societies for music studies: the Einstein Award from the AMS, the Kunst Prize from the Society of Ethnomusicology, and the Adam Krims Award from the Popular Music Interest Group of the Society of Music Theory. His second book, An Eternal Pitch: Bishop G. E. Patterson and the Afterlives of Ecstasy, was published by University of California Press last fall. His biography of the gospel choir director Mattie Moss Clark is under contract with Yale University Press for its “Black Lives” series.

Also promoted to full professor is Linn Tonstad, Professor of Theology, Religion, and Sexuality. In addition to numerous articles, chapters, and edited volumes, Professor Tonstad is the author of two groundbreaking books in queer theology: God and Difference: The Trinity, Sexuality, and the Transformation of Finitude (2016) and Queer Theology: Beyond Apologetics (2018); the latter was translated into French and is now in the process of being translated into Japanese. Widely recognized as one of the world’s leading figures in queer theology, she is completing her third book, tentatively titled The Impossible Other: Theology, Queer Theory, and the Temptation of Human Redemption

Sarah Drummond has been reappointed for a second five-year term as Dean of Andover Newton Seminary at YDS and has been given a regular faculty appointment as Professor of the Practice at YDS. In addition to her innovative administrative leadership of Andover Newton both pre- and post-merger, she has many publications to her credit, including six books—three of them published since her arrival at YDS with Andover Newton: Dynamic Discernment: Reason, Emotion, and Power in Change Leadership (2019), Sharing Leadership: A United Church of Christ Way of Being in Community (2021), and Intentional Leadership In Between Seasons (2022). Another book, Leading with Wonder and Wherewithal, is under contract with Fortress Press for publication later this year.

Congratulations are also in order for two faculty members who have earned tenure, Yii-Jan Lin and Donyelle McCray.

Yii-Jan Lin, Associate Professor of New Testament, concentrates her scholarship on textual criticism; the Revelation of John; critical race theory, gender, and sexuality; and immigration. Widely considered one of the most creative New Testament scholars of her generation, Professor Lin is the author of two monographs: The Erotic Life of Manuscripts: New Testament Textual Criticism and the Biological Sciences (2016) and Immigration and Apocalypse: How the Book of Revelation Shaped American Immigration (now in press with Yale University). 

Donyelle McCray, Associate Professor of Homiletics, studies homiletics and Christian spirituality, focusing on African American preaching, sermon genre, and modes of authority. Professor McCray is one of the bright stars in homiletics, pursuing scholarship that challenges the very meaning of what constitutes a homily. She is the author of The Censored Pulpit: Julian of Norwich as Preacher (2019) and A Surprising God: Advent Devotions for an Uncertain Time (co-authored with Thomas G. Long, 2021).

Finally, we congratulate Matthew Croasmun of the Center for Faith & Culture at YDS, for his promotion to Senior Lecturer of Divinity & Humanities. Professor Croasmun has directed the Center’s Life Worth Living program at Yale College while teaching in the program. He is the author or co-author of books including The Emergence of Sin: The Cosmic Tyrant in Romans (2019), What Is the Good Life?: Perspectives from Religion, Philosophy, and Psychology (co-authored with Drew Collins, 2023), and the best-selling Life Worth Living: A Guide to What Matters Most, co-authored with Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz (2023).

Please join me in sending hearty congratulations to these colleagues for their remarkable achievements.

June 12, 2024