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Author, scholar, preacher to give Columbia seminary’s 2019 Smyth Lectures

Dr. Frank A. Thomas to deliver two talks Feb. 5-6, 2019

by Columbia Theological Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Columbia Theological Seminary (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE — Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., has announced that author, scholar and renowned preacher Dr. Frank A. Thomas, the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, will be the 2019 Smyth lecturer.

Thomas will deliver two lectures offered free to the public in the Harrington Center Chapel on the seminary campus, located at 701 S. Columbia Drive in Decatur, Ga. The first lecture will be from 7-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, and the second lecture from 11 a.m. through noon on Wednesday, Feb. 6. A reception will be held immediately after the first lecture.

Thomas will offer insights from his latest book, “How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon (Abingdon Press, February 2018) and his upcoming book, “How to Survive a Dangerous Sermon.” The “dangerous sermon” is one that refuses to reflect idolatrous, diabolical imaginings of our human future. Rather, it challenges them by activating the four qualities of moral imagination: the embodied presence of the preacher; empathy as a bridge between past injustice and future possibilities; wisdom found in ancient texts; and hope conveyed through artistic, poetic language. Thomas argues such sermons are “dangerous” and seeks to help preachers navigate the challenging and choppy waters of dangerous sermons.

Thomas currently serves as the director of the doctoral program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric and the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. For many years, Thomas has also taught preaching to doctoral and masters level students at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago; Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tenn.; and United Theological Seminary of Dayton, Ohio.

He is the CEO of Hope for Life International Inc., which formerly published “The African American Pulpit.” Thomas also serves as a member of the International Board of Societas Homiletica, an international society of teachers of preaching.

He is the author of “Introduction to the Practice of African American Preaching” (Abingdon Press, November 2016). He co-edited “Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons 1750 to the Present” with Martha Simmons (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010). This critically acclaimed book offers a rare view of the unheralded role of the African American preacher in American history. Thomas is also the author of several other books on subjects from prayer to spiritual maturity.

Thomas served with distinction as the senior pastor for two remarkable congregations: New Faith Baptist Church of Matteson, Ill., and Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church of Memphis, Tenn., for 18 years and 13 years respectively.

He holds a doctorate in communications (rhetoric) from the University of Memphis, a Doctor of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary, Doctor of Ministry degrees from Chicago Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary, and a Master of Arts in African-Caribbean Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

The Smyth Lectures were established at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1911 by the bequest of the Rev. Thomas Smyth, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C. The aim was to establish “a course of lectures on the fundamental principles of the Christian faith.” The Smyth Lectures are presented to the seminary community each year and are open to all ministers, lay people and members of the community who wish to attend.

Columbia Theological Seminary seeks “to educate and nurture faithful, imaginative, and effective leaders for the sake of the church and the world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry, leadership development and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia Seminary offers six graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, visit

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