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McCormick Seminary names project director for theological studies inside prison

Jia Johnson helped develop similar program in Atlanta

by McCormick Theological Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Jia Johnson

CHICAGO — McCormick Theological Seminary announces that Lejia (Jia) Johnson has accepted the newly created position as McCormick’s project director for Theological Studies at Cook County Department of Corrections.

According to a seminary news release, two years ago McCormick President David Crawford announced plans to develop and launch a pilot theological studies certificate program at the Cook County Correctional Center. The program was inspired by work Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics and Dean of Doctor of Ministry and Continuing Education programs, Dr. Jenny McBride, had done in a women’s correctional center in Atlanta, developed and supported by a consortium comprised of a local divinity school and local seminaries. Under McBride’s direction and leadership, the first 12 students finished the pilot program in May 2019.

Johnson co-taught the spring session with McBride and was instrumental in helping coordinate resources and schedules with the staff at Cook County. Based on the enthusiastic response of the students and the staff at Cook County, seminary officials decided to continue the program this year.

Johnson will report to and work in collaboration with McBride to develop and implement an ongoing program of theological studies at Cook County Department of Corrections. She will serve as a liaison between McCormick administration and faculty, local seminary partners, and the Department of Corrections to identify, develop, and cultivate relationships and resources necessary to build and support theological studies at Cook County Jail.

Johnson is currently completing the Master of Arts in Public Ministry and Racial Justice program at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She has devoted herself in recent years to supporting returning citizens through her work at Sunshine Enterprises and through her board service at the Community Renewal Society, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience and Off the Pews: Faith in Action.

“I am deeply grateful to Jia for the wonderful work she has already done and for her willingness to take on the hard work ahead in accepting this new position,” Crawford said. “It is our hope that with Jia’s experience, leadership, and energy this program will not only grow and flourish within the jail, but will become a connector of and to churches, community-based organizations, funding sources, and other seminaries and schools that seek to address the issues of mass incarceration, criminal justice and police reform, and community building.”

About McCormick Theological Seminary

A seminary in the city, McCormick is known around the world for its work in urban ministry and for its cross-cultural, ecumenical models of theological education. McCormick in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, adjacent to the University of Chicago. One of 12 schools related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and one of 11 members of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools, McCormick is a progressive leader in the Reformed tradition. Accredited by both ATS and the Higher Learning Commission, it seeks a more just and compassionate world through rigorous academic study, practical experience, spiritual formation and an active, engaged community.

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