Awardees selected for excellence in theological education
April 15, 2018
The Committee on Theological Education and the Theological Education Fund will honor two distinguished leaders in theological education at the 2018 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis.
This year’s honorees are the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, professor of theology and ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, and the Rev. Dr. Douglas Oldenburg, former president of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, and a former General Assembly moderator.
“The tremendous commitment and contribution to theological education and the Presbyterian Church of both Dr. Cannon and Doug Oldenburg were obvious to the Committee on Theological Education,” said the Rev. Dr. Tom Trinidad, pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, former vice moderator of the General Assembly and COTE Chair. “Presbyterians and the church owe them a debt of gratitude for many things, including their advocacy on behalf of or advancement of the concerns of marginalized communities.”
The two will be recognized at the General Assembly’s Theological Education Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. June 21. Those interested in attending the breakfast should sign up as part of their General Assembly registration, which is now available online.
The Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty is senior director of funds development for the Theological Education Fund at the Presbyterian Foundation, which will host the breakfast. He noted that the award is the highest honor in the PC(USA) for those who teach, lead and support theological education.
“Only 14 others have received this award,” Hinson-Hasty said. “Their individual and collective visionary work and frontier-forging leadership promotes the value of theological education in the church and is helping us draw people into the ministry in a time when that is desperately needed.”
More information on each of the awardees follows:
Katie Geneva Cannon
Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon is the Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary. She received a bachelor of science degree from Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, and a master of divinity from Johnson C. Smith Seminary in Atlanta. She received her master’s degree and doctorate from Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Cannon has taught at Union in Richmond since 2001 and has received numerous awards for her teaching. She has been the Lilly Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion at Davidson College and the Sterling Brown Visiting Professor in Religion and African American Studies at Williams College. She has received the distinguished professor award from Spelman College, the Lucy Craft Laney award at the Black Presbyterian Bicentennial Celebration, and was a professor-scholar honoree at the National Black Church Summit at Emory University. She also received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the American Academy of Religion.
She has authored the following: Black Womanist Ethics; Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community; Teaching Preaching: Isaac R. Clark and Black Sacred Rhetoric. She has edited God’s Fierce Whimsy: The Implications of Feminism for Theological Education. She has coedited Womanist Theological Ethics (A Reader) with Emilie M. Townes and Angela D. Sims and The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology with Anthony Pinn.
Cannon was the first African-American woman to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
Since 2012, she has served as executive director of the Squaring the Womanist Circle Project at Union Presbyterian Seminary. She is currently working with the Union administration and several foundations to establish The Center For Womanist Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
The Rev. Dr. Brian K. Blount, president of the seminary, praised Cannon’s research, scholarship and commitment to her call. “Dr. Cannon has already had and will continue to have long-lasting influence on broadening the reach of theological education in the Presbyterian Church,” he said. “We are so honored to have her as part of our teaching faculty, knowing that she is one of the foremost theological ethicists, particularly as regards to womanist theology, in the country. We are grateful for her ministry in teaching the next generation of scholars and church leaders, her incredible research and for her work in the church beyond the seminary.”
Doug Oldenburg dedicated his life to service in the Presbyterian Church. He was first a pastor, then a seminary president and later, moderator of the 210th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Following his graduation from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Virginia in 1960, he served as pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. After seven years he left and began serving as a pastor at Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church in Elkins, West Virginia. His last pastor position was in the city he grew up in at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He worked for 26 years as a pastor and then decided he was called to a new role.
In 1987, he became the seventh president of Columbia Theological Seminary, a position he held until 2000. “In so many ways, he has embodied not just education, but the practical impact knowledge and wisdom can make in local communities and national organizations,” said Columbia President Dr. Leanne Van Dyk. “We are grateful to COTE for recognizing his lifelong efforts to educate and nurture faithful leaders.”
In Lynchburg, Oldenburg helped to organize a downtown ministry for disadvantaged children. In Elkins, he led a successful vote on a bond levy to raise teacher salaries. In Charlotte, he was on the Board of United Community Services and was the co-founder and a board member of Crisis Assistance Ministry. He received the Martin Luther King Jr. award and the Order of the Hornet of Mecklenburg County. In Atlanta, he served on the board of Global Health Action and the University Center of Georgia.
In a day when the emphasis in academic presidency was championing one’s own institution and gaining competitive advantage, Oldenburg insisted that the whole was as important as the parts and that the gospel concept of losing one’s life in order to save it applies to institutions as well as people.
As moderator he also encouraged study of the Bible. He called for every congregation and presbytery to engage in a program of study about what Presbyterians believe about the Bible and how they read the Bible because he believed “how we read and interpret the Bible is a crucial issue for the church.”
Robyn Davis Sekula, Special to Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Theological Education Awardees
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious God, thank you for excellence in theological education. Help us to grow in our knowledge and faith as we seek to discern and follow your call. In the new life of Christ, we pray. Amen.