Divinity School Celebrates Publication of Book Honoring Professor Russell

The Divinity School will pay tribute to theology professor Letty Russell on Thursday, Oct. 28, with a panel discussion on “The Future of Feminist Theology and Ethics” at 4 p.m. in the school’s common room, 409 Prospect St.

The event, which is free and open to the public, celebrates the release of “Liberating Eschatology: Essays in Honor of Letty Russell.”

“We are pleased to honor one of Yale’s premier scholars, known internationally for her writings and her tireless work in ecumenical projects,” said Margaret Farley, the Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics, who co-edited “Liberating Eschatology” with Serene Jones, associate professor of systematic theology at the Divinity School.

“Letty Russell’s influence on the churches, international women’s movements, and theological education is unparalleled in the last half of the 20th century,” added Farley.

“Liberating Eschatology” incorporates narrative, critical theory, political analysis, and theological and ethical work to address two questions: “In what can we place our hope?” and, “What role should hope play in our actions and our lives?”

In the book, feminist theologians from around the world address the theme of “Liberating Eschatology” from different contexts, personal histories and specialized fields. Topics include prophetic eschatology; the problems of the urban poor; childlessness in African marriages; the Jesus movement as a basileia movement; the interplay of racism, sexism and classism in the murder trial of a black woman; and the meaning of the Spirit in the Fourth Gospel.

The collection is not just a tribute to Russell’s work, Farley noted, but a continuation of critical dialogue on one of the Yale theologian’s persistent themes.

One of the first women to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church, Russell served for many years in the East Harlem Protestant Parish, where she focused her ministry on equipping her congregation of mostly black and Hispanic people to claim their voices as leaders in the parish and the community. Years before the approach was recognized in the larger church, Russell developed Bible studies that encouraged people of color to explore ways in which the Bible gives them voice and liberation.

Since joining the Yale faculty in 1975 as professor of theology, Russell has mentored and learned from a variety of oppressed people - particularly women of color, whom she considers “twice marginalized” by their gender and their race. She has written over 100 articles and books. The latter include “Human Liberation in a Feminist Perspective: A Theology,” “Household of Freedom: Authority in Feminist Theology” and “Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church.”

Russell has served on the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and of the National Council of Churches of the USA. She was recently a consultant to the World Council of Churches on feminist interpretations of the church. Earlier this year she received a Women of Faith award from the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church USA and a Unitas Distinguished Alumni/ae Award from Union Theological Seminary in New York. In 1986 she was named as the first recipient of the Emmavail Luce Severinghaus Award for Work in Religion from Wellesley College.

Divinity School Dean Richard J. Wood said, “Letty Russell is a pioneering theologian of liberation, with a vision of transforming communities that has inspired many churches and their leaders. She lives this vision by working with women throughout the world to develop new leaders for the Church. Through these women, through her students at the Yale Divinity School, and through her writing, Letty’s influence will continue for many years to come.”

In addition to Farley and Jones, panelists for “The Future of Feminist Theology and Ethics” will include several contributors to “Liberating Eschatology” - J. Shannon Clarkson of the National Council of The Churches of Christ in the USA, M. Shawn Copeland of Marquette University, Phyllis Trible of Wake Forest University Divinity School and Union Theological Seminary and Katharine Doob Sakenfeld of Princeton Theological Seminary.

“Liberating Eschatology” will be available for purchase during the celebration and can be ordered through the Divinity School Student Book Supply, (203) 432-6101.

* or Charles-Ryan Duncan, 203/432-5568

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325