Joyce Mercer appointed the Bushnell Professor of Christian Nurture

Mercer focuses her work on practices of care in diverse contexts and situations, including post-conflict areas of southeast Asia.
Professor Joyce Mercer.
Joyce Mercer (photo by Michael Marsland)

Joyce Ann Mercer, newly appointed as the Horace Bushnell Professor of Christian Nurture, focuses her work on practices of care in diverse contexts and situations, including post-conflict areas of southeast Asia, children in the consumer culture of the United States, addictions in family systems, and the religious lives of adolescent girls.

The practical theological thread running throughout Mercer’s work is the fostering of liberatory hope where personal and social forms of suffering limit human flourishing. Her career includes positions in chaplaincy, parish ministry, and clinical social work in Atlanta, St. Paul, and Minneapolis. An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, she remains active in parish ministry, most recently as a parish associate for pastoral care with older adults. She also maintains her professional standing in the field of social work as a licensed clinical social worker. 

Mercer is the author or editor of numerous books, including “Conundrums in Practical Theology”; “Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood,” a feminist practical theological exploration of meanings of childhood in the context of U.S. consumer culture; and “Girl Talk God Talk: Why Faith Matters to Teenage Girls and Their Parents,” which addresses the experiences of girls constructing gender and faith identities amid the complexities of adolescence. Her current book project is based on a congregational study of churches in conflict with their denominations over sexuality.

The Yale professor has contributed numerous articles and chapters to edited volumes and journals. Mercer edits the international scholarly journal Religious Education and serves on the editorial board of Brill/JC Leiden’s “Theology in Practice” book series. She has served as co-chair of the steering committee of the Practical Theology Group in the American Academy of Religion, and is on the board of the Religious Education Association. She is the current president of the Association of Practical Theology.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Mercer earned her M.Div. from the Yale Divinity School, M.S.W. from the University of Connecticut, and her Ph.D. from Emory University. She joined the Divinity School faculty in 2016 after serving 10 years at Virginia Theological Seminary as the Arthur Lee Kinsolving Chair in Pastoral and Practical Theology. She also has held faculty positions at the Graduate Theological Union, and Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines.

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