Emilie Townes assumes presidency of the American Academy of Religion
Emilie M. Townes, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African-American Religion and Theology at Yale Divinity School, assumed the presidency of the American Academy of Religion during the 11,200-member organization's 2007 annual meeting, held Nov. 17-20 in San Diego. Townes was elected vice president of the Academy in 2005, putting her in line to serve as president-elect and, then, president. She will serve as president until the 2008 annual meeting, to be held Nov. 1-3 in Chicago.
The first African-American woman to head the AAR, Townes is an American Baptist clergywoman and a native of Durham, North Carolina. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University.
Townes is also director of undergraduate studies and professor of African-American studies; professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies; and professor of religious studies. She is one of the faculty leaders of the Initiative on Religion and Politics at Yale, based at the Divinity School.
She is the editor of two collection of essays, A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering and Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation. Her books include Womanist Ethics, Womanist Hope; In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness; and Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Issues and a Womanist Ethic of Care. Her most recent book, Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil, was released in November 2006. She continues her research on women and health in the African diaspora with attention to Brazil and the United States.
Townes teaches in the fields of Christian social ethics and African American religious communities. In addition to a full schedule of lecturing in seminary, college and university settings, she also lectures and leads workshops in local churches and denominational bodies on a regular basis. In academic settings, Townes works to show the theoretical and practical links between the study of Black religions and the other theological and academic disciplines.
Her work highlights the ways in which interdisciplinary analysis and critique can break open new modes of thought, research, and conversations about the nature of oppression and the ability to eradicate oppression.
At Yale, she is especially concerned with bringing together the religious resources of the community of New Haven and the alumni network to help current students gain hands-on practical, pastoral, and prophetic experience in the various ministries of the church.