About People

Frumpy dressing isn't one of the seven deadly sins, but it landed Emily Bloemker ’09 M.Div. in a Feb. 5 episode of the reality television show "What Not to Wear."  Bloemker had no idea she was part of the program, broadcast weekly on The Learning Channel, until October 12, when she stood before a packed audience at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, ready to deliver an address, even as program hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly burst through the church doors—along with the Cathedral Choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus. London and Kelly pre-empted Bloemker's address, saying the young priest had committed one fashion faux pas too many.  And they weren't referring to her priestly collar.  Read more  Photos courtesy of The Learning Channel"


Formerly an organizer for Love Makes a Family, an advocacy group for same-sex marriage,  Obadiah Ballinger M.Div '08 recently became the first openly gay clergy to serve as pastor of the Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul Park, MN.  "I am called to be a bridge builder," says Ballinger. "The gay community does not have many faith models, and the faith community doesn't have many gay models."


Thanks to the Anglicanorum coetibus, an Apostolic Constitution published by Pope Benedict last November, Anglicans can now join the Catholic Church en masse--and Eric Bergman '97 M.Div, a former Episcopal priest who joined the Catholic Church in 2005, is there to great them. For Bergman, Benedict's embrace of Anglicanism marks an epochal event. "If we look at histories," Bergman says, "heresies run themselves out after about 500 years. I believe we are seeing the last gasp of the Reformation in the mainline Protestant groups."


For Mark Speeks '02 M.Div, creating wealth and doing God's work are nearly one and the same. As both an Episcopal priest and a managing partner at Acuity Capital, a private equity firm, Speeks balances his spiritual calling and financial investments daily. "The facts are that private equity has worked well," Speeks says, "and more wealth has been created to be taxed and deployed for social ends." 

 “More and more I look at my students and realize that it is a pretty rare thing these days to find people who have had the positive experience of having the church be the place where you learn to think, where you learn about the world and justice.”  Serene Jones ’85 M.Div., ’91 Ph.D., former Titus Street Professor at YDS and now president of Union Theological Seminary in New York, in a profile published by the Faith and Leadership program at Duke University Divinity School.


A registered Democrat, Laura Curliss '90 M.Div. recently announced her candidacy to be state representative of the 86th House District in the Ohio legislature. For Curliss, the campaign isn't just about the economy. "For a while I have been saying that the top three issues in this campaign will be ‘jobs, jobs and jobs.’ But I am beginning to think we need ‘ideas, ideas, ideas’ just as much."


As senior minister of Shaker Heights Plymouth Church, Shawnthea Monroe '95 M.Div 'xx raised a few eyebrows when she published “Not-So-Desperate: Fantasy, Fact and Faith on Wisteria Lane,'' a book about the television show Desperate Housewives,  in 2006. Now she's back at it again, but with a decidedly more conventional topic. In “Living Christianity: A Pastoral Theology for Today,” co-authored with YDS classmate (and current YDS professor) Shannon Craigo-Snell '95 M.Div, '02 Ph.D., Monroe hopes to make formal theology accessible and relevant to everyday readers. "  Says Monroe, “This book was written to prove that academic theology can be useful to the people in the pews — if it’s well-translated.''


For Jason Brown '98 M.E.S., '11 M.A.R., a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, faith isn't just a private matter. Instead, it concerns the whole of the nature world around him. "It's significant to me that Joseph Smith received  a vision in a grove of trees, which to us is a Sacred Grove," says Brown, who holds a degree from the School of Forestry and is now a student at YDS.  "As Mormons, we strive to live the restored gospel, and for me that includes a spiritual and vital planet."


As the New York State Chair for Mike Huckabee for President in 2008, Myers Mermel '11 M.A.R. learned enough about politics to know that he had a taste for it. Now he's announced that he'll be running for Lieutenant Governor in New York State in 2010 as a Republican. "More than ever, we need a two-pronged strategy of reducing the size of government and recruiting new jobs to bring a sustainable economic foundation to New York State," Mermel says.


Formerly a political communications director, Laura Dillard Lafayette '90 Div. recently became CEO of the Richmond Association of Realtors, a 4,500-member trade organization. For Lafayette, the new position is a chance to live out her faith. "Your faith informs all aspects of your life," Lafayette says. "Each of us has been given too much to live only to ourselves." 

Rod Dreher is a famously combative critic at Beliefnet.com, but that didn't stop him from gushing with praise for "Paul Among the People: the Apostle Reimagined and Reinterpreted in His Own Time," by YDS visiting scholar Sarah Ruden. Dreher calls Ruden's work "the most exciting work of historical analysis I've read in ages -- indeed, the most exciting book period." 


No long after Beau Biden said he won't be running for his father Joseph Biden's former seat in the US Senate, Chris Coons '92 M.A.R., '92 J.D., formally announced he will be seeking the Democratic nomination for the open 2010 US Senate seat. As the New Castle County Council President, Coons currently represents more than half of all Delaware voters and hopes to bring a new approach to Washington, DC. "People here are hurting, and Congress has failed to deliver the change we voted for in 2008," he said. 



John "Jack" Harvey Bartee Jr., '67 M.Div, passed away on Feb. 1, 2010, in Fishersville, VA.  Bartee was currently serving as minister of both Sardis United Methodist Church and Bethany United Methodist Church in the Charlottesville District.