Mary Clark Moschella and Kathryn Tanner report on research projects at 2011 Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology Conference

“Making Room for Joy” and “Grace and Gambling” were the titles of back-to-back presentations by two Yale Divinity School professors at the annual Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology Conference held Nov. 11-12 in Pittsburgh, PA.

TannerDelivering these talks, respectively, were Mary Clark Moschella, the Roger J. Squire Professor in Pastoral Care and Counseling, and Kathryn Tanner ’79 B.A., ’85 Ph.D., the Frederick Marquand Professor of Systematic Theology.

Moschella and Tanner, both relatively recent additions to the YDS faculty, were among the 2010-11 class of six Luce Fellows selected from across the country.  The Pittsburgh gathering was an opportunity for each of those Fellows to showcase the fruits of their Luce-related research to other scholars—including the 2011-12 class of Fellows, one of whom is another YDS faculty member, Assistant Professor of Asian Theology Chloë Starr.

The purpose of the Luce Fellows program, which provides funding for a year of research frequently leading to publication of a book, is “to encourage theological scholarship of the highest quality, to increase the visibility of this work, and to promote connections with other academic disciplines, communities of faith, and the public sphere.”

Moschella spent 2010-11 studying joy in ministry and in life through the lenses of theology, psychology, and history, and in several diverse settings: an urban church in a poor section of the Bronx; a community in South Africa that is dealing with the aftermath of apartheid; a ministry to gang members in the Barrios of East Los Angles; and in a residential community for developmentally disabled adults.

MoschellaHer purpose, Moschella says, was three-fold:

  • To inject the awareness of God’s love into our basic understanding and teaching of pastoral theology and care.
  • To increase students’ own sense of wellbeing and joy in pastoral ministries.
  • To flesh out a pastoral-theological argument for the importance of joy in the ministry and in life.

“Creating space for joy is not a secondary matter or frill,” Moschella argues, “but a central pastoral practice, right at the heart of faithful and committed ministries, and right at the tender heart of God.”

In her research, Tanner finds that “basic Christian beliefs and practices, when suitably interpreted, are about much the same things that financial markets are about: the proper way, in community with others, of coping with insecurity and the risk of loss.”

However, Tanner elucidates how responses to those insecurities and risks are totally different from the perspectives of the financial market and Christian practice:

“Unlike the solutions of financial markets, in Christianity one forgoes efforts out of either fear or misplaced confidence to secure oneself by worldly means, through other persons or things or one’s own accomplishments.. Swings between abject fear and false hope are avoided through confidence in an abiding source of divine love and mercy that lies beyond all the usual shifting and, in any case quite insufficient, presumed bases for reliable calculation of likely future outcomes.”

In the past decade, YDS has had a significant number of faculty members selected for the prestigious Luce Fellowships.  In addition to Moschella, Tanner, and Starr, recent recipients have included Margot Fassler (2008-09), Gene Outka (2006-07), Christl Maier (2005-06), Emilie Townes (2005-06, while at Union Theological Seminary). Marilyn McCord Adams (2002-03), and John Collins (2000-01).

Posted: 12/03/2011