Graduate Theological Union
Each year the Graduate Theological Union recognizes a group of doctoral students as Newhall Scholars, providing the opportunity to work collaboratively with core faculty to develop and teach new courses, lead research, and expand the boundaries of innovative scholarship. This year 23 scholars will present a broad spectrum of topics, including religious conversion theories, Asian American congregational identities, new media in worship, and the moral status of animals. These fellowships were made possible through the generosity of Jane Newhall, a Trustee Emerita and longtime friend of the GTU.
“Asian Hermeneutics and Postcolonial Reading of Biblical Wisdom Literature”
A study of biblical wisdom texts in the context of Daoist texts that emphasize a feminist spirituality focused on nourishing life as well as freedom from conventional thinking and patriarchal social order.
“Biblical Translation: History, Theory, and Ethics”
A focus on major biblical translations within the context of historical periods. Students will translate passages to help them understand how words and ideas evolve from cultural, social, and political influences of the period, as well as how myths regarding “literal” and “original” texts arise.
“Biblical Women in Art and Literature”
Bobbi Dykema Katsanis
An examination of the ways biblical women have been depicted in Western art and literature. Through biblical texts and works of art, students will study the effects of these depictions on theology, biblical studies, and ministry as well as their relationship with goddess figures from European and Near Eastern traditions.
“Christianity and the Ottoman Empire”
Jason van Boom
An exploration of the role of the early Ottoman Empire in European history, starting with the battle of Manziker in 1071 through the dissolution of the Ottoman sultanate in 1923. The course will also study the influence of this early history on modern relations between Islam and the West, and ask whether religious historians can contribute to a dialogue that would improve possibilities for peace.
An exploration of the moral status of animals through scriptural, philosophic, and scientific sources of norms and rationales that shape human relations with animals. Students will also study how these relations are reflected in the world biodiversity crisis.
“Grace and Freedom”
An examination of the “problem of grace and freedom” or the relation of divine action to human action in the work of Christian salvation during both historical and contemporary times. Is grace contingent on human choice? Or, is human freedom illusory due to the sovereign power of grace?
“Harmony in Faith: Asian Identities and Worship”
A survey of liturgical celebrations and devotional practices from Asian Christian heritages that incorporate Asian cultural symbols, rituals, and stories. The course will present the subject from a Roman Catholic perspective within a larger ecumenical context.
Hyung Shin Park
“History of Christianity in China”
Hyung Shin Park
A study of Chinese Christianity from the Tang dynasty on, including its origins, cultural expressions, and theological developments that include the early diversion from a European style of Christianity, Roman Catholicism, evangelism, missionary work, and Christianity in the new China.
“Minimalism and Spirit: Body/Land”
A study of the spiritual dimensions minimalist art presents and the religious experience such works can engender. Students will investigate Judeo-Christian traditions, Buddhism, phenomenology, ecology, and more to help understand the implications of minimalist art and the relationship between religious and aesthetic experience.
“Music as Art and Theology”
An ecumenical study of music used in Christian worship communities from an historical, theological, and theological aesthetics perspective. Students will examine ritual and social context for music from the New Testament through the 19th century.
“New Media in Worship/Preaching”
An exploration of the role of media, including film and static images, as an aid to public worship and preaching. Students will create media-enhanced “worship offerings.” (Read a brief profile of Micah Jackson in Preaching in Pictures.)
“New Religious Movements in the USA”
Emily Wu, Natalie Fisk, Ofelia Villero
Once known as cults, new religious movements are well established in the U.S. This course is an examination of what historical and social conditions cause such groups to form and whether they present a danger or are examples of broad theological diversity outside white Judeo-Christian traditions.
“Rediscovering Kierkegaard in the Present Age”
An opportunity for students to investigate larger themes in the writings of noted 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, including how to live a meaningful life and make sense of one’s existence, the importance of decision-making, and the role of the individual in church and society. (Read a profile of Jennifer Veninga in Imaginative Theology.)
“Rethinking Women in Paul”
An introduction to the women portrayed in the Apostle Paul’s New Testament letters, with an examination of the impact of subsequent interpretation, considering gender, textual voice and presence, power, work and economics, family life, and religious practice.
“Slavery and Scripture”
Katy Valentine, Richetta Amen
An historical survey of Greek and Roman slavery and its relationship to New Testament literature that both supports and condemns the practice. Students will interpret these passages with other readings, including author Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved.”
“Success and Failure in Religious Nonviolence”
An introduction to principled, unconditional nonviolence based on strong religious commitment in contrast to “strategic” nonviolence used as a tactic. Students will explore both successes and failures of nonviolence to evaluate its effectiveness.
“The American Jewish Experience: History and Culture”
An overview of American Jewish history and culture from the arrival of the first Portuguese Jews in New Amsterdam to the present day. In addition, the course will cover internal tensions within the Jewish community and the interaction of Jews with the larger American culture.
“The Spirituality of Henri Nouwen”
An introduction to the theology and spirituality of Henri Nouwen, a late-20th century Catholic priest and spiritual writer who focused on such topics as art, community with the disabled, and compassion and social justice.
“Theories of Conversion: Models and Methods of Religious Change”
A multidisciplinary study of the phenomenon of conversion, with attention to modern conversion theory and experiences across a broad spectrum of spiritual traditions and marginalized groups.
“Wisdom Literature and Spirituality”
A focus on Wisdom and Deuterocanonical texts as well as contemporary wisdom figures in students’ lives to determine the process by which text and life form and inform wisdom spirituality.