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Women Breaking Through as Leaders in Theology Programs

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by Ya-Marie Sesay

Dr. Keri Day, Dr. Margaret Aymer, and Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas are among the African American women advancing in the field of theology and creating an example for their communities.

Day is the new associate professor of constructive theology and African American Religion at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. She will join the theology department this fall.

Dr. Keri L. Day

Day hopes that her new position will influence other women of color and the younger generation to be “unapologetically courageous” in fields and institutions that were not made for women or minorities to lead in.

“[What] I hope to do now here at Princeton Theological Seminary is to be really unapologetically courageous about breaking these glass ceilings, about recognizing that their presence and their voices need to be in places like this,” said Day.

As a motivational lecturer for middle and high school students, she encourages young girls to find their passion and develop their own self confidence within it.

While completing her bachelor’s degree in political science at Tennessee State University, Day had the opportunity to travel the world where she noticed the importance of religion in politics, and how it impacts women and children. Religion has a role in the decisions of political leaders that shape the world view of a nation. This played a role in her interests in theology.

“There’s a lot of conflict within the political sphere and a lot of injustice based on how people construe what is ‘the will of god,’ or what their religion is telling them,” Day said.

Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas

As a professor, Day enjoys teaching and shaping her students into religious leaders to open their eyes to justice and inclusion around the world through theology and ethics. She said she is excited to begin her journey in mentoring “a generation of religious and Christian leaders across the religious traditions.”

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Douglas also has developed a passion in making a difference in the lives of underrepresented communities.

Douglas shares a story of seeing two young African American kids holding hands crossing the street in the inner-city Dayton, Ohio. The kids were not dressed appropriately for the weather, and Douglas at a young age began to cry because she viewed them as poor, and vowed to herself that she would come back one day to get them. Since then, Douglas is always reminded to use any opportunity given to make a difference for underrepresented people.

Douglas will become the first African American female dean at the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in September.

She developed her interest in theology after reading author James Cones’ book “Black Theology of Liberation” during her undergrad at Denison University. “I was really trying to understand the relationship between Black face, and the Black struggle for freedom in the nation,” said Douglas.

Douglas does not recognize her accomplishment as the first African American woman dean of an episcopal seminary as changing history. “I think that everyday we’ve been given the opportunity to live and that is our path to make history, and I mean that in a sense that to be accountable,” said Douglas. She sees this opportunity as bring accountable for African Americans that have paved the way through their struggles like Pauli Murray the first Black episcopal priest.

Dr. Margaret Aymer

Douglas hopes to carry on the legacy of racial and social justice in progressive ministries at Union Theological Seminary, and continuing to prepare students for a ministry that moves everyone.

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At Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Aymer is the first African American to be promoted to highest of three rank at their institution.

Aymer enjoys mentoring the young generation coming up, she feels it is important that all children see people of color at the top of their field. “It changes their imagination, it widens their imagination, it helps to understand what people of color are able to do beyond what they see in the media broadly,” Aymer said.

Aymer would like for people to understand that theology is not just going to church every Sunday morning, but to understand “Christianity worldwide so they begin to see themselves as part of a global phenomenon rather than simply a phenomenon that happens in their church,” said Aymer.

Day, Douglas, and Aymer enjoy opening the eyes of their students to see the impact of theology in many ways, and through their new positions they hope to influence other women to join the world of theology.

Ya-Marie Sesay can be contacted via e-mail ysesay@diverseeducation.com or twitter @Sesayyamarie.

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