Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and Their Impact on Culture

The McDonald Chair

The Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and Their Impact on Culture is a distinguished visiting professorship at Candler School of Theology devoted to exploring Jesus’s effect on culture and, conversely, culture’s shaping of the figure of Jesus.

Interdisciplinary in character, The McDonald Chair allows scholars to approach the concept of Jesus and culture from a variety of perspectives. Holders of the chair have included artists, musicians, and poets, as well as scholars in the humanities and social sciences.

The McDonald Chair is supported by gifts from the McDonald Agape Foundation, chaired by The Honorable Alonzo L. McDonald 48C, a longtime trustee of Emory University. The McDonald Agape Foundation “supports lectures and other public presentations that deal creatively and imaginatively with the person and teachings of Jesus as they shape and form culture.”

Learn more about the McDonald Agape Foundation.

David H. Kelsey, Luther A. Weigle Professor Emeritus of Theology, Yale Divinity School

David KelseyDavid H. Kelsey is the spring 2017 distinguished visiting professor in the Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and Their Impact on Culture.

Born in Egypt to Presbyterian missionaries, Kelsey received his BA in philosophy from Haverford College, his BD from Yale Divinity School, and his PhD in theology from Yale Graduate School. He taught in the department of religion at Dartmouth College from 1961 to 1965, and served on the faculty of Yale Divinity School and Yale Graduate School from 1965 until his retirement in 2005. Kelsey has authored six books, including his seminal two-volume work Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology (Westminster John Knox, 2009), which explores humanity’s relationship to God.

In addition to giving two public lectures, Kelsey is teaching a spring semester course in systematic theology on “What Theological Difference Does the ‘Historical Jesus’ Make?”

LECTURES

Kelsey's lectures address the question of 20th-century German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Who is Christ for us today?”

Wednesday, February 1: “Who Is Christ for Us Today? A Human Being Just Like Us But Raised from the Dead?”

This lecture focuses on the Gospels’ narratives as a description of who Christ is as a human being anointed for a ministry proclaiming the imminence of the inbreaking of God’s eschatological rule—and becomes, in his resurrection from the dead, the beginning of that inbreaking. Kelsey addresses what difference this makes for the nature of hope today.

Wednesday, March 29: “Who Is Christ for Us Today? God Crucified?”

This lecture focuses on the Gospels’ narratives as a description of who Christ is as one in whom God is uniquely one of us—in the midst of the consequences of our estrangement from God, one another, and ourselves—to the point of undergoing crucifixion. Kelsey explores what difference this makes for the notion of “being saved.”

2015-2016

Lloyd Baugh, Pontifical Georgian University (Rome)

A native of Quebec, Canada, Lloyd Baugh is an ordained Jesuit priest and holds a doctorate in fundamental theology and film from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he went on to teach in those areas for more than twenty years. Baugh’s research interests include the Jesus films, theological themes in film, prayer experience and interreligious dialogue through film.

In addition to his public lectures, Baugh taught a course at Candler, “The Challenge of Mystery: Images and Metaphors of Jesus in Film.”

News release:
Lectures to Explore Treatment of God, Jesus in Film

2014-2015

Garry Wills, author, journalist and historian

A lifelong Roman Catholic, Garry Wills is professor emeritus of history at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Throughout his five-decade career, he has written extensively on politics, religion, and culture, penning nearly 50 books on subjects as wide-ranging as Nixon, St. Augustine, the papacy, and the modern presidency. His book Lincoln at Gettysburg (Simon & Schuster, 1992) won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1993, and he was awarded the National Medal for the Humanities in 1998.

In addition to his public lectures, Wills taught a Candler course entitled “Augustine on the Trinity.”

News releases:
Wills to Discuss St. Augustine in Dec. 3 McDonald Lecture
Wills to Address Government, Arts in Sept. 18 McDonald Lecture 

2013-2014

The Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal priest, author, and Emory alumna

Barbara Brown Taylor is the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College in rural northeast Georgia, and has authored twelve books, including her memoir Leaving Church (HarperOne, 2007), which won critical acclaim and earned Taylor the 2006 Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association. She received her bachelor of arts in religion from Emory in 1973 and a master of divinity from Yale in 1976. She has been an ordained priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta since 1984.

In addition to her public lectures, Taylor taught a class at Candler focused on examining the image of Jesus through the eyes of the world’s major faiths outside Christianity.

News releases:
Highlights: A Semester With Barbara Brown Taylor
Taylor’s McDonald Lecture Dwells in Life’s Dark Offerings
Barbara Brown Taylor to Explore Faith Formation in Sept. 26 McDonald Lecture
Taylor's Challenge to New Students: Be 'At Home with Uncertainty'
Barbara Brown Taylor to Deliver Convocation Address

2012-2013

Thomas Lynch, poet, essayist, and undertaker

Thomas Lynch’s work has been the subject of two award-winning film documentaries—PBS Frontline’s The Undertaking (2007) and the BBC’s Learning Gravity (2008)—and provided creative inspiration for the popular HBO series Six Feet Under. His essays, poems and stories have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Times of London, The New Yorker, The Paris Review and elsewhere. He lives in Milford, Michigan, where he has been the funeral director since 1974, and in Moveen, County Clare, Ireland, where he keeps an ancestral cottage.

News releases:
Lynch to Offer Samples from ‘The Feast of Language’
Poet Thomas Lynch to Deliver McDonald Lectures

2011-2012

James Carroll, Suffolk University, Boston Globe

Award-winning author and Boston Globe columnist James Carroll is a distinguished visiting scholar at Suffolk University in Boston. Carroll is the author of popular works such as The New York Times bestseller Constantine’s Sword (Mariner Books, 2002), Practicing Catholic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), and Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Mariner Books, 2012). A former Catholic priest, he served as a chaplain at Boston University from 1969 until 1974, when he left the priesthood to pursue writing.

News releases:
Carroll to Deliver "Jesus: An Undiscovered Faith" on November 14
Author James Carroll to Speak on "Jesus Against Himself"
Real Dialogue: Author James Carroll Engages Community in Discussion of 'Jesus the Jew’

2010-2011

The Rev. Dr. Beauty Maenzanise, Africa University in Zimbabwe

Beauty R. Maenzanise is known as a leader in theological education, especially in The United Methodist Church worldwide. She joined the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in 2016, after spending ten years as the dean of the School of Theology at African University. Maenzanise holds a doctoral degree and master’s degree in liturgical studies from Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University as well as master of sacred theology and master of divinity degrees from Drew Theological Seminary.

News release:
Maenzanise Delivers McDonald Lecture March 31

2009-2010

The Rev. Dr. David Steinmetz, Duke University

David C. Steinmetz taught for nearly 40 years at Duke Divinity School and as a visiting professor at Harvard and Notre Dame. An ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, he was the founding editor of Oxford Studies in Historical Theology and wrote numerous books and articles in late medieval and Reformation theology and pioneering studies in the history of biblical interpretation in early modern Europe. In 2006, Steinmetz was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2010 received the Distinguished Career Award of the American Society of Church History. He passed away in 2015.

2008-2009

The Rev. Dr. Randall Balmer, Barnard College, Columbia University

A prize-winning historian and Emmy Award nominee, Randall Balmer taught at Barnard College and Columbia University for 27 years before becoming the Mandel Family Professor in the Arts & Sciences at Dartmouth College in 2012. He has published widely both in academic and scholarly journals and in the popular press. Balmer's 1989 book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America (Oxford University Press), was made into a three-part documentary for PBS. Balmer was nominated for an Emmy for his script-writing and for hosting that series in 1992-93.

2007-2008

Herbert Kessler, Johns Hopkins University

Herbert Kessler is a medieval art historian who has focused much of his career on the ways that Christ appears in art and in "miraculous images," such as Veronica's Veil and the Mandylion of Edessa. Kessler has taught at the University of Chicago and at Johns Hopkins University, in addition to being a 1972 Guggenheim Fellow and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

2005-2006

John Witte Jr., Emory University

John Witte Jr., is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, McDonald Distinguished Professor, and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. A prolific author and lecturer, Witte has published 230 articles, 15 journal symposia and 28 books, his writings have appeared in 15 languages, and he has delivered more than 350 lectures around the world. He has been named the Most Outstanding Professor 12 times by Emory law students, and has been awarded dozens of other accolades for his teaching and scholarship.

2004

Wayne Meeks, Yale University

Wayne Meeks is Woolsey Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Yale University. Meeks served as a campus minister in Memphis, Tennessee, and at Yale, and also taught at Dartmouth College and Indiana University. He served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1985, and is Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. Meeks wrote the highly acclaimed The First Urban Christians (Yale University Press, 2003), which received the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence.

2003

Alice Parker, composer, conductor

Alice Parker earned her master’s degree from the Juilliard School, where she studied with Robert Shaw. She has produced 13 acclaimed recordings and has been recognized by Chorus America, the American Guild of Organists, the American Choral Directors Association, The Hymn Society and Choral Arts New England for her lifetime contributions to choral music. Parker is the recipient of six honorary doctorates, the Smith College Medal and the 2014 Brock Commission from the American Choral Directors Association.

2002

John T. Noonan, Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

John T. Noonan is justice emeritus of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as Robbins Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley and was the inaugural holder of the Maguire Chair in Ethics at the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. A Roman Catholic, Noonan testified at the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control in 1965, and he continues his interdisciplinary work of demonstrating the complex relationships between law and religion. He is the author of 13 books, including Narrowing the Nation’sPower (University of California Press, 2002).

2001

Jaroslav Pelikan, Yale University

Jaroslav Pelikan was a Yale scholar and historian of religion. He wrote more than 30 books, including the five-volume The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (University of Chicago Press, 1971-1989) and the best-selling Jesus Through the Centuries (Yale University Press, 1985). Over the years, Pelikan held leadership positions as president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, chairman of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and founding chairman of the Council of Scholars at the Library of Congress. Pelikan was widely recognized for his achievements in the humanities. In 1983, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected him to deliver the 12th annual Jefferson Lecture; in 1994, President Clinton appointed him to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and in 2004, he was awarded the John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences by the Library of Congress. During his lifetime, Pelikan received honorary degrees from 42 universities around the world. He passed away in 2006.

Luke Timothy Johnson, Robert W. Woodruff Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Christian Origins, Candler School of Theology
McDonald Chair Initial Animator for Provost Office (1998-2004)

Luke Timothy Johnson is a noted scholar and an award-winning teacher. A prolific author, Johnson has penned scores of scholarly articles and more than 30 books. His 1986 book The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation (Augsburg Fortress), now in its third edition, is used in seminaries and departments of religion worldwide. He received the prestigious 2011 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for Among the Gentiles: Grecco-Roman Religion and Christianity (Yale University Press, 2009). A former Benedictine monk, Johnson is a highly sought-after lecturer and a member of several editorial and advisory boards.

Below you will find links to recordings of the McDonald Chair lectures, organized alphabetically by last name. They are also available on Candler's Vimeo channel and/or in the McDonald Chair iTunes album

Randall Balmer

April 2, 2009: "So Help Me God: Religion and the Presidency Since John F. Kennedy"

April 16, 2009: "Mistaken Identity: Jimmy Carter, the Abortion Myth, and the Rise of the Religious Right"

Lloyd Baugh

September 24, 2015: "The 'God Question' in Contemporary Cinema I: A Courageous Break with Tradition"

October 14, 2015: "The 'God Question' in Contemporary Cinema II: Respecting Holy Mystery"

James Carroll

August 30, 2011: "Jesus: Jew or Gentile?"

September 26, 2011: "Jesus: Solitude or Solidarity?"

October 24, 2011: "Jesus: Magician or Healer?"

November 14, 2011: "Jesus: An Undiscovered Faith"

David H. Kelsey

February 1, 2017: "Who Is Christ for Us Today? A Human Being Just Like Us But Raised from the Dead?"

March 29, 2017: "Who Is Christ for Us Today? God Crucified?"

Herbert L. Kessler

September 25, 2007: "Competing Faces of Christ and the Emergence of an Authentic Portrait"

October 2, 2007: "The Substance of Things Hoped For: Art as the Shield of Faith"

October 3, 2007: “Luther and the Veronica”

Thomas Lynch

March 19, 2013: "The Good Funeral and the Empty Tomb"

April 17, 2013: "The Feast of Language" 

Beauty Maenzanise

November 18, 2010: “Towards an African Theology of Mission: A Case Study of Zimbabwe United Methodist Church”

March 31, 2011: "Lord Teach Us to Pray: The Role of Prayer in African Christian Spiritual Growth"

Wayne Meeks

September 23, 2004: "Does Anybody Know My Jesus?—Between Dogma and Romance"

September 29, 2004: "Memory and Invention: The Making of Jesus Christ"

September 30, 2004: "A Story to Think With: From Crucifixion to Metaphor"

October 6, 2004: "The Bible Teaches . . . Through a Glass, Darkly"

October 7, 2004: "Is Jesus the Last Word?"

John T. Noonan

October 28, 2002: "Jesus and the Judges"

October 29, 2002: "Jesus and the Bankers"

October 30, 2002: "Jesus and the Adulterous Woman"

October 31, 2002: "Jesus and the Slave Girl"

Alice Parker

March 23, 2003: "Yes, We'll Gather!  Singing Hymns with Alice Parker"

March 22, 2003: "Session 1"

March 22, 2003: "Session 2"

March 22, 2003: "Session 3"

Jaroslav Pelikan

October 9, 2001: "The Dynamism of the Christological Tradition: Orthodoxy as 'Pravoslavie'"

October 10, 2001: "Christ as Example and Exemplar in Russian Spirituality"

October 10, 2001: "A New Gospel Parable: The Grand Inquisitor"

October 11, 2001: "The Gospels in Action: The Christ of the Russian Icon"

David C. Steinmetz

March 17, 2010: "Martin Luther and the Domestication of Prophecy"

April 7, 2010: "John Calvin and the Impotent God"

Barbara Brown Taylor

August 2013: "At Home with Uncertainty" (Convocation address)

September 26, 2013: "Learning to Walk in the Dark"

October 30, 2013: "The Virtuous Preacher"

Garry Wills

September 18, 2014: "Government and the Arts"

December 3, 2014: "Living with Saint Augustine"

John Witte Jr.

February 9, 2006: "Freedom of a Christian: The Protestant Contributions to Modern Religious Liberty and Human Rights"

As part of Candler's centennial celebration, the McDonald Agape Foundation, in collaboration with Candler, presented "Prophetic Voices: Confronting Theological Challenges of the Next Century" in March 2015. The conference brought together a dozen renowned theologians to discuss theological challenges facing the church, the world and the shape of theological education in the next century.

The conference sought to be prophetic—in the sense of truth-speaking rather than future forecasting—about the pressing theological issues facing the world in the next 100 years, and the resources for engaging them.

Candler faculty delivered five major addresses, each followed by panel presentations by guest scholars. The program included times for worship and discussion among participants.

Watch the recordings from the conference.

View all events »