As it celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, Candler’s Black Church Studies Program will welcome Renita J. Weems as distinguished guest speaker for the annual Anna Julia Cooper Lecture on March 17 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. This online event is free and open to the public, with advance registration required.
In her lecture, “We Build On Foundations We Did Not Lay: The Emergence of Womanist (Biblical) Scholarship in the ’70s and ’80s,” Weems will explore the 1980s as a pivotal decade for Black women in theological institutions and the hopefulness, terror, celebration, uncertainty, and backlash that characterized the budding intellectual movement of womanism during this period.
Weems is a biblical scholar, writer, ordained minister, public intellectual, and co-pastor of Nashville’s Ray of Hope Community Church. She has authored numerous books, commentaries and articles, including Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt (Simon & Schuster, 1999), which won the Religion Communicators Council’s prestigious 1999 Wilbur Award for excellence in communicating spiritual values to the secular media.
An ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church since 1984, Weems was the first African American woman to ever earn a PhD in Old Testament, which she received from Princeton Theological Seminary. She received her MDiv from Princeton and her BA from Wellesley College. Weems is a former faculty member at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, where she was the first African American woman to be tenured. She is a former William & Camille Cosby Visiting Professor of Spelman College, and most recently served as vice president of academic affairs and professor of biblical studies at American Baptist College in Nashville. She was also the first African American woman to deliver the prestigious Lyman Beecher Lecture at Yale University in 2008.
Weems is featured in Black Stars: African American Religious Leaders (Wiley, 2008), a collection of biographies of some of the most important Black religious leaders over the last 200 years, including Adam Clayton Powell, Elijah Muhammad, Sojourner Truth, Howard Thurman, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
This annual lecture of Candler’s Black Church Studies Program is named for Anna Julia Cooper, one of the most influential Black scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries. Born into slavery in 1858, Cooper graduated from Oberlin College and the Sorbonne, becoming the fourth African American woman in the U.S. to earn a PhD. She served as a public school teacher and principal in Washington, D.C. for more than 30 years, and remained a prominent educator, activist, and author until her death at age 105.