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Scott MacDougall, a scholar who has taught at Fordham University since 2010, has been named visiting assistant professor of theology at Church Divinity School of the Pacific for the 2015-2016 year.

MacDougall, who earned his PhD at Fordham, is the author of the new book “More Than Communion:  Imagining an Eschatological Ecclesiology” and has written for Huffington Post and Religion Dispatches as well as academic publications. He earned his master of arts in theology at General Theological Seminary in 2007, where the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, now dean and president of CDSP, was his advisor.

While at CDSP, MacDougall will teach two required theology courses as well as electives titled “Contemporary Theologies of Church” and “Eschatology and Christian Practice.”

“Scott’s theological voice is clear, focused and timely. He interprets the contemporary context and the kind of leadership needed to serve the church in our day. I am confident that students will feel his passion for theological dialogue and reflection as well as the depth of his preparation,” Richardson said.

MacDougall, an experienced grants manager who has worked for the Rockefeller Foundation and consulted for the Open Society Foundations, is married to Michael Angelo, founder and creative director of the prestigious Michael Angelo’s Wonderland Beauty Parlor in New York.

On June 7, President Richardson preached at the American Cathedral in Paris:

The story of human origins in Genesis is one of the most often read scriptures in the Bible. It is an ancient people’s understanding of moral awakening, the joy and sorrow of coming into our humanity as moral and spiritual beings. We in the West turned it into a story of rebellion against God so grievous as to cause a fall, a fall so deep it ruptured the harmony of creation altogether.

But if we look at the story with fresh eyes what do we really see? It is an account of the transition from innocent dependence on the gods (in ancient polytheism), to acting on the basis of meaning, and pursuit of the knowledge of good, with all its attractions, dangers and confusions.

If we enter the story once again through contemporary eyes, knowing our evolutionary roots in the story of the natural world’s unfolding, then we see ourselves as built upon the shoulders of millions of year of life and death and extinction. We are not actors on nature’s stage, we are fruit on nature’s tree. And we arrive with a certain kind of moral innocence but certainly not immune to the hardships of sheer existence. Wouldn’t this feel more like the complexity of an entangled jungle than an ordered garden?  The beginning of our moral and spiritual capacity that defines us as human beings must have been fragile, and in a complex environment already containing life and death. Adam and Eve do not appear deliberately to thwart God—through trial and error they are experiencing the confusion of moral awakening as mere children of a species coming into its own.

Imagine, just to illustrate, a 3 year old child momentarily alone in the living room; the child goes over to the fish bowl, sticks a hand in to grab the gold fish, wanting to see how the fish lives outside the water.  The child is not rebelling against the parent who most certainly had said on occasion ‘careful with the fishbowl;’ the child is exploring. But the action still has consequences because the fish most likely dies.

So let’s look at each character in this Genesis story. We encounter a deity who knows in advance the risk of creatures growing into a capacity for meaning making, which so easily twists into orienting all value into self-concern. Innocent obedience seemed safer to the deity than risking a creature liberated to connect desire and attraction to the discerning of the moral good. 

But now picture curious Eve: she hears the voice of the serpent, and is enticed by the possibility of merging her desire (this apple is edible), her attractions in the world (it is beautiful), with a pursuit of wisdom will knowledge of good and evil. Is it worth the risk? What would it be like if I were empowered by the capacity to know the good, she wonders? Will I really die? She is confused by the mixed messages the world outside herself is giving her. So she acts at a cost, but she acts.

The serpent urges Eve to take the risk—to explore—but it’s voice is deceit by half truths for the serpent does not communicate the cost. “You won’t die,” (which ends up being true to a point), but the serpent is silent on the matter of consequences, the danger of a spiritual quest, the risk of distorting good and bringing pain.

Then finally there is the simplest character, Adam, who just doesn’t want to wake up morally, preferring to pass the moral question backward onto Eve: “She gave it to me.  I didn’t do it. I’m a victim here.”

Coming into a capacity for moral and spiritual engagement with our world was a breakthrough, but it was a bumpy road, a risky undertaking even as it is exhilarating. No wonder Eve tried but in the end felt tricked, and Adam wanted to walk away from the prospect of good and evil altogether.

We have wrestled and conversed with the text and it raises a fundamental question: How do we keep our eye on the true Good, the reality of God, in the process of coming into the knowledge of moral and spiritual possibility? How do we move from innocent obedience to our own consent to the way of God?

Spiritual Awakening and Rite 13

This Sunday we celebrate Rite 13, the onset of adulthood in our young people.  And I wonder whether we might find analogy in what we have said so far as we think about what lies ahead for our youth.  And adults, take a moment to remember your own pathway in life along with them.

The church as a community wants our young people to find their own spiritual ground; we launch them into this venture not on their own but surrounded by a community that prays for them and encourages them spiritually. We know there will be trial and error in the quest for finding the good, coping with the awakening of attractions of many kinds along side the awakening of moral wisdom, and our obligation is to be with them when they stumble and fall.  In fact one of the charisms of the church community is being a place of grace in difficulty.

I think about this and recall a childhood experience. Our home in Oregon was on the edge of a forest, and as I walked up into the wood one day I spotted a tree on a high point, and wondered what the view would be like from the top.  The climb would be risky but I decided to go up the 20 ft tree to get the view from above. Suddenly as I reached the spindly top I lost my grip and began to tumble backward, each bow of the tree softening the fall, one by one, until I hit the ground. Without the branches my fall might have been life threatening. Our church community, an extended family, can be like the branches of the tree that bear the tumbling we go through.

From our experience of adulthood we can say we do not expect this day to mark your perfection, Mathilde, Samuel and Quinn—it is not magic, and Dean Lucinda does not take a wand and strike you with a new power. It is an important moment along the way between an earlier life of innocent dependence, on the one hand, and your own accountability as a human being on a spirit filled journey, on the other hand. You will explore and grow; you will be excited and sorrowful along the way. We want you to recognize and learn from the sadness and joy alike, and to know that God’s spirit is in you to hold you up.  It is all part of discovering freedom to be not unlimited choice, infinite possibility, but rather freedom as consent to the good.

The gospel story presumes that God desires creatures capable of responsive love, capable of finding the will of God in one another. Oh, most likely you will be like Adam in my story telling—who isn’t sure he wants to claim his adulthood yet, and you will be at other times like Eve who wants to connect curiosity about the attractions of life to knowledge of good and evil, and sometimes misreads the context and consequences.   The only way freely to give ourselves to the will of God is to risk this moral agency and to live into our humanity.

The new human family

Now as we close, fast-forward from Genesis to the story of Jesus in Mark’s gospel. We began with the family of our human origins set in ancient Mesopotamia, and now we turn to the refashioning of family on wholly other terms as the family of our destiny.  It is a radical message, it is Mark’s insinuation of Pentecost wherein the new global reality that is anticipated will be formed by those whose freedom is turned toward consent to doing the will of God.  

When Jesus’ family called upon him as he was out with the crowds and they passed on the message that his family was outside asking for him.  He turned to the crowd and replied:  “Who are my mother and my brothers? Whoever does the will of God is my mother and brother and sister.”

Notice there is no belief orthodoxy, no biological or tribal orthodoxy, no socio-economic, territorial or language orthodoxy in this reply.  Family consists in those who do the will of God, full stop. It is those who consent to this ultimate Good. Like the Pentecost spirit reaching out to all nations, the family Mark’s gospel envisions is potentially globalized through the key of grace found in doing what Jesus is modeling when he cares for the neighbor with his whole life, through healing, casting out demons of distortion and confusion, and feeding the hungry. This is the interpretive key to knowing what it means to will the will of God.  So, for example, when Trinity Cathedral offers hospitality and a meal on Fridays it is a sacrament in action of doing the will of God.

On the other hand, when we treat with indifference the suffering of others, from travails at home and wars that plague so much of the world, we place at risk our very humanity.

Jesus advocates for us by pioneering, inspiring and encouraging a different way into the experience of grace. He is the moral high point of our humanity by being his brother’s keeper, keeping watch over the neighbor, gathering as family those who would take this to be the will of God.

And now in this Pentecost season we expect to find him not in Jerusalem or Galilee, but in his spirit everywhere God’s will is sought and done on earth as in heaven.  This prayer in action becomes the mark of Jesus’ family.  Amen.


Author James Carroll gave this address at CDSP's 121st Commencment on May 22, 2015. Watch it online.

“Cries of ‘Please help us!’ rose from the boat.” - the New York Times, only days ago.

“Cries of ‘Please help us!’ rose from the boat.”

Imagine. Imagine that this beautiful enclosure is its absolute opposite - the stark negative of this so profoundly positive scene.

Imagine, that is, that instead of a happy throng of graduates from one of the great theological schools in the country, together with loved ones, proud professors - all celebrating one of the milestone achievements of your lives, and the generous gift of your futures to a welcoming community of faith.

Imagine instead that we are a completely different throng. Women, children, men—crowded into a confine perhaps this very size, but a dangerous confine. A tarp above us perhaps, flapping. Walls. Or railings, at least. But, instead of steady ground beneath us, an unsettling, sickening roll and heave. The sea.

Terrors of the sea. Imagine that we are migrants on an overcrowded, top-heavy, unseaworthy vessel, at the mercy of human traffickers, pirates, ocean storms, sea monsters, and an indifferent world. Nation after nation refusing us landfall.

Brothers and sisters of 2015, I am privileged to salute you this morning. The text of our gathering is your happy graduation. But what is the context?

In the Mediterranean Sea since April, at least five vessels with thousands aboard have sunk, leading to the deaths of more than twelve hundred people. The Prime Minister of Malta declared recently that the Mediterranean is becoming a cemetery for migrants.

In the Andaman Sea off Thailand, up to 20,000 people have taken to rickety boats to escape violence and deprivation in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Even today, legions of the world’s most desperate people are casting themselves upon the waters, as Pope Francis put it, “In boats which are vessels of hope and become vessels of death.”

“These broken lives,” he declared, “compromise the dignity of the international community, and we…”--the rest of us--“…are in danger of losing our humanity.” Because we ignore them. We do not see them.

At commencement ceremonies across America this weekend--or across town--it might be a matter of bad taste to impose such an unhappy reference on the festivities. After all, graduation is one of life’s unbridled joys--the occasion when the diligence of students and the support of families are honored. But in fact, the commencement of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific measures this occasion against a different standard.

What is CDSP for?

What are your degrees for?

What have you been doing here across these years?

And what are you going to do now?      

“Cries of ‘Please help us’ rose from the boat.”

Many people of good conscience everywhere are attuned to the grotesque inequality that shapes the culture, economy, structure of law, and the very meaning of life across this nation, and on the planet. But for a community that defines itself as a custodian of the Biblical vision and Gospel values, the plight of the desperate ones can never be a marginal concern, one on a long list of problems to be addressed, challenges overcome.

What does it mean to be a fully formed and well educated person of faith if not this: Aren’t you here today to do nothing less--forgive my presumption in suggesting this--than see the world through the eyes of God?

To the globe’s infamous one percent which owns nearly fifty percent of the world’s wealth, the very poor are invisible. To Americans who take satisfaction in a dropping crime rate, the more than two million people in prison are invisible, especially if they are among the more than three thousand on death row. To educators condemned to operate within a triage system, the one third of children left behind by No Child Left Behind are invisible. To Americans who grieve the roughly seven thousand U.S. troops killed in a succession of misbegotten wars, invisible are hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, Afghanistanis, Pakistanis, Yeminis, Libyans, Syrians, and Somalians, not to mention the millions upon millions of the displaced, many of whom die at sea trying only to find a safe harbor, a home..

And even here in Berkeley this weekend, to a population that defines itself by success, achievement, accumulation, and looks--those who fall behind, or fall off, are invisible.

Who sees those who suffer? May I ask such a question here, today, when we are gathered by the opposite of suffering?

But of course. It is not my question. It is yours. What did you do when you chose to come here if not submit to it?

Who is the God whom we uphold? That was the question Moses put to the One who commissioned him. Who are you? Why are you sending me forth? Why?

“And the Lord said, ‘I have seen the misery of my people… I have heard them crying out… and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.’”

Note: The foundational text of our tradition does not say, “I have seen the sin of my people.” The falling short. The failure to succeed. Nor does the text say, “I have seen the winners. The good-lookers. The one per cent.”

No: “I have seen the suffering, and I will rescue them.”

And in what does God’s rescue consist?

When the people are driven out, exiled, made migrants, refugees, literally scapegoated--the goat “driven out” in Leviticus. God goes with them!

Yes, the Bible is the story of power and the violence needed to hold onto power, but the Bible uniquely tells the story of power from the point of view of the powerless. God sees the suffering ones, and sees the world through their eyes.

“Cries of ‘Please help us’ rose from the boat.”

I was raised to believe that when God looked upon the people, what God saw was sin. Therefore God said to Eve, “I will greatly multiply your pain.” Because of sin! To Adam, Therefore, “you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

Thus, we have brought suffering upon ourselves. An offended God condemns us to it. Such a theology--emphasizing an Old Testament God of vengeance--is not only slyly anti-Semitic; it undergirds the heartless indifference of the world’s affluent minority toward the misery of the vast majority. Somehow, they brought it on themselves. If we are privileged, we are invited to believe we have earned it. We have a right to our indifference.

No. “I am concerned about the suffering. I have come down to change it.”

And how does God do that? Not through magic or miracles; not through denial, or through willful blindness. God changes suffering, rescues from suffering, by joining in it.

“Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to cling to.” Here is Paul’s astonishing assertion. “But emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2: 5-8)

Perhaps the true miracle of Christian origins was in the way the good news of Jesus Christ sped across the ancient world--a fire ignited over night in the hearts of legions. Forty percent of the Roman empire’s population were slaves--laborers in mines, farm workers, war captives, sex servants, the colonized, and the exploited. Together with the urban poor, they were a host of deracinated, hounded, lost and invisible underlings on whom the pyramid of the Romasn empire stood.

Invisible people. But not to God. “I have seen the suffering, and I have come down to change it.”

How? By joining in it. Here is the urgent and never more relevant meaning of our conviction that Jesus Christ was somehow divine. The boldness of Paul’s elevation of Jesus of Nazareth into the status of Christ of God, somehow God Himself, lay in the central fact of the ignominy of what befell Jesus. “Even death on a cross.” Instead of downplaying the crucifixion, the mode of death expressly reserved for slaves and insurrectionists--and recall that thousands of Jews were hung on Roman crosses - Paul made it the keystone of faith. The cross saves. This is not the crude atonement theology--again, slyly anti-Semitic - that would later grip the Christian imagination, but a drama of an ultimate empathy. In Jesus, God suffers with you!

Enslaved people heard this word - and so, in many cases, did their masters, since suffering is only partially circumstantial. It is existential, too, as everyone here knows very well. “There are tears in things…” This is Virgil. “…and all things doomed to die touch the heart.” Somehow, everyone is crying out, “Please, help us.”

The Church Divinity School of the Pacific exists to hear that cry. At CDSP, you have sharpened your hearing to take it in. You have honed your vision to see those who, mostly, remain invisible.

They are not invisible to God, who not only sees the suffering, but joins in it--the ultimate “compassion,” which means, as you know, “to suffer with.”

If faith in such a God enables the transition from despair to trust--from “Why have you abandoned me?” to “Into your hands I commend my spirit”--the suffering is not removed, but it its meaning is changed. Or rather, it can have meaning.

For us, as privileged people, the meaning takes the form mainly of a demand. We must, we are obliged to, we simply have no choice but to see everything--as the Lord God of Israel does--from the point of view of those on the bottom, the otherwise invisible ones who carry the weight of war, of free market capitalism, of contempt for the other, of an ever more degraded environment.

“Please, help us.”

Those words have intruded on our festivities today. Can it be that the intrusion is welcome?

A reminder of what made you want to shape your lives by such a place as this? Not Law School. Not Business School. Divinity School.

A reminder that the God in whom you believe comes announced as one who exists to hear those words. A reminder that God made those word’s God’s own: “Let this cup pass from me.” Please, Jesus said, help me.

“Therefore…” Paul goes on to say in that famous passage in Philippians, “…God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.”

Do you see it? Paul’s genius was to see Jesus’ identification with suffering as the revelation of his divinity. A revelation also known as the Resurrection.

And here is the Resurrection promise: What God does for Jesus, God does for us. The meaning of suffering changed for all and forever.

“Cries of ‘Please help us!’ rose from the boat.” From beneath the tarp. From the crowded space.

The most wrenching dread of the human heart is that we are castaways adrift on the seas of an indifferent cosmos. But we are not. For the creating and sustaining heart of the cosmos is with us. The life force, the principle, the ground of being, transcendence itself, whom we chose to think of as a person. Whom we call ‘God.’ In Jesus Christ. “God with us.” That is the good word--the Word that was with God, the word that is God, dwelling here.

That Word is now entrusted to you. Accept your commission to go from this place as its proclaimers. Your commission to see those whose suffering is otherwise unseen. Your commission is to hear their plea and answer it with your very lives. Go!

Church Divinity School of the Pacific has named Jennifer Snow, associate for discipleship ministries in the Episcopal Diocese of California, to a dual position as director of extended learning and assistant professor of practical theology.

“Jennifer Snow is well positioned in background and sensibilities to take on the leadership of our extended learning program,” said the Very Rev. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s president and dean. “She brings a probing, analytic intellect and collaborative spirit to her work. I am delighted that she will be guiding the planning and implementation of our extended learning initiatives.”

Snow, who holds a Ph. D. in religion from Columbia University, is the author of “Protestant Missionaries, Asian Immigrants, and Ideologies of Race in America.” She has also written several articles on religion, immigration, and faith-based activism.

Snow, who was previously deputy director of Progressive Christians Uniting in Los Angeles, said she is excited by the opportunity both to develop CDSP’s distance learning offerings and online pedagogy, and to teach in a seminary classroom.

“Being extended learning director will be really interesting because I love the challenge of both identifying people’s needs and then finding the people who can fill them,” Snow said. “I can continually meet people and say ‘Oh that sounds interesting. I bet we can make a great course out of that.’

“For the practical theology part, I love teaching and being able to teach in a faith-based institution is very exciting to me,” she added. “I am looking forward to teaching people who are deeply committed to their own faith journeys, and to creating an environment in which people’s discernment is respected and is part of the classroom context.”

Snow will arrive at CDSP as the seminary is reshaping its extended learning program, currently known as the Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership (CALL). While the program’s mission—“to bring the broadest possible Anglican theological education to the widest possible audience using the best educational technology available”—will not change, its offerings and approach to online education will.

“I wanted to develop a better pedagogy for the people teaching the course so they have all of the resources availability to create exciting courses,” Snow said. “People who are really good teachers in person can become really good teachers online, but it’s not the same.”

Richardson said Snow’s arrival is well timed. “It is commonly understood that our church and our bishops are in a dynamic phase regarding how they will support needs for theological education to serve the future of the church” he said. “CALL is very well positioned to offer creative options to enhance the classic approaches taken to theological education.”

Snow, who begins work in June, is married to the Rev. Teresita Valeriano, a Lutheran minister. Their son, Taal Charles, is almost two.

At its 121st commencement on May 22, CDSP will give the following awards and prizes:

The Right Rev. Richard Millard Prize for Excellence in Preaching 

The Right Rev. Richard Millard (CDSP M.Div. ’60) is former rector of Christ Church, Alameda; former Bishop Suffragan for the Diocese of California; former alumni director for CDSP; former director of mission development for The Episcopal Church; and retired bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. 

The Fran Toy Prize for Multicultural Ministry at a Field Education Site 

The Rev. Dr. Fran Toy (CDSP M.Div. ’84, D.D. ’96) is the first Asian-American woman ordained in The Episcopal Church, in 1985, and is a former Director of Alumni/ae and Student Affairs at CDSP. 

The L. Vernon Trabert and Martin L. Graebner Scholar’s Resource Award

L. Vernon Trabert, father of Bertita Graebner, provided both practical funding and presence to the mission efforts of his church. Martin Graebner, father of Michael Graebner, practiced his mission through the use of the original languages of Scripture in everyday settings.

As a memorial to both, Bertita and Michael Graebner established this award to encourage the study of the New Testament in the original Greek.

Kellor Smith Scholarship for Youth Ministry

Kellor Smith is Youth and Family Minister at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Oakland, California. The scholarship fund was created in honor of her dedication to youth ministryand her decades of service to youth. The scholarship is awarded to a CDSP seminarian who has demonstrated a special interest in, and talent for, youth ministry.

Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, a well-known Lutheran ethicist, has accepted a joint appointment as professor of Christian ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and CDSP.

Moe-Lobeda has taught at Seattle University since 2004 and is co-author of the forthcoming book, “The Bible and Ethics in the Christian Life: A New Conversation.”  Her other books include “Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation” and “Public Church:  For the Life of the World.”

“Cynthia Moe-Lobeda is a widely recognized expert on the ethical dimensions of globalization, the environmental crisis and the impact of race, class and gender on moral decision-making,” said the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, dean and president of CDSP. “She will make an important contribution not only to the formation of our students at CDSP, but also to seminarians from Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific who study with us here in Berkeley.”

“We are very pleased that Dr. Moe-Lobeda has chosen to cast her lot with the community at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary,” said Rev. Brian Stein-Webber, interim chief administration Officer at PLTS.  “Her books are already an important part of our curriculum, and to have her wisdom and insight and care being delivered in person is as much as we could hope for!  We pray for her and her husband Ron’s transitions in the coming months.”

Moe-Lobeda is well known in ecclesial, faith-based organizing and theological education circles. She received her Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from Union Theological Seminary in New York where she wrote her dissertation, on “…economic globalization and Luther’s Indwelling God as source of subversive moral agency.” 

Moe Lobeda had previously received an M.T.S. from Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C., and an M.S.W. from the School of Social Work at the University of Washington, Seattle.  She did her undergraduate work at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. She will assume the responsibilities of this PLTS/CDSP joint appointment in the fall semester.

“We’re delighted to welcome Dr. Moe-Lobeda,” said Alicia Vargas, interim dean at PLTS. “She will bring distinction, prophetic spark, and dedicated and world-engaged scholarship and teaching to PLTS.  With this, Moe-Lobeda will contribute to the tradition of excellence and Lutheran strength of our seminary within the richness of the GTU.” 

For some, biblical Hebrew is an impediment to studying the Old Testament. For Julián Andrés González Holguín, it was the main attraction.

“Back in my country, a pastor very dear to me said, ‘Julián, would you like to learn Hebrew?’” said González, a native of Colombia. “ He was and is a member of the society that is translating the Hebrew Bible into Spanish. I have always liked languages and learning languages. From there began the idea of doing something with the Hebrew Bible.”

Something life-changing, as it turns out.

González, who recently completed his Ph.D. with honors at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, will join CDSP’s faculty this summer as an assistant professor of Old Testament, a joint appointment with Pacific Lutheran Seminary.

“Julián offers a fresh new voice in the world of scholarship and teaching in the context of theological education,” said the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s dean and president, in announcing the appointment. “He is very integrative in his approach to studies in sacred texts, looking for contemporary analogies to the experience of God in the ancient Middle East.

“For example, he explores contemporary issues of immigration in light of Old Testament experiences of exodus and diaspora. It is a hermeneutic of lively immediacy that will bring new insight from scriptural studies.”

González’s research, publications and teaching have focused on how religious ideologies and Biblical narratives have been used to provoke and justify violence. He comes by his interest in violence through experience, he says.

“My country has been in violence since the late 1940s and early 1950s,” González says. “We have had guerilla groups since the 1950s. We haven’t been able to come to a peace agreement. Colombia is a country against itself. I have had experiences myself that have led to an interest in looking at the texts of violence in the Bible and how we interpret them, how we deal with them and how we use them nowadays.”

González has a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Cali, and worked for four years as a software developer at Shell, before entering Truett Seminary at Baylor University in 2006 where he and his wife, Viviana Urdaneta, earned master’s degrees in divinity. Urdaneta, who also earned a master’s degree in social work at Baylor, a therapist in Dallas, is president of Latinos Against Domestic violence and the organizer of the Madrinas, a program that trains indigenous leaders to support victims of abuse.

While at Baylor, the couple volunteered at First Baptist Church. “We were involved in ministry with migrant population, especially Mexican citizens,” González said. First Baptist is a primarily white church in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood. “We were trying to be a bridge between both communities,” he said.

While at First Baptist, González developed HABLA (Hablando Alrededor de la Biblia con los Amigos – Speaking around the Bible with Friends), a program in which members of the local Hispanic community and church members met to share food and read the Bible together. Through common study, they came to understand better how their life experiences and cultural assumptions shaped their understanding of scripture.

“Most of those attending were migrants,” González said. “They were happy to express their own concerns and to see Biblical texts as a means to express their concerns. But if people are not part of these marginalized communities, but from communities that perhaps benefit from the violence in our society, their reception is different. They don’t want to read it that way. It raises issues that they don’t want to deal with. It has different reception depending on the circumstances on the audience.”

González said he was moved to apply for the faculty opening at CDSP in part because of the opportunity to teach in the diverse interfaith environment of the Graduate Theological Union, and in part by a sentence on the seminary’s website which says that CDSP “integrates scholarship, reflection and worship with the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“That balance between reflection and preparation, that double emphasis is very important to me,” he said.

González is a member of the Hispanic Theological Initiative, which was founded in 1996 to support Latino and Latina students and faculty members in theological education. “In the Latino community, there many identities” he said. “There is not a single lens. I think what I can say as a Colombian is that I bring this concern about violence, and as a migrant I understand the experience of being in a place that is not yours and that is sometimes hostile but sometimes welcoming.

“Coming out of that context, I think I see myself as encouraging and supporting a Latino voice that can contribute to the understanding of these issues of migration and fellowship with the other.”

While González knows little about the Bay Area, he has already seen enough to know that it speaks to him in one particular way.

“I love hiking,” he said. “I really love that. I miss mountains. In Colombia, I used to take my bike and the mountains were three blocks from my home. Here in Texas everything is flat. So I am looking forward to hiking again.”