Apr 26 2011

Brian Green on the JD/MTS Program

Ever wonder what types of issues are discussed within joint degree programs at Candler or why student choose to pursue two graduate degrees simultaneously? Here Brian Green talks about his experiences within Candler’s MTS program, the JD program at Emory University School of Law, and Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion:

Apr 20 2011

Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson on Teaching

This is the last full week of class at Candler for this school year, but that doesn’t stop members of our great community from sharing their stories. Here, Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson shares his goals for teaching.

Dr. Johnson is the Robert Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Candler. His research concerns the literary, moral, and religious dimensions of the New Testament, including the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts of early Christianity (particularly moral discourse), Luke-Acts, the Pastoral Letters, and the Letter of James. A prolific author, Dr. Johnson has penned numerous scholarly articles and more than 25 books. His 1986 book The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, now in its second edition, is widely used in seminaries and departments of religion throughout the world.  He was recently awarded the prestigious 2011 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book, Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity.

Apr 15 2011

The Seminary Experience

With two weeks to go, my time as a first-year seminarian is almost complete. Like every other academic year, the exams and papers have whirled by and the summer welcomes my return. But this year has been different, and it deserves some reflection.

When I applied to seminary, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but hoped that my role as a minister and person of faith would be clarified simply by applying – as though seminary would be some kind of all-knowing crystal ball. What a funny thought.

At the time, I was living in France, teaching English to French students and traveling to new locales every other week. The two years prior had been spent in coastal Mississippi, teaching 9th-12th graders History, Government/Economics, and Geography and coaching Track and Cross Country. On top of teaching, I had spent two summers in South Bend, IN participating in an intensive summer-long graduate program. By the end of May 2009, I was exhausted and in need of sleep and self-care. France had become not just an opportunity for adventure, but also a respite from the exhaustion that comes with teaching in the United States.

After four months of relaxation, I became restless. Sure the 12-hour work week was nice, and I loved each of the bakeries lining our small community’s streets, but I needed a challenge. So I applied to seminary.

When August rolled around, I couldn’t contain myself. Eager to meet my classmates, and even more excited to dive into my studies, I began Contextual Education at Metro State Prison as an intern prison chaplain four hours a week, I enrolled in classes, and  immediately connected with people in my advising group. Life was perfect.

It wasn’t until October that I started panicking. In the middle of writing a paper for Old Testament, my knees started to buckle. “What am I doing here? I don’t even like this stuff!” “Ugh, I hate writing this paper. I mean, I’m not even going to be ordained!” When my boyfriend looked at me and said, “You don’t really seem to be enjoying what you’re learning,” I thought “Oh, crap. I think you might be right.”

After that, I started to look for an exit plan. I made a pros and cons list. I talked to my sister, my mom, and my cousin. I cried to my boyfriend. I prayed, sort of.

Gritting my teeth, I entered January term with uncertainty. Not only was I uncomfortable, but I felt strange. I’d always been the person to say, “Grow where you’re planted,” and here I was trying my hardest to avoid my commitment to seminary. I was scared about what others might think, worried about what it would mean if I left, and mad that I had made a poor decision. Most of my questions ended with the question all of us ask as some point or another, “Do you even know who you are?”

My existential crisis did not end with one decisive event. Instead, it morphed into a process of discovery in which I started to examine more closely the elements of seminary that had made me most uncomfortable. What I realized is that I had been sitting in an Old Testament classroom discussing the significance of the three worlds of biblical interpretation, redaction theory, and exegesis, but I didn’t have the faintest clue what any of those things meant. I had spent every Friday working in the lock-down ward of a women’s prison, speaking to women through a rectangular flap in the door and feeling exhausted by and disenchanted with our justice system. I had absorbed myself in research about the American sex industry and the ways in which pastors can help care for all persons involved in such forms of entertainment. I missed teaching so badly, that I blamed seminary for robbing me of my gifts and talents. And lastly, I struggled to establish for myself a place in which I could foster my artistic side and produce creative projects. It seemed that I had become so overwhelmed that I couldn’t see the proverbial forest through the trees.

When I awoke to this realization, I was able to see seminary for what it is: a place in which human beings come to learn, grow, and be challenged in the name of God. It’s not about earning a formal degree or a collar so that you can become a minister in a church someday. If it is, you’ll probably burn out pretty quickly. It’s not about having all your ducks in the row. If it is, you’re in for a messy surprise (see: Job). It’s not about loving every single service experience, every single lecture, or even every book of the Bible. If it is, you are a better person than me. It’s not about being holier than thou or about power. If it is, we’ve lost Christ in the midst of it all. And, it’s not about always being comfortable, always knowing what it means to be a minister, or always liking what you’re doing. If it is, no one would last. Instead, it’s about journeying alongside other creatures of God who seek to discover new ways of conceiving of the Divine, communing with the cosmos, and living into the fullness of Life. We seminarians do this not because we think we have the answers or because talking to others about God is easy or even always natural, but because we know that our lives are sustained and enriched by union with the Most Gracious.

If you’re contemplating seminary, I’d encourage you to pursue the journey. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. If you’re a current student, I appreciate your presence, thank you for your endurance, and admire you for your voice. If you’re a graduate of seminary, I pray that the three years you spent at Candler continue to challenge you and inspire you for the rest of your ministry on this earth.

I have no doubt Candler was the right choice for me, even if there are days I wish it were otherwise. Not only has it shaken me, but it has also grounded me and changed me for the better. And, when all is said and done, there is not much more I could ask for in a seminary.


- Jacqueline Jeffcoat

Jacqueline is a 1st year MDiv student from Fort Worth, Texas and a Student Ambassador.

Apr 13 2011

Lenten Meditation #3

During a Candler chapel service known as “Songs and Prayers for the Lenten Journey,” several students shared spoken word reflections.  For the next few Wednesdays we will share some of these reflections with you.

This week’s reflection is from 1st year MDiv student Hillary Watson.

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You can find more of Hillary’s work at these sites:




Hillary was born and raised an urban Mennonite in Seattle, Wa.  She is a graduate of Goshen College (Ind.) and prior to attending Candler she spent a year with Mennonite Voluntary Service.  She describes herself as a compulsive poet and thinks a good poem is worth a four-course meal.

Apr 8 2011

Rasta, Reggae, and Revolution

On the first Tuesday of each month during the semester, the admissions department hosts prospective student for dinner.  Besides great food, a Candler professor shares her/his thoughts on a topic.  This week we had Dr. Noel Erskine speak about the “Bible and Reggae”.  I’ve taken his RastafarI class before so naturally I was excited to revisit the dynamics of this movement, music & message.

The RastafarI movement in many ways emerged as a response to numerous hardships waged on certain sections of Jamaica’s population. Obiagele Lake explains, “Rastas grew out of a complex process of slavery and slave resistance”[1].  However, well after the ‘official’ end of slavery in British colonies in 1834, institutional and mental shackles still held people captive.  Instead of being an advocate for justice, to these people, the local government and foreign forces of downpression perform synchronized dance moves.  Soon it was obvious that it would take more than tears to breakdown the oppressive social construct called Babylon.  With the emergence of RastafarI faith came a rise in reggae music that served as a sharp but gentle knife to cut through society’s ills.  Fortunately, many reggae artists realized that to effect change they would have to do more than expose systematic injustice.  Reggae music also gave comfort and hope to wounded people.

A brief look at some of Marley (and the Wailers) songs will illustrate the crafty combination of criticism and comfort in RastafarI music. In So Much Trouble in the World, Marley makes sweeping lyrical observations of global events and popular culture that warrant urgent correction.  He alludes to humanity’s preoccupation with exploring space and feeding their own egos rather than addressing the problems that exist right here on earth.  Suddenly near the end of the song, Marley sings, “Now I know the time has come. What goes on up is coming on down. What goes around it comes around”, giving a comforting hope to those oppressed that soon their oppressors will have to eat the bitter fruits they planted.  One day the balance of power will be reversed.

“No chains around my feet but I’m not free.  I know I am bound here in captivity. I never know what happiness is. I never know what sweet caress is. Still, I’ll be always laughing like a clown. Won’t someone help me, ‘cause I’ve got to pick myself from off the ground. In this concrete jungle…Life must be somewhere to be found, instead of concrete jungle”, chants Bob Marley in Concrete Jungle.  This short verse captures critique and comfort in both the lyrics and accompanying music.  Even though slavery ended, Rastas acknowledge that bondage still lives on through mental, economic, racial and social chains.  So for Marley, freedom is just an illusion.  In the midst of this though, Bob sing almost in a chuckle that he’ll be laughing like a clown.  This is a swift insertion of hope admonishing people to hold onto the small things that give them joy, rather than waste life in anger and sadness.  With the exception of this one line, the entire song is set in a minor (sad) tonality.  The sudden switch between minor (sad) and major (happy) tonality demonstrates the artist’s intent for joy and pain to co-exist in the interest of survival.  Interestingly, using minor tonality is in itself a form of protest against the European colonists music that employs more major keys.

A major theme in RastafarI music is extreme opposition to racism, classism and any other force that denies people basic human rights.  Words are powerful, but making a profound articulate speech does not guarantee that the words will reach the masses that are absent when the speech is delivered.  Printing and publishing the words in books or newspapers is a step closer to globalizing the message, but what happens when the majority of people who need to hear the words are unable, or choose not to read?  Music rises to action in this case and gives flight to an otherwise geographically motionless message.  An excellent example of music’s ability to publicize and mobilize words is Bob Marley’s song War, where he puts a speech by H.I.M. Haile Selassie I atop the wings of rhythm and melody.  Listen as Marley and Selassie chant down Babylon’s racial and economic oppression.

I doubt H.I.M. Haile Selassie I ever dreamed that a speech he gave to the United Nations would be blasting melodically through microphones and speakers around the world, as a Rastaman (Bob Marley) used the words to set hearts on fire at reggae concerts.  At any rate, Selassie and Marley deliver a bi-fold message calling down racism and classism; while simultaneously giving people hope that good will most definitely triumph over evil!

Marley emerges from his King James Bible inspired by the Israelites victorious exit from oppression in Egypt and shouts “Exodus! Movement of Jah People!”  This song is set in deep minor tonality, employs stiff horn lines, and boasts a hard driving reggae beat with a the heavy kick drum pumping every beat like a heart.  Exodus unlike other tunes does not invite quite contemplation as much as it functions as a call to radical collective action. The Wailers shout, “Are you satisfied, with the life you’re living. We know where we’re going. We know where we’re from. We’re leaving Babylon. We’re going to our father’s land!” Then Bob, Bunny, Peter and the I-Three rock us in a cradle with the words “Don’t worry, about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing, is gonna be alright.”

This short journey through a portion of Marley’s repertoire demonstrates how the RastafarI use music to simultaneously chant down Babylon, while empowering and comforting I-an-I.

-  Dalan Vanterpool

Dalan is a 2nd Yr. MDiv student from the British Virgin Islands and a Student Ambassador.

[1] Obiagele Lake, RastafarI Women: Subordination in the Midst of Liberation Theology (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 1998), 17.

Apr 6 2011

Lenten Meditation #2

During a Candler chapel service known as “Songs and Prayers for the Lenten Journey,” several students shared spoken word reflections.  For the next few Wednesdays we will share some of these reflections with you.

This week’s reflection is from 1st year MDiv student Marques Harvey.

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Psalm 121 Lenten Reflection

By: Marques Harvey

March 2011 (Copyright pending)

‘I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

In this season of Lent, my time is being spent discovering that this God of Israel- IS REAL and I mean that environmentally. For God is stretching me to break- fast from traditions of seeing God just as some ‘cosmic sugar Daddy’, this Agape poppy, who whenever I need a blessing I just send a praise up, and my blessings come down.  But this time around, in this season of Lent, less time is being spent craving the obesities of life. You know the fat ride, with the extremely large house, even though it’s only occupants are you and your spouse. All those things which contribute to this energy crisis- in which the inflation in the prices- has got us wondering just where Christ is.     So like the Psalmist, we lift up our eyes to the hills, only to discover they aren’t there anymore.  Cause the country’s economic plan of mountain top removals has crossed the burning sands and Mt. Zion is being converted into a mole hill – things are getting REAL in Israel.

In this season of Lent, my time is being spent discovering that this God of Israel – IS REAL – and I mean that sociologically, God is really challenging me to break-fast from traditions of simply fasting the sweets, treats and meats in my diet.  Moving from Daniel’s fast to a fast so REAL Isaiah encourages everyone to try it.  It’s a fast that’s not about just me, but with just-us.

It beckons that us who too often fuss with us, would begin discussing trust with us so that God would no longer find disgust in us…where the words of one KRS & the One Christos help remove the proverbial planks from our eyes until we realize that this God of Israel – IS REAL – and I mean that ontologically.  God is awakening us to see that Israel is not just a man, not just some ancient land, not just the daughters of the dust but Israel is in each one of us.  I ask you, from where will my help come when the earth’s hidden faults cause disasters in the land, when impenetrable levees can no longer stand? You responded our help comes from the One who made heaven and Japan, from the One who made heaven and Iran, from the One who made heaven and Sudan.  For the God who keeps Israel is the One who will not sleep nor slumber. For at times like these, we no longer have to wonder.  All we have to do is take notice and know this – that this God of Israel – IS REAL.

Marques holds a Masters in Public Health from the Morehouse  School of Medicine and is a graduate of Benedict College.