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Jun  2014 20
Phillips Experts in Demand

Every semester, faculty members at Phillips Theological Seminary teach people about ministry, preaching and theology. However, not all of those people are students. Faculty members at Phillips speak at events and write for publications outside the seminary as part of the Speakers Bureau.

Each faculty member is asked to speak at meetings, conferences and events four to 10 times per semester. Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean Nancy Pittman, a published author and speaker, says the Speakers Bureau is a resource for keynoting, teaching, preaching and more. She believes Phillips faculty are passionate about Jesus and speak about theology with knowledge and civility.

“I think we represent the more progressive voice in Christianity,” Pittman said. “I think we have knowledgeable, wise, on-going learners who have something to offer authoritatively.”

Pittman says the Speakers Bureau gives Phillips the chance to hear and address misconceptions of Christianity in order to build relationships with local, academic and theological communities.

“I think we’re interested in two-way relationships,” she said. “We don’t want to raise our own profile just to raise it. We want to be partners in building a better society.”

Rev. Susanna Southard, Instructor in Ministry Studies and Pastor to the Community, says she receives 10-12 requests per year to speak with women’s groups and special church events. She specializes in topics from the Hebrew Bible, including the five Festival Scrolls—Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Lamentations and Ezekiel.

“I love helping people discover a passion for what the Hebrew Bible has to offer,” Southard said. “So many Christians know so little about the Hebrew Old Testament.”

Dr. Richard Ward, who specializes in the use of storytelling in Bible study and in proclamation, says he is most often asked to speak at churches or conferences. He also provides keynotes and workshops three to four times per semester.

“I enjoy strengthening connections between Phillips and our constituents by offering greater awareness of the resources we have here,” Ward said.

One of Phillips’ most prolific speakers and authors is Dr. B. Brandon Scott, the Darbeth Distinguished Professor of New Testament. He specializes in parables, resurrection and historical Jesus, and he has several published books. He says he is asked to speak at colleges and professional societies such as the Westar Institute between eight and 10 times per semester.

“I enjoy engaging with the audience,” Scott said. “I get to share ideas that people are sometimes afraid to ask about.”

Phillips faculty are also asked regularly to write for professional publications. In addition to speaking and preaching, Dr. Lisa Davison reviews books for academic journals and writes articles for publication within the Disciples of Christ denomination. She is often asked to address issues of human sexuality and other hot-topic issues as they relate to the Bible.

“I enjoy opening up the biblical texts for people to see the wellspring of wisdom that lies within them,” Davison said.

Dr. Dennis Smith, who also speaks with the Westar Institute, writes articles and reviews for professional and academic journals as well as books for publication. Smith specializes in the New Testament, especially meals in early Christian history, a subject he says receives positive feedback from pastors and ministers.

“On two recent occasions, I received intense and enthusiastic response from pastors who were looking for ideas to revitalize worship at their congregations,” Smith said. “They especially liked how my presentation provided new and creative ways to think about Eucharist.”

Dr. Mindy McGarrah Sharp, an Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Ethics, receives requests to write blogs, reviews, articles and book chapters. She also recently published “Misunderstanding Stories: Toward a Postcolonial Pastoral Theology” and is currently writing about practicing postcolonial pastoral theology and engaging uncertainty in clinical ethics.

“I love testing out ideas, sharing scholarship and resources with various audiences, hearing questions and ideas, and working in whatever ways I can to spark ongoing conversations that matter,” Sharp said.

Pittman believes faculty members want to share their knowledge with others.

“I think we all really want to provide information and expertise in our own specialty,” she said. “None of us went into this work to keep our own research and findings a secret.”

In the end, Pittman says she hopes the connection each faculty member makes when serving other communities begins or strengthens an ongoing relationship with Phillips.

“We hope people are thirsty for more,” she said. “We hope they come for more.” 

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