Theological Education Fund to honor Cannon, Oldenburg at GA breakfast

February 26, 2018 by Robyn Davis Sekula

The Committee on Theological Education and the Theological Education Fund are honoring two distinguished leaders in theological education at the 2018 General Assembly.

This year’s honorees are Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, professor of theology and ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, and Rev. Dr. Douglas Oldenburg, former President of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia and a former General Assembly moderator.

“The tremendous commitment and contribution to theological education and the Presbyterian Church of both Dr. Cannon and Dr. Oldenburg were obvious to the Committee on Theological Education,” says the Rev. Dr. Tom Trinidad, pastor of Faith PC(USA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, former vice moderator of the General Assembly and COTE Chair.  “Presbyterians and the Church owe them a debt of gratitude for many things including their advocacy on behalf of or advancement of the concerns of marginalized communities.”

The two will be recognized at the Theological Education Breakfast on June 21 at 7:00 a.m. (Central Time). The breakfast is part of the 223rd General Assembly, which will be held in St. Louis, June 16 to 23.

Those interested in attending the breakfast should sign up as part of their General Assembly registration. Registration is open Tuesday, Feb. 27 and can be handled online here.

The Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty is senior director of funds development for the Theological Education Fund at the Presbyterian Foundation, which will host the breakfast. He noted that the award is the highest honor in the PC(USA) for those who teach, lead, and support theological education. “Only 14 others have received this award,” Hinson-Hasty says. “Their individual and collective visionary work and frontier forging leadership promotes the value of theological education in the church and is helping us draw people into the ministry, in a time when that is desperately needed.”

For more information about each honoree, please read their biographies below.

About Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon

Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon
Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon

Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon is the Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from of Barber-Scotia College in Concord, N.C., and a Master of Divinity from Johnson C. Smith Seminary in Atlanta. She received her Master and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Dr. Cannon has taught at Union in Richmond since 2001 and has received numerous awards for her teaching. She has been the Lilly Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion at Davidson College and the Sterling Brown Visiting Professor in Religion and African American Studies at Williams College. She has received the distinguished professor award from Spelman College, the Lucy Craft Laney award at the Black Presbyterian Bicentennial Celebration, and was a Professor-Scholar honoree at the National Black Church Summit at Emory University. Additionally, and significantly, she was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award by the American Academy of Religion.

She has authored the following: Black Womanist Ethics; Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community; Teaching Preaching: Isaac R. Clark and Black Sacred Rhetoric. She has edited God’s Fierce Whimsy: The Implications of Feminism for Theological Education. She has coedited the Womanist Theological Ethics (A Reader) with Emilie M. Townes and Angela D. Sims and The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology with Anthony Pinn.

Since 2012, Dr. Cannon has served as executive director of the Squaring the Womanist Circle Project at Union Presbyterian Seminary. This academic and communal integration of scholarly endeavor in womanist thought and practical application of womanist study and research to the social circumstances surrounding the lives of women of color has been widely supported by womanist scholars from around the country and world. Following from the research results learned from the Womanist Circle Project, Dr. Cannon is currently working with the administration of Union Presbyterian Seminary and several foundations to establish The Center For Womanist Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary. The Center will be the first of its kind at any theological academic institution in the United States.

Dr. Cannon is the first African-American woman to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Rev. Dr. Brian K. Blount, President of Union Presbyterian Seminary, praised Dr. Cannon’s research, scholarship and commitment to her call. “Dr. Cannon has already had and will continue to have long-lasting influence on broadening the reach of theological education in the Presbyterian Church,” said Rev. Dr. Brian K. Blount, President of Union Presbyterian Seminary. “We are so honored to have her as part of our teaching faculty, knowing that she is one of the foremost theological ethicists, particularly as regards womanist theology, in the country. We are grateful for her ministry in teaching the next generation of scholars and church leaders, her incredible research and for her work in the church beyond the seminary. Congratulations to you, Katie!”

About Doug Oldenburg

Rev. Dr. Douglas Oldenburg
Rev. Dr. Douglas Oldenburg

Doug Oldenburg dedicated his life to service in the Presbyterian Church. He was first a pastor, a seminary president and then moderator of the 210th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Following his graduation from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia in 1960, he served as pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. After seven years he left and began serving as a pastor at Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church in Elkins, West Virginia. His last pastor position was in the city he grew up in at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He worked for 26 years as a pastor and then decided he was called to a new role.

In 1987, he became the seventh president of Columbia Theological Seminary, a position he held until 2000. Dr. Leanne Van Dyk, President of Columbia and Professor of Theology, extends her best wishes to Oldenburg. “I want to offer warmest congratulations to President Emeritus Doug Oldenburg from the entire community here at Columbia Theological Seminary,” Van Dyk says. “In so many ways, he has embodied not just education, but the practical impact knowledge and wisdom can make in local communities and national organizations. We are grateful to COTE for recognizing his lifelong efforts to educate and nurture faithful leaders.”

Oldenburg’s ministry extended far beyond the churches he served and the campus he led. In Lynchburg, he helped to organize a downtown ministry for disadvantaged children. In Elkins, he led a successful vote on a bond levy to raise teacher salaries. In Charlotte, he was on the Board of United Community Services and was the co-founder and served on the board of Crisis Assistance Ministry. He received the Martin Luther King, Jr. award and The Order of the Hornet of Mecklenburg County. In Atlanta, he served on the board of Global Health Action and the University Center of Georgia.

Oldenburg’s leadership at Columbia Seminary was key to advancing the seminary from regional to national prominence. He recruited extraordinary faculty and built an exemplary board. His unique contribution was to the wider world of theological education. In a day when the emphasis in presidency was championing one’s own institution and gaining competitive advantage, Doug insisted that the whole was as important as the parts and that the Gospel concept of losing one’s life in order to save it applies to institutions as well as persons. He put his money where his mouth was, supporting the institution of the theological education fund even though, by leaving the former funding pattern, Columbia lost and other schools gained, and always asking how any new formula or policy affected all the schools, not just his own.

Oldenburg served on a variety of committees for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) prior to becoming moderator. He was elected to serve this position because he placed a large emphasis on theological education and social justice. He called not only for support of the ordination of educators, but also for unity among the nation's church related colleges and universities. As Moderator he also sought to support and pursue the study of the Bible. He called for every congregation and presbytery to engage in a program of study about what Presbyterians believe about the Bible and how they read the Bible because he believed “how we read and interpret the Bible is a crucial issue for the church.”

Previous Recipients:

1997      Robert Wood Lynn

1998      C. Ellis Nelson

1999      James H. Costen

2002      Sara P. Little

2003      Jack Leven Stotts

2004      Henry Luce III

2006      Catherine Gonzalez

2008      Sara C. Juengst

2010      Barbara Wheeler

2012      John Trotti

2014      Cynthia M. Campbell; Jack B. Rogers

2016      Katherine Sakenfeld and Craig Dykstra