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Academic Catalog

Academic Catalog 2023-24

Elías Ortega | President and Professor of Religion, Ethics, and Leadership

 Ph.D.  Religion and Society (Magna Cum Laude), Princeton Theological Seminary; M.Div. Religion and Society (Magna Cum Laude), Princeton Theological Seminary

Dr. Ortega received his M.Div. and Ph.D. (Religion and Society, Magna Cum Laude) from Princeton Theological Seminary (2005, 2011). He also holds a BA in Communications Arts & Sciences and Philosophy and Religion from Calvin College. He served as Associate Professor of Social Theory and Religious Ethics at Drew University Theological School, where he also served as the Theological School Deans’ Council Chair, was a member of the Digital Humanities Advisory Committee, and the Title IX Committee. His primary teaching and research areas are Sociology of Religion, Religious Ethics, Cultural Sociology, Social Movements, Critical Theory, Africana Studies, Latinx Cultural Studies. In addition to teaching at Drew, he has also taught at Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt Divinity School, The College of New Jersey and Mercer County Community College. In the American Academy of Religion, he serves on the Committee on the Status of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession, and on the Steering Committees for the Religion and Politics.  

In addition to his academic work, Dr. Ortega is committed to Unitarian Universalism. He currently serves as a member of the UUA’s Commission on Institutional Change and the Religious Education Credentialing Committee. From 2015 to 2017, he served as mentor in UUA’s Growing Racial Justice initiative, and during that same period was Co-Chair of the UU Legislative Ministry of New Jersey’s Dismantling Racism Group. He also helped to start and run the Drew Freedom School Initiative, a social justice program that provides training in non-violent resistance and community organizing. He has been a volunteer, provided strategic planning, and program support to various community organizations including the Student Outreach and Academic Reinforcement Program at Bethel AME in Morristown, NJ, New Jersey Parent Caucus, a mental health and juvenile justice advocacy group, and the Sila Maria Calderon Foundation.

Dr. Ortega currently resides in Naperville, IL and serves as the president of Meadville Lombard Theological School and Professor of Religion, Ethics, and Leadership.  

Mark Hicks | Angus MacLean Associate Professor of Religious Education

B.A., Oklahoma City University; M.A., Teachers College, Columbia University; Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University

Committed to the ideals of creating collaborative, democratic, socially conscious learning communities, Dr. Mark A. Hicks has been recognized for his work in transformative thinking and teaching, most recently being honored as a finalist for a university Teaching Excellence award at George Mason. Critical pedagogy, music, the arts, social justice, and progressive teaching are woven through every aspect of Mark's teaching and consultancy work. He is known for creating 'social containers' that help to morph problems into possibilities.

He has written Building the World We Dream About: A Welcoming Congregation Curriculum on Race and Ethnicity, a national curriculum for the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations that weaves anti-racist and anti-oppressive thinking and practice into the spiritual life of Unitarian Universalist congregations. He is a member and lay leader in two nationally historic congregations, All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, D.C. and The Riverside Church in New York City (often regarded as a national model for a multicultural spiritual community).

He is presently a member of the progressively-minded faculty of Initiatives in Educational Transformation (IET), a professional development Master's degree program for public school teachers in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area.

As a teacher and administrator, Mark has a wide-ranging background in higher education, from being the associate director of admission at Rice University in Texas to an assistant dean of Columbia College, Columbia University in New York City. He has published solicited and refereed articles in journals such as Educational Studies, the Journal of Transformative Education, Teacher Development, and the Journal of College Counseling (where his research was twice honored as "the most significant contribution to the Journal" and research that "stands the test of time").

He is currently working on a book, Becoming, which theorizes and documents educational and social practices that free learners from oppressive contexts.

Michael Hogue | Professor of Theology

B.A., Hope College; M.A.Div., University of Chicago; Ph.D., University of Chicago

Michael Hogue, who joined the Meadville Lombard faculty in September 2005, teaches and writes at the intersections of theology, religious ethics, and philosophy of religion. He is particularly influenced by the pragmatist, process, and naturalist lineages in American philosophy of religion, which he refers to as the “left wing of American radical theology.” As a scholar and teacher, he uses these traditions to explore issues related to religion and the environment, political theology, religion and science and social ethics.

His courses at Meadville Lombard, among others, include Constructive Theology, Process and Liberation Theologies, Global Religions, Multifaith Theologies, Religious Ethics and Global Dynamics, and Religious Naturalism.   

Dr. Hogue has served in leadership capacities in diverse religious, academic, and activist contexts. He has served on program committees at the American Academy of Religion, as co-founder and past convener of Oikos: The Religion and Environment Initiative, as Vice President of the Institute for American Religious and Philosophical Thought, as past president of the American Theological Society of the Midwest, as Co-director of the Religion, Vulnerability, and Resilience Project, and as a fellow with the Enhancing Life Project. He is on the Advisory Board for the Religious Naturalist Association. He is the past editor of the American Journal of Theology and Philosophy and serves on the editorial boards of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, and Science, Religion, and Culture.

His published articles have appeared in Literature and TheologyZygon: Journal of Religion and ScienceCrosscurrentsthe Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and the American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, among others. He is the author of four books, The Tangled Bank: Toward an Ecotheological Ethics of Responsible Participation (Pickwick, 2008), The Promise of Religious Naturalism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2010), American Immanence: Democracy for an Uncertain World (Columbia, 2018), and, most recently, he co-authored Interreligious Resilience: Interreligious Leadership for a Pluralistic World (Bloomsbury, 2022), with Dr. Dean Bell.

Dr. Hogue grew up in Traverse City, Michigan, and spent his childhood exploring the lakes and landscapes of the north-woods. He is married to Sara and is the proud father of Kincade, Mikaela, and Kamryn. He has always been a “dog person,” but his family recently adopted two kittens, Liv and Maddie—and they are making a convert of him!

Kathryn House | Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies and Practical Theology, Chair of the Rev. Dr. Lee Barker Professorship of Leadership Studies

MDiv and PhD, Boston University School of Theology

Rev. Kathryn House, Ph.D. joined the Meadville Lombard faculty in 2023. Prior to her appointment, House served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, and Adjunct Professor at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She also served as the Project Director of the Myrtle Collaboration, an Innovation Hub of the Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose Initiative, at Louisville Seminary. House completed her Ph.D. in Theological Studies and MDiv. at Boston University School of Theology. While at the School of Theology, she was Asst. Director of the Center for Practical Theology and Instructional Coordinator for Distance Learning Initiatives.

House is the co-editor of the forthcoming special issue of Theology and Sexuality entitled "Purity Culture and its Discontents," and is co-editor of the special issue “Essays in Honor of Nancy Tatom Ammerman" in Perspectives in Religious Studies. She has contributed chapters to the edited volumes Trauma and Lived Religion: Transcending the Ordinary (Palgrave Macmillan) and Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay (White Cloud Press). 

House’s research interests include prophetic religious leadership, evangelical purity culture, liberation theologies, religious trauma, theologies of vocation, practical theology, and Baptist theology. Her current project, an expansion of her dissertation The Afterlife of White Evangelical Purity Culture: Wounds, Legacies, and Impacts, investigates the theological legacies of white evangelical purity culture (WEPC) and the construction of white womanhood and proposes a Baptist theology of baptism as a practice of solidarity in response. Her project foregrounds the passionate evangelical millennialism of antebellum female moral reformers’ efforts to curb prostitution between 1834 and 1838; the faith-based activism of women who fought to end, as well as to foment, racial terror lynchings in the United States; and contemporary criticisms and constructive ethics of the most recent purity movement known as evangelical purity culture. It also considers recent resonant debates over dissonant deployments of bodily and religious freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

House is a theological educator who nurtures learners’ capacities for critical engagement with diverse traditions and texts so that they might lead with a deep understanding of their contexts and communities and pursue their calls with creativity and courage. Her pedagogy is grounded in transformative learning theory and informed by feminist and antiracist commitments. At MLTS, House teaches courses across the Masters and Doctor of Ministry programs on intersections of social change, spirituality and liberation; ethics; ministerial leadership and administration; and research methods. 

An ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches, USA, and the Alliance of Baptists, House is a member of the Board of the Centre for Faith, Art, and Justice and the former Pastor for Christian Formation at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, MA. She is the President of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion Region-at-Large and a member of the Steering Committee of the Ecclesial Practices Unit of the American Academy of Religion.

Nicole Kirk | Associate Professor, Rev. Dr. J. Frank and Alice Schulman Chair in Unitarian Universalist History

B.A., Westminster College; M.Div., Vanderbilt University; Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary; D.Min., Princeton Theological Seminary.

Rev. Dr. Nicole Kirk is the first Rev. Dr. J. Frank and Alice Schulman Chair of Unitarian Universalist History.

Nicole Kirk is a historian of American religious history with an emphasis on business, religion, material and visual culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Dr. Kirk is the author of Wanamaker’s Temple: Religion and Business in an American Department Store (forthcoming from NYU Press in fall 2018), and was a part of the editorial board and a contributor to the two-volume set, Documentary History of Unitarian Universalism (2017). Her current research focuses on the development of African American humanism and the intersections between technology, religion, and business. Prior to her doctoral studies, Dr. Kirk has been a Unitarian Universalist minister for twenty years and has served congregations in Ohio and New Jersey. She believes ministers and religious leaders for the future need to be good historians.

Pamela Lightsey | Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Associate Professor of Constructive Theology

B.A., Columbus State University; M.Div., Gammon Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center; Ph.D., Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Dr. Lightsey brings a special mix of life experience and professional proficiency to the position. Following service as an officer in the US Army, she received her academic and theological training at Columbia State University (BS), Gammon Seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center (M.Div.) and Garrett-Evangelical Theological School (PhD). After ordination, she served first as a United Methodist congregational pastor and then as a theological school educator, scholar and administrator. Throughout her vocational life, she has been a leading social justice activist, working with local, national and international organizations focusing primarily on the causes of peacemaking, racial justice and LGBTQ rights.

Dr. Lightsey's publications include the book, Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology (Wipf and Stock), "He Is Black and We are Queer" in Albert Cleage, Jr. and the Black Madonna and Child (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), “Reconciliation” in Prophetic Evangelicals: Envisioning a Just and Peaceable Kingdom (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), and "If There Should Come a Word.”

Kate Lassiter | Affiliate Faculty, Senior Director of Lifelong Learning

Dr. Lassiter comes to Meadville Lombard with extensive experience in the academy, non-profit development and management, and diverse religious communities. She holds a Ph.D. in Religion, Psychology, and Culture from Vanderbilt University where she was a fellow in the Program for Theology and Practice, and has broad expertise in the role of religious practices in public strategies for healing and justice, theories of recognition, and feminist and queer theology. In her book Recognizing Other Subjects: Feminist Pastoral Theology and the Challenge of Identity, Dr. Lassiter identifies interpersonal, structural, and theological barriers to advancing care and justice, and identifies strategies for personal and social transformation. 
Prior to joining Meadville Lombard, she served as Visiting Instructor for the M.A. in Social Justice and Community Development at Loyola University Chicago, Associate Professor of Religious and Pastoral Studies at Mount St. Joseph University, and Director of Theological Field Education at Chicago Theological Seminary.  She is also a yoga and meditation instructor and an avid outdoorswoman.

J. Taylor | Affiliate Faculty, Senior Director of Contextual Ministry

Rev. Taylor is a Unitarian Universalist community minister specializing in critical incident response, community crisis and pastoral care. Rev. Taylor is an affiliate faculty member at Meadville and has been an adjunct professor at Starr King School for the Ministry and Eden Theological Seminary. In addition, Rev. Taylor serves on the board of the UU Trauma Response Ministry and is a chaplain (Captain) with the New York Air National Guard. An ordained minister since 2001, Rev. Taylor has served UU congregations in New York City and St. Louis, volunteered with multiple crisis and disaster response organizations. A sought-after speaker and teacher, Rev. Taylor has contributed chapters to a number of books on the subject of spiritual care and crisis. Agitating, preaching and working towards dismantling systems of White supremacy are key in Rev. Taylor's theology and work. Rev. Taylor lives on the south side of Chicago and has two children.

Rev. Taylor shares these thoughts with us: Unitarian Universalism is in a time of discernment. The world is changing and we, as a faith and as faith leaders have the opportunity to do the work to dismantle systems of oppression that keep us from living fully into our covenants and Principles. I am grateful and excited to be part of Meadville Lombard’s commitment to developing ministers and ministries that “take into the world our Unitarian Universalist vision of justice, equity and compassion.”

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