Commencement 2011


The May 12 Commencement ceremonies marked the beginning of a new journey for 62 graduates who completed their degrees in Fall 2010 or Spring 2011. Thirty-three students graduated with a Master of Arts degree, four received a Master of Arts with a concentration in Biblical Languages, and 25 received the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Doctor of Philosophy | Master of Arts | Master of Arts with a Concentration in Biblical Languages

Departing faculty member Richard M. Gula, S.S., Professor of Moral Theology at the Franciscan School of Theology, delivered the faculty remarks and Sharon R. Fennema, Ph.D. Liturgical Studies, spoke on behalf of her fellow graduates.

During the ceremony, Dr. Ronald Y. Nakasone, Professor of Buddhist Art and Culture, Graduate Theological Union and Center for Art, Religion, and Education, received this year's Sarlo Excellence in Teaching Award.


Doctor of Philosophy

Andrei Antokhin
The Nature of Jerome’s Ascetic Hermeneutics in Adversus Jovinianum in the Light of the Fourth Century Christian, Textual and Theological Context
Eugene M. Ludwig, O.F.M. Cap. (Coordinator); Arthur G. Holder; Niklaus Largier, University of California, Berkeley

This dissertation investigates the nature of Jovinian’s monasticism and Jerome’s refutation on the basis of his reading of scripture as a document that promotes an ascetic economical agenda.  Jerome’s biblical hermeneutics are approached as an example of Christian ascetic discourse that grounded ascetic behavior in a system of speculations about the nature of humanity, an essential feature of which was the superiority of monasticism and especially, of celibacy and virginity.

Michael Sepidoza Campos
From Bodies Displaced to Selves Unfurled: A Queer and Postcolonial Filipino-American Theological Anthropology
Interdisciplinary Studies
Boyung Lee (Coordinator); Faustino M. Cruz, S.M.; Martin F. Manalansan, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Mayra Rivera Rivera, Harvard Divinity School

This dissertation articulates a theological anthropology that reflects the movement, ambivalence and meaning-making strategies of Filipino-American diasporic subjects. Through a queer and postcolonial reading of the baklâ - the effeminate gay male of Filipino popular imagination—the dissertation traces theological intuitions latent in Filipino-American studies. The project articulates an anthropological vision that exposes apophatic turns in Filipino-American understandings of the human.

Young-Chang Cho
Understanding Metaphorical Sermons as Texts: Gadamer, Metaphor and Theological Interpretation of Sermons
Mary Donovan Turner (Coordinator); Linda L. Clader; Kenan B. Osborne, O.F.M.; Chul-Ho Youn, Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary, Korea

This dissertation explores this statement: when complemented or enhanced by contemporary linguistic theories of metaphor, Gadamer’s dialogical hermeneutics can contribute methodically or methodologically to an understanding of historical, metaphorical, and theological sermons, even if these sermons come from theological traditions different from the understanding subject’s own. The dialogical character of Gadamer’s hermeneutics provides the reader with a methodical possibility.

Yong Han Chung
The Temple in Matthew’s Eschatology: Matthew’s Interpretation of the Temple in the Context of First Century Judaism
Biblical Studies
Eugene Eung-Chun Park (Coordinator); Judy Yates Siker; Daniel Boyarin, University of California, Berkeley

In light of the past 70 C.E. historical setting and Jewish apocalyptic eschatology, Matthew’s understanding of the destroyed Temple does not support a temple replacement idea. Instead, Matthew’s ambivalent attitude toward the Temple is better understood against the contemporary Jewish background concerning the belief in the eschatological temple embedded in the references to “the throne.”

Jeffrey A. Cooper, C.S.C.
Eckhart’s Body: Tracing the Evolution of a Chiasmic Spirituality
Christian Spirituality
Darleen Pryds (Coordinator); Arthur G. Holder; Charles Hirschkind, University of California, Berkeley

The role of the physical body in the spiritual thought of Meister Eckhart has often been depicted in Eckhart studies as ambivalent, neutral, or strongly negative. This dissertation argues instead that, because Meister Eckhart’s spirituality is so firmly founded on incarnation continua, the body/soul relationship is chiasmic and the body provides a positive path of access to the divine.

Kerry B. Danner-McDonald
Getting Behind Virtues: How Cognitive Linguistics Helps Explain the Function of the Imagination when Using Scripture in Christian Virtue Ethics
Ethics and Social Theory
Richard M. Gula, S.S. (Coordinator); Lisa Fullam; Eve Sweetser, University of California, Berkeley; John Donahue, S.J., Loyola University

This project draws on cognitive linguistics to provide theories and models with which to describe the role of imagination in appropriating the virtues described in Scripture. An analysis of Luke 10:25-37 serves as a case study to demonstrate how meaning is formed through the interaction of reader and text, contributing to more abstract categories like compassion and virtue itself.

Jennifer Wilkins Davidson
The Narrative Practice of Memory as Identity in Concerns & Celebrations and the Pastoral Prayer: Constructing a Liturgical Theology of Prayer
Liturgical Studies
Andrea Bieler (Coordinator); Lizette Larson-Miller; Jon Pahl, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

Concerns & Celebrations and Pastoral Prayer are narrative practices of memory in the formation of identity that provides a basis for constructing a liturgical theology rooted in the praying community. This dissertation establishes a method of studying free-church worship in which worship participants engage in constructive theology through the construction of their relationships with one another, the world and God.

Sharon R. Fennema
“Falling All Around Me:” Worship Performing Theodicy in the Midst of San Francisco’s AIDS Crisis
Liturgical Studies
Andrea Bieler (Coordinator); Lizette Larson-Miller; Jay Emerson Johnson; Mark D. Jordan, Harvard University

This dissertation explores worship at the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco from 1982-1997, analyzing how it disrupted the social theodicy that interpreted AIDS as God’s punishment. Elaborating a methodology based on Judith Butler’s gender theory, this historical ethnography yields a liturgical theodicy of God’s intimate relational solidarity, understanding suffering in the context of the Body of Christ with AIDS.

Hee-Jung Ha
The Formation of Modern Womanhood in East Asia, 1880-1920:  American Evangelical Gender Ideology and Modern Nation-Building
Randi Jones Walker (Coordinator); Timothy Tseng, Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity; Eugene F. Irschick, University of California, Berkeley

This research proposes that the development of Asian feminist consciousness has to be understood as part of a complex process of national and self re-definition.  The interdependence among Protestant missionaries, Asian male reformers, and female advocates gives a complex picture of Asian women and their negation of modernity in the construction of new gender identity.

Anne Elizabeth Lee
Made in the Images of God:  Toward a Trinitarian Virtue Ethics
Ethics and Social Theory
Richard M. Gula, S.S.  (Coordinator); Inese Radzins; Paraskeve (Eve) Tibbs, Fuller Theological Seminary

This dissertation examines how different interpretations of the Trinity can affect how Christians understand themselves, their relationships, and the kinds of virtues they pursue.  It offers wonder, self-esteem, and open-endedness as three possible Trinitarian virtues.

Yinghua Liu
Chinese Converts in the Chinese Rites Controversy: Ancestral Rites and Their Identity
Interdisciplinary Studies
Judith A. Berling (Coordinator); Philip L. Wickeri; Nicolas Standaert, Catholic University of Leuven

In the Chinese Rites Controversy, Chinese converts opened up the boundaries between Confucianism and Christianity by way of interpreting ancestral rites. Their understandings confirm that they were both Confucians and Christians. Their two identities were united without the loss of any essential attribute and yet the two remained distinct, though they may share some common elements.

Lauren MacKinnon
Prophet and Member: Theological Imaginatives for the New Democracy in Cavanaugh, Hollenbach and O’Donovan
Ethics and Social Theory
James A. Donahue (Coordinator); William O’Neill, S.J.; Barbara A. McGraw, St. Mary’s College of California

Theological imaginatives from Christian political theology have relevance for contemporary discussions of new democratic structures, unbounded politics, globalization and changing ideas of citizenship. The author examines the New Christendom model of Oliver O’Donovan, the theopolitical imagination of William Cavanaugh and the pluralist universalism of David Hollenbach as possible sources. She concludes that a theology of democracy in the 21st century requires attention to (1) prophecy, (2) contingency, and (3) moral anthropology in order to be both fully Christian and participative in the discourse of liberal democracy.

Joshua M. Moritz
Chosen from Among the Animals: The End of Human Uniqueness and the Election of the Image of God
Systematic and Philosophical Theology
Ted Peters (Coordinator); Robert J. Russell; Martinez J. Hewlett, O.P.L., University of Arizona; Rod Preece, Wilfrid Laurier University

This dissertation questions any concept of the imago Dei that equates the divine likeness with some characteristic which presumably makes humans unique—in a non-trivial way—from other animals. Instead of grounding the image of God in human uniqueness, this dissertation concludes the imago Dei is—exegetically, theologically, and scientifically—best understood in light of the Hebrew theological framework of historical election.

Christy M. Newton
Saving at Wal-Mart: A Theological Analysis of Relationships in Consumer Culture
Interdisciplinary Studies
Marion Grau (Coordinator); Boyung Lee; Mariane Ferme, University of California, Berkeley

This dissertation critiques the ways neoliberal abstraction divides theological beliefs from consumer behaviors, and it proposes a method to de-abstract the relationships in consumer culture and to detect theological commitments active specifically in Wal-Mart culture. This interdisciplinary method exegetes the ways material culture incarnates theological anthropology, soteriology, and ultimate value. It also examines the theological implications of globalization in the lives of ordinary people.

S. Alyssa Ninan Nickell
The Limits of Embodiment: The Implications of Written and Artistic Portrayals of Mary at the Foot of the Cross for Late Medieval Affective Spirituality
Christian Spirituality
Arthur G. Holder (Coordinator); John C. Endres, S.J. ; Reindert Falkenburg, New York University, Abu Dhabi; Niklaus Largier, University of California, Berkeley

This dissertation places cognitive-science, art history and late medieval spirituality in conversation, in an analysis of fourteenth-century written and artistic portrayals of Mary at the foot of the cross, namely in Horologium Sapientiae by Henry Suso, Exercitia super vita et passione Jesu Christi, formerly attributed to John Tauler, and altarpieces by Rogier van der Weyden (d. 1964).

Jong Hwan Park
Decentering the Ordo, Reclaiming the Ordo: Revisiting Liturgical Theology through the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting
Liturgical Studies
Michael B. Aune (Coordinator); Judith A. Berling; Xin Liu, University of California, Berkeley

This dissertation is a model for the in-depth study of a worship community. The dissertation treats the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting as a busy intersection of cultural, religious and theological dynamics. For this purpose, this dissertation utilizes methods from liturgical theology and historical anthropology. The dissertation argues, worship is always performed in a discrete time period. Liturgical ordo is not a paradigmatic authority; rather it is a temporal phenomenon in which participants can find their meanings out of their own movement and engagement in worship with their body.

J. Ryan Parker
Ministers of Movies: Sherwood Pictures and the Church Film Movement
Art and Religion
Michael T. Morris, O.P. (Coordinator); Margaret McManus; Terry Lindvall, Virginia Wesleyan College

This dissertation provides an analysis of the work of Sherwood Pictures, the filmmaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church. It also chronicles the emergence of a new Church Film Movement that harkens back to Protestant uses of and expectations for cinema from the early 1900s. The work of these church-based filmmakers also signals important shifts in the broader world of independent filmmaking that empower even the most inexperienced aspiring filmmakers.

Natalie Estelle Fisk Quli
Laicization in Four Sri Lankan Buddhist Temples in Northern California
Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions
Richard K. Payne (Coordinator); Judith A. Berling; Anne Blackburn, Cornell University

Without an overarching Theravāda institution to enforce organizational models among the four Sri Lankan American temples in this study, a diversity of temple ownership patterns developed.  Practices such as lay leadership, management, funding, and founding of temples have contributed to laicization.  Temples’ ethnic exclusivity was found to be related to their degree of lay authority and temple ownership patterns.  

John Charles Roedel
Love is Not a Strategy: Reconsidering Principled Nonviolence
Interdisciplinary Studies
Judith A. Berling (Coordinator); William R. O’Neill, S.J.; Martha J. Reineke, University of Northern Iowa; Leela Gandhi, University of Chicago

This dissertation argues that in addressing situations of structural violence, principled nonviolence, concerned with love, is ultimately more effective than violence or strategic nonviolence, concerned with power. The dissertation suggest that the goal of principled nonviolence is ultimately it’s replication in the lives of others, transmitted not as the fruit of heroic moral achievement, but as an expression of shared complicity in structural violence.

Allison J. Tanner
Engaging the Inner Prophet: How American Baptist Pastors Preach on Social Issues in an Age of Tolerance and Schism
Ethics and Social Theory
Jerome P. Baggett (Coordinator); Martha Ellen Stortz; Laura Olson, Clemson University

This dissertation explores why American Baptist pastors choose to (and not to) preach on social issues from their pulpits. Utilizing the insights of cultural theory, it argues that culture profoundly shapes pastoral action in ways that both enable and constrain their ability to engage in prophetic preaching.

Sheila Taylor
Re-Orienting our Life Stories: Salvation as Narrative Transformation
Systematic and Philosophical Theology
George E. Griener, S.J. (Coordinator); Ted Peters; Eleanor Rosch, University of California, Berkeley

Contemporary thought commonly describes the self as a narrative construction. This project takes that model, and puts it in dialogue with Christian doctrines about salvation. The author examines how grace encounters people in salvific narratives which open up new possibilities in life stories, and how it thereby transforms relationships to the past, the present and the future.

Jennifer Elisa Veninga
Theology for a Secular Age: The Danish Social Imaginary and the Cartoon Crisis of 2005-2006
Systematic and Philosophical Theology
George E. Griener, S.J. (Coordinator); Martha Ellen Stortz; Karin Sanders, University of California, Berkeley

This dissertation analyzes the cartoon crisis of 2005-2006, in which twelve images of the Prophet Muhammad were published in a Danish newspaper. Using Charles Taylor’s concept of the social imaginary as a theological methodology, it argues that the crisis reflected the encounter between a paradoxically Christian and secular (“theo-secular”) social imaginary and Islam. This encounter with diversity provides both challenges and possibilities.

Ofelia O. Villero
Religion, Gender, and Postcoloniality: The Case of “Ciudad Mistica De Dios”
Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions
Judith A. Berling (Coordinator); Clare Fischer; Kathryn Poethig, California State University, Monterrey

“Ciudad Mistica” is a religious sect located in Mount Banahaw, a “sacred mountain” in Central Luzon, Philippines, which draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims during the Lenten season.  This sect is both admired and vilified for its deliberate lifting of women as sources and holders of sacred and spiritual power. This dissertation looks at the role that gender plays in the formation and transformation of Mistica’s religious identity and in the complex negotiations and contestations generated by that identity in the context of Mount Banahaw and the political and economic realities of postcolonial Philippines.

Dwight Webster
Gospel Music in the United States of American 1960s-1980s: A Study of the Themes of “Survival,” “Elevation,” and “Liberation” in a Popular Urban Contemporary Black Folk Sacred Mass Music
Art and Religion
Archie Smith, Jr. (Coordinator); James A. Noel; Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, Shaw University;Demetrius Williams, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Black experience, in bondage and freedom, is the crucible of Black gospel music. It reflects the heart and evolving nature of Black experiences of the masses, and it will be an essential resource for understanding and interpreting African American spirituality, theology and survival strategies. Gospel music can no longer be neglected as a resource for Black theology in the academy. It must be front and center if this discipline is to represent God-talk in Black communities.

Duck-Kyu Yun
Contemplation and Solidarity: A Study of Post-Traumatic Growth in the Christian Tradition
Interdisciplinary Studies
Lewis R. Rambo (Coordinator); Joseph D. Driskill; Herbert Anderson; Michael Nagler, University of California, Berkeley

This dissertation deals with the spiritual and theological approaches to human suffering as a result of trauma. Through a mutually critical and constructive conversation of John of the Cross and Jürgen Moltmann and contemporary traumatic stress studies, the dissertation argue that purgative contemplation and solidarity with the crucified Christ and the suffering are invaluable resources to engage and work through trauma and traumatic stress.


Master of Arts

Susan L. Aguilar
Kol Isha: Poetry and Polemic in Judeo-Iberian Biblical Ballads
Center for Jewish Studies
Deena Aranoff (Coordinator); Naomi Seidman

We know very little about the religious participation of Jewish women in medieval Iberia in contrast to the abundance of scholarship about male intellectual elite. This thesis provides a close reading of three biblical ballads to show the ways in which women also engaged in cultural production while negotiating religious identity for themselves.

Alana Aldag
Being unto Love: Anxiety of Death, Radical Life Extension, and the Meaning of Christ
San Francisco Theological Seminary
Gregory A. Love (Coordinator); Robert J. Russell; Ted Peters

This thesis develops a linked cosmic theology and relational anthropology to address the theological and spiritual consequences of radical life extension technologies. The thesis demonstrates that the development of such technologies fits within a framework of divine creativity and Christian duty. The charge for Christians as a religious community is to develop a technoculture based on an ethic of beneficence.

Christopher John Arnold
Footwashing in the Western Christian Liturgy – The History of a Ritual Element
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Lizette Larson-Miller (Coordinator); Michael B. Aune; Louis Weil

In contemporary Maundy Thursday liturgies, footwashing has been met with confusion about its meaning, ministry, and pastoral suitability.  Rather than being an ancient feature of Holy Week, footwashing in parish churches is a modern creation.  This study explores the complex history of this ritual element and proposes ways in which Maundy Thursday footwashing might be better implemented.

Anthony Arteaga
The Transformation of the English Translation of the Roman Missal: An Historical and Comparative Study
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Lizette Larson-Miller (Coordinator); John E. Klentos

This thesis provides a complete yet concise study of the development and evolution of the English translation of the Roman Missal since Vatican II, through the utilization of historical research and comparative textual analysis as the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, prepares for the implementation of the new English translation contained in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal on the First Sunday of Advent 2011.

Elizabeth Lauren Byrne
Let this Thing be Done for Me: Intentional Communities as a Means of Support in Judges II and the San Francisco AIDS Crisis
Pacific School of Religion
Aaron Brody (Coordinator); Jay Emerson Johnson

When Jephthah’s daughter makes her seemingly unremarkable request to go into the mountains, she demonstrates a profound recognition of the need for intentional community and support. Her story, read from a queer lens, is echoed hundreds of years later in San Francisco when the queer community demonstrates comparable solidarity. Concurrent readings of these two accounts inform and enhance one another.

Kinnon Falk
A Politics of Moral Engagement: A Teleological Offering to the Communitarian—Liberal Debate
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
Alicia Vargas (Coordinator); William R. O’Neill

This thesis explores a teleological approach to synthesizing the best aspects of the debate between liberal and communitarian political philosophies. The result of this project is a political approach that fosters a more robust public discourse that weighs the balance of the good versus the right. By adopting a politics of moral engagement, which looks towards the desired ends of political situations, citizens can rely on rich narratives and community values to pursue the common good. This approach also works towards a just society that respects human dignity and the rights of those who are most vulnerable.

Derek Flood
The Rebel God: Understanding the Cross and the Radical Love of God
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
Ted Peters (Coordinator); Gregory A. Love; Mike Gorman, St. Mary’s College of California

This thesis offers a critique of the penal substitutionary model of the atonement, proposing instead an understanding based on restorative justice rather than retribution. Combining Christus Victor with vicarious suffering (understood in terms of interchange and participation), it outlines a nonviolent understanding of the atonement based on personal relationship with God and enemy love.

Heather Jean Vittum Fuller
Sister Artists: The Arts of Benedictine Women From the Middle Ages to Today
Pacific School of Religion
Rossitza Schroeder (Coordinator); Randi Jones Walker; Michael T. Morris, O.P.

An examination of the various arts of Benedictine women demonstrates that nuns have used art to answer the specific spiritual needs of female communities and to push the boundaries of traditional patriarchal theology and doctrine.  Studying these arts can increase our understanding of the experiences of women religious and their place as initiators of change within the ecclesiastical structure.

Stephen V. Gawrylewski
An Analysis of the Philosophical Congruencies between the “Tao-te-ching” and Martin Heidegger’s Early Writings
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Thomas Cattoi (Coordinator); Anselm Ramelow, O.P.; Katharina Kaiser, University of California, Berkeley

This thesis explores early Heidegger’s connections with mysticism and East-Asian thought by comparing “Being and Time” and “What is Metaphysics?” with the “Tao-te-ching.”  This work does this by focusing on the concepts of Tao, the Nothing, Being, non-being, the Sage, authentic Dasein, and the principle of reversion.  

Sophia George-Glasser
The Struggle for Dominance Between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire and its Impact on the Nature of Crusading in the Early 13th Century
Franciscan School of Theology
Darleen Pryds (Coordinator); Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski

This thesis discusses how the crusading policies of Pope Innocent III and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II changed the nature of inter—Nicene warfare in the 13th Century.

Djurica Gordic
Saints Cyril and Methodius-Mission among the Slavs in Relations between Rome and Constantinople
Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute
John E. Klentos (Coordinator); Eugene M. Ludwig, O.F.M. Cap.; Nikitas Lulias    

This thesis intends to highlight the most important historical details from the lives of Cyril and Methodius as well as offer an analysis of the geo-political situation in the ninth century in relations between Rome and Constantinople, or more specifically, between the Roman and Byzantine Church.  The saints’ mission sought to reconcile and unite three important elements in the civilization of Medieval Europe:  the Byzantine, the Roman, and the Slavic.  

In Wook Han
A Comparison of Augustine with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on the View of Evil
Pacific School of Religion
Inese Radzins (Coordinator); Thomas Cattoi; Robert J. Russell

This thesis compares Augustine and Teilhard’s understandings of theodicy and demonstrates that not only do they begin from the same starting point in their view of the nature of evil, but they also finish with a similar ending point in realizing evil’s contribution to the perfection of God’s universe.  Therefore, this thesis shows that two types of theodicy classified by John Hick can interact with each other.

Bristol M. Huffman
America’s Culture War After 9/11
Pacific School of Religion
Karen Lebacqz (Coordinator); Jerome P. Baggett

This thesis explores cultural narratives surrounding 9/11 through the lens of the American “culture war” between ideological liberals and conservatives. Content analysis of six books about 9/11 reveals themes of national and religious identity, enemies and heroes, and group belonging. These patterns offer useful tools for critical engagement in the public conversations of the “culture war.”

Kasey A. Johnson
Athanasius of Alexandria’s Festal Letters: A Fourth Century Bishop and his People
Pacific School of Religion
Randi Jones Walker (Coordinator); Eugene M. Ludwig, O.F.M. Cap.

This work used Athanasius of Alexandria’s festal letters to explore the pastoral nature of this fourth century C.E. bishop. The letters had not been studied historically before, and it shows that Athanasius is a genuine pastor, not just a politician.

Miok Kang
Pastoral Care for the Bereaved Following a Death by Suicide with Particular Attention to Korean Cultural Issues
San Francisco Theological Seminary
R. Scott Sullender (Coordinator); Herbert Anderson

The grief carried by death from suicide may be easily hidden, leading to a delay in the grieving process. Cultural and religious biases and judgment against suicide can affect a survivor’s feelings of grief, such as shame, guilt, despair, hopelessness, and stigma. Therefore, this thesis reviews religious and cultural viewpoints on suicide, especially in Christianity in a Korean context. Ministers may gain insight on the grief of suicidal death and how religious and cultural viewpoints can influence the survivor’s grieving process.

Kristen Lynn Kelly
The Heart of Transformation: A Lay Faith Educator’s Journey Teaching within the R.S.C.J. Educational Mission
Franciscan School of Theology
Faustino M. Cruz, S.M. (Coordinator); Mary E. McGann, R.S.C.J.; Marianne Farina, C.S.C

This thesis explores the contemporary Sacred Heart educational mission in the United States and how it shapes Catholic faith education at the high school level. Using the Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton, California as a model, it analyzes how the R.S.C.J. mission informs, forms and transforms lay faith educators.

Christina Leone
Towards a Sabbath Mentality: Cultivating a Theological Foundation for Economic De-Growth
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
T. Howland Sanks, S.J. (Coordinator); Gina Hens-Piazza; Richard B. Norgaard, University of California, Berkeley

This thesis explores the biblical concept of the Sabbath in light of today’s ecological crisis. As the effects of climate change are both generated and accelerated by the current economic model of unlimited growth, de-growth economics presents an alternative economic structure which promotes ecological justice; however, a shift to a de-growth economy must also be accompanied by a larger ideological shift across all disciplines. The theological implications which emerge from the practice of the sabbath, therefore, present the ideal location to begin constructing a new social paradigm in support of economic de-growth.

Carolyn Rose Lesmeister
Hungering for the Lord:  Eroticism, the Eucharist, and Sexual Ethics
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
Martha Ellen Stortz (Coordinator); Jay E. Johnson; Andrea Bieler

This thesis explores the erotic implications of the Eucharist and shows how this sacramental practice can be used to expand our imaginative horizons and reframe the conversation around sexual ethics currently taking place in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Heather Leigh Melton
Returning to Parish Ministry:  Community Involvement as a Means for Congregational Vitality
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
David Gortner (Coordinator); Robert R. Honeychurch; Philip L. Wickeri

This thesis examines two Episcopal congregations who have experienced decline in numbers despite their best efforts to respond to changing interests in the culture.  This study looks at what the role of the church is in society today. It examines what congregations have to offer society, but more specifically to the increasingly absent young adult population within congregations.

Kathryn Motroni-Fish
The Usefulness of Erving Goffman to the Sociology of Religion: Understanding the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Jerome P. Baggett (Coordinator); T. Howland Sanks, S.J.

Erving Goffman, one of the most influential sociologists of the 21st century, has scarcely been used in sociology of religion. The usefulness of some of Goffman’s theoretical categories such as frame work, stigma and impression management are shown by analyzing the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis since 2002 and can be applied to many religious examples beyond this case study.

Anthony Melvin Makana Paris
Hō‘ailona and Kino Lau as Models of the Sacramental Principle for Hawaiian Catholics
Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University
Eduardo C. Fernández, S.J. (Coordinator); Faustino M. Cruz, S.M.; Eugene M. Ludwig, O.F.M. Cap.

The cultural practices of hō‘ailona and kino lau model the sacramental principle that contextualizes the essence of sacrament for Hawaiian Catholics.  Hawaiians related to God before the arrival of Christian missionaries.  The practices that allowed Hawaiians to encounter the divine are God’s presence articulated through their natural faculties determined by cultural precedent.

Haeil Park
A Study on the Eucharist for Ecumenism in Korean Churches: Focused on the Eucharist in the Lima Document
Pacific School of Religion
Andrea Bieler (Coordinator); Kenan B. Osborne, O.F.M.; Sangyil Park

This thesis connects a new understanding of eucharist and ecumenism with Korean protestant churches. It also focuses on proving how such an effort can contribute to ecumenism of the divided churches in Korea, focusing on the eucharist in the Lima Document and drawing some common understanding for ecumenism of the churches.

Jin Suk Park
Stories of Samo:  Self-Differentiation among Korean Pastor’s Wives in the San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco Theological Seminary
R. Scott Sullender (Coordinator); Joseph D. Driskill; Jung Eun Sophia Park, Holy Names University

This study explores the struggles and experiences of Samo, a pastor’s wife in Korea and in the San Francisco Bay area.  This paper examines the roles and expectations of Samo that mainly stem from Korean patriarchal Confucian culture and values.  Murray Bowen’s concept of self-differentiation allows us to examine living as a Samo within Korean Confucian and collective cultures without losing one’s individual identity.

Victoria Rose Pinto
Shinnyo-en: An Early History
Institute of Buddhist Studies
Richard K. Payne (Coordinator); Lisa Grumbach; Jerome P. Baggett

As Japan modernized, traditional institutions were internally and externally constrained, and thus struggled to find relevancy in this new era. Meanwhile, new Buddhist movements such as Shinnyo-en, without those constraints, were better equipped to navigate the tumult of modernity with agility. Shinnyo-en founder, Kyoshu, developed a spectrum of adaptations (derivative of traditional faiths) and innovations, resulting in personal, institutional, and doctrinal resiliency.

Bosco Ponthokkan
Burn On, Don’t Burn Out: A Study in Practical Theology on Burnout among Clergy
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
Herbert Anderson (Coordinator); Joseph Boenzi

Burnout among clergy is a psycho-spiritual problem that manifests in emotional exhaustion, depersonalized attitude towards care-receivers and diminished personal accomplishment. The thesis develops this topic following the practical theological methodology of Richard R. Osner, and discusses the story of Don Bosco from the Catholic hagiographic tradition as a model of immunity to burnout in pastoral work. In its last part, the thesis presents a package of strategies and guidelines to prevent and reverse the condition of clergy burnout.

Brian Lawrence Rebholtz
From Heart of God to Alchemical Adam: Examining the Role of Christ in the Theosophy of Jacob Boehme
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski (Coordinator); James Lawrence

This study argues that Christ occupies an essential place within the narrative structure of Boehme’s theosophy, beginning with God’s self-manifestation – wherein Christ takes on the role of the Heart of God and becomes arbiter of the cosmogonic process – and concluding with God’s salvation of the world – wherein Christ takes on the role of a new, alchemically-regenerated Adam and becomes the restorer of the cosmos.

Andrew T. Shamel
Garrison Keillor and the News from Lake Wobegon: Narrative, Preaching and Theology
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Linda Clader (Coordinator); Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski; Jay Emerson Johnson

Garrison Keillor, especially in his massive corpus of Lake Wobegon stories, demonstrates a masterful and compelling use of narrative as a homiletical form. The stories Keillor tells bear the marks of personal and communal religious experience, and in their reflection of and reflection on that experience, they are deeply theological. As theology done in public, the news from Lake Wobegon monologues find themselves well within the preacher’s bailiwick.

Adam T. Strater
Post Temple Apocalyptic:  The Book of Revelation and its Messianism
Center for Jewish Studies
Holger M. Zellentin (Coordinator); Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski; Magnus Zetterholm, Lund University, Sweden

Post Temple apocalyptic literature is a sub-genre of apocalyptic literature originating in the late first century CE.  These works were a reaction to the fall of the second temple in 70 CE.  The texts of Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch fall in this sub-genre and describe a unique Messiah.  This thesis shows that the Book of Revelation belongs in this sub-genre and describes the same unique Messiah that is found in Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch.

Mary J. Supan
Tertullian and Gregory of Nyssa: Trinitarian Theologies and Analogies
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Thomas Cattoi (Coordinator); Eugene M. Ludwig, O.F.M. Cap.; Mary Ann Donovan, S.C.

The way one imagines the Trinity plays a vital role in expressing one’s experience of God. Thus, encountering a person’s analogies/metaphors provides a more comprehensive understanding of that experience. This thesis engages the trinitarian theologies of Tertullian and Gregory of Nyssa, uses corresponding analogies and metaphors to inform their theologies, and ends with a connection to contemporary human life.

Nick G. Tarlson
Greek Orthodox Liturgical Music in America: Practices and Innovations among Late 20th Century Composers in the Western United States
Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute
John E. Klentos (Coordinator); Ruth Meyers; Nikitas Lulias; Yiorgos Vassilandonakis, Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension

During the late 20th century, a number of innovations were introduced into Greek Orthodox liturgical music in the western United States, including modal harmony, counterpoint, independent accompaniment and English translations. This thesis traces the roots of these practices, and the responses of church authorities, from 19th century Greece to the United States, and evaluates the impact on the practices on Greek Orthodox liturgical worship.

Whitney Turk
Go and Do: Liberation Theology and Practical Christianity
Pacific School of Religion
Inese Radzins (Coordinator); Gabriella Lettini; David Weddle, Colorado College

Authentic expression of Christian faith necessitates active participation in social justice measures that reflect the primary concerns of Jesus’ teachings according to the gospels.  This thesis uses the American public school system as a lens for examining liberation theology and social justice for Christians who seek to be faithful to Christ’s teachings.

Jeffrey Veitch
Ruling Banquets: Herod’s Birthday and the Feeding of the Five Thousand in Mark and Matthew
San Francisco Theological Seminary
Eugene Eung-Chun Park (Coordinator); David Balch

This thesis uses the work of Claude Grignon to understand the social implications of Roman dining practices. Important features of Roman banqueting include social hierarchy and an emphasis on status differences. With these features in mind, an in-depth look at Herod’s birthday banquet and Jesus feeding of the five thousand display the way early Christian texts negotiate the banquet features of social hierarchy and status.

Demetria K. Worley
A Vessel Divinely Molded: Byzantine Iconoclasm and Orthodox Theological Anthropology
Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute
John E. Klentos (Coordinator); Thomas Cattoi; Nikitas Lulias

This thesis contends that Iconoclasm compelled Orthodox Christianity to clearly articulate an anthropology which defined the human person as a unity of both soul and body.  Embodiment was defended as a positive and redeemable element of human nature through defense of iconography.


Master of Arts with a Concentration in Biblical Languages

Benjamin Clarke
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Donn F. Morgan (Coordinator); Gina Hens-Piazza

Biblical Hebrew (Primary); Biblical Greek (Secondary); German (Modern Language)

Nicole Harris
Pacific School of Religion
Mary Ann Tolbert (Coordinator); Barbara Green, O.P.

Biblical Hebrew (Primary); Biblical Greek (Secondary); French (Modern Language)

Kyoung Hee Lee
San Francisco Theological Seminary
Annette Schellenberg  (Coordinator); Barbara Green, O.P.

Biblical Hebrew (Primary); Biblical Greek (Secondary); English (Modern Language)

Alicia Paige Rawson
Pacific School of Religion
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan (Coordinator); Barbara Green, O.P.

Biblical Hebrew (Primary); Biblical Greek (Secondary); Spanish (Modern Language)


Punching Holes in the Darkness

Richard M. Gula, S.S., Professor of Moral Theology, Franciscan School of Theology

Summer, 1964. “Freedom Summer” we called it. Anyone with eyes to see saw the heat waves of civil unrest rising from our city streets.

Marshall Ganz saw them. Marshall Ganz, raised in California’s Central Valley, left Harvard in his junior year to volunteer in Mississippi where he came eye to eye with cruelty, oppression, and violence everywhere he turned.  Then he returned to the Valley—and saw its real life for the first time. The same oppression, violence, and hatred Ganz had seen in Mississippi, he now saw directed against the farmworkers in Delano.   His Mississippi eyes allowed him to see what he had not seen before. He spent the rest of his life organizing migrant farmworkers, trade unions, and Presidential campaigns. All through his Mississippi eyes.

President Donahue, Chairman Leach, Deans Holder, Maloney, and Kook, faculty, friends and graduates, thank you.  Thank you for this last opportunity to remind you, before you go, of why you were here. You were here to do some lens grinding, sharpening your perspective and enlarging your heart so that you will be able to punch holes in the darkness of your own and other people’s imaginations. You may never have been to Mississippi, but you have been to Berkeley and to this Graduate Theological Union.  Now you can help people to see that they too can live in the midst of diversity with generosity and gratitude, with reverence and respect.

One of the lasting lessons I learned from studying H. Richard Niebuhr is that we respond to what we see. Our way of seeing is shaped by the experiences we have, by the books we read, by the company we keep, and by the beliefs we live by. How we respond to a situation, Niebuhr insists, depends a great deal on how we see it.  And how we see it depends on the imagination we have formed.

When we approach life as a matter of seeing first, we become people for whom the imagination really matters. It matters because our perspective can have serious consequences. Witness, for example, how some have used the Christian religion to distort their perception of Islam. As a result, their imagination has led to violence against Muslims in this country and to war in the Middle East. Seeing differently is hard, especially when we assume all along that our perspective is the correct one.

For the past sixteen years, I have been in the company of the Franciscans. Though not a Franciscan myself, I have been doing some lens grinding just the same.  My perspective has been sharpened; my heart enlarged. Seeing through the imagination of Francis and Clare, for example, means discovering that all creation reveals God because it was formed to reflect divine love. Such a perspective transforms an attitude of domineering ownership into one of gratitude and generosity, reverence and respect worthy of our kinship with all of creation.

Moreover, the Franciscan imagination sees the particularity of each person as a unique revelation of God. Seen that way, there are no weak students; there is Ted who needs help.  There are no gay or straight “others”; there is Shirley who needs companionship. There are no divorced and separated spouses; there is Betty who needs to know whether she can ever trust again.

Reverence and respect are the virtues that enlarge the heart with generosity and make seeing the particular possible, as happened at the Original Mel’s Diner. Sitting in the next booth, close enough to watch and overhear the interaction, was a mother, her teenage daughter, and the six-year-old son. The waitress first asked the mother what she would like, and she gave her order. Then she asked the teenage daughter, and she gave her order. Then the waitress turned to the six-year-old.  “What would you like?” she asked.  Immediately, his mother interrupted and spoke for him, “He will have a burger, fries, and a coke.” The waitress turned to the boy and asked again, “What would you like?” This time, the teenage daughter interrupted and spoke for him, “He will have a burger, fries, and a coke.  That’s what he always orders.” The waitress turned to the young boy. They locked eyes.  “What would you like?” she asked a third time. A smile began to spread across his face like a butterfly in flight. “I’ll have a burger, fries, and a coke.”  “Thank you, coming right up,” replied the waitress.  The youngster was still smiling from ear to ear when he turned to his mother and sister and said, “She thinks I’m real!” He felt real because someone saw him in particular.

If we are to see what is really there in particular, then how do we overcome our tendencies to fantasy and distortion?  We do it by becoming contemplatives.  I am not advocating that we withdraw from the world or turn our backs on tough issues and human struggles.  But I am suggesting that we acquire the habit of taking a long loving look at what is really going on.

If we are not contemplative, then we will never notice, along with Moses, that the burning bush is not being consumed. Without seeing contemplatively, reality is simply what meets the eye when we take a look. That’s all there is. The non-contemplative sees just enough to get through to Friday. The contemplative, by contrast, sees every experience drenched with grace and is grateful.  Through contemplative eyes, the world is the theater of divine glory where, as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, “God plays in ten thousand places.” Christianity teaches that our highest possible happiness is not when we think about God, but when we see God. A core Buddhist teaching and discipline is to see without illusion.

Our way of seeing is connected to the company we keep. Sharpening our perspective is impossible without the help of others who can see when we cannot. Graduates, your success as a public intellectual depends upon whom you allow to help you see.

The need for someone else’s eyes reminds me of the blind woman I met on the corner of Shattuck and Allston Way.  She wanted to cross the street to get to the BART station, but she got disoriented when caught in the swarm of Berkeley High students who surrounded her. Above the buzz, I heard her cry, “Is there anybody here who can see?” “I can, ma’am, I can,” I said.  I who had eyes to see led her to freedom—or at least to the BART station.

We are all like the blind woman who got disoriented. We need someone who can see more clearly than we can. Having someone who can see when we are blind is one of the blessings of belonging to a community of learning, to professional associations, and to a tradition of faith. Just as Paul had Ananaias, we too have the help of one another—a mentor, a preacher, a teacher, a spouse, or just a good friend who can punch holes in the darkness of our imagination.  One very important way to serve the world as a GTU graduate is to help people see that diversity does not have to be divisive, that differences do not preclude community, that confessing a different faith or no faith does not have to lead to conflict, and that studying religion does not have to blind us to reality.

In verbal shorthand, earning a degree in theology is shaping the imagination. Through our research we see deeper dimensions of reality that go unnoticed by those whose seeing is merely taking a look.  When we see more than meets the eye, we may begin to value life differently. And when we value life differently, our hearts may grow larger. We begin to live differently.  We make our imaginations transparent.

I will close with the story told about the writer Robert Louis Stevenson. When he was a young boy growing up in Scotland, he would watch the village lamplighter making his rounds, lighting each of the street lamps one by one. Supposedly Stevenson once said, “Look, there is a man who punches holes in the darkness.”  That is what you can do for the world. There is no greater service you can provide with your education than to punch holes in the darkness of your own and other people’s imagination. 

Before we go, you and I, let’s ask ourselves: How has our perspective changed? Have our hearts been enlarged? Have we made a commitment to use our imagination in the service of faith, hope, and love? What will we see when we look on the world through our GTU “Mississippi” eyes?


Sole Talk: On the Art of Studying Religion

Sharon R. Fennema, Ph.D. Liturgical Studies

I am deeply honored to have been asked to share a few words with you, fellow graduates, faculty and staff of the Graduate Theological Union, and all of the friends and family who have come together today to witness the culmination of our work here and celebrate with us.  If you are like me, it has taken quite a few years, a few computers, hundreds of thousands of pages written and read, and lots of laugher and tears to get here, and it would not have been possible without loved ones, friends and colleagues cheering us on. Each of us that has crossed this platform does so surrounded by a community of support who share in our accomplishments.  So on behalf of all the graduates, I offer to all of you our heartfelt gratitude for your perseverance, sacrifices, distractions, love and encouragement. 

I would venture to guess that each person here has some connection to the study of religion. Whether we do so as scholars, teachers, practitioners or observers, I suspect most of us take part in the search for meaning beyond ourselves, engaging in the “big questions” of life as we seek to make sense of our experiences of both sacredness and suffering.  So, I want to take a few moments to reflect with you about the art of studying religion and the many ways we engage the sacred, by taking a look at our shoes.  Yes, that’s right, I said shoes. 

I’m not what you would call a “shoe person.”  I pretty much choose comfort and function over looks every time.  But growing up in a cultural context where the right kind of shoes were the ultimate status symbol made me a keen observer of shoes. As the title of a recent exhibit of shoes at the Fuller Craft Museum reminds us, “Shoes Tell Stories.” They contain multiple meanings that speak to issues of gender, history, sexuality, race and class.  And they are intimately related to their wearers. Whether we are trying to “put our best foot forward” or “walk a mile in someone else’s,” shoes have significance in our lives because they operate in the liminal space between our bodies and the physical space that surrounds them. 

The sacred writings of Islam, Judaism and Christianity share in common a story about shoes.  The faith-stories of each tradition include the tale of Moses and the burning bush.  In it, Moses, the holy leader-to-be, encounters a burning bush and, at the same time, the presence of God.  As Moses stands in the presence of the holy, God’s voice tells him to take off his shoes, because the place where he is standing is holy ground.  In the context of the ancient near East, the gesture of taking off one’s shoes was a common practice when entering a holy place of divine presence.  It was a sign of respect, honoring the sacredness of the place and its distinctness from everyday life. But for Moses, this gesture was also a sign of vulnerability and intimacy.  Moses, a person called by God who lived as an “alien in a foreign land,” found a home in the presence of holiness, he found a place where he could take off his shoes.  This gesture was an expression of openness, of reverence, and of relationship: an appropriate response to the experience of divine presence. 

As scholars of religion, each of us has the extraordinary privilege of encountering the holy as we delve into the big questions of life.  Whether or not we are people of faith, each of us seeks a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of human life and in doing so, we engage with sacredness; we tread on holy ground.  I became profoundly aware of this as I researched my dissertation, which looked at the ways in which members of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco negotiated the complex intersection of human suffering and God’s love through their worship practices during the height of the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and 90’s.  The people I interviewed and the congregation at MCCSF who opened their history to my scholarly inquiry entrusted me with very sacred stories of love enveloping suffering and death through practices of relational solidarity that fostered an intimacy with the divine. As I researched this extraordinary time in the life of this community of faith, I became more and more convinced that fostering openness and honoring the sacredness of these stories was equally important to my other scholarly engagements with my research. 

As I heard the story of a person with AIDS celebrating communion with his friends and loved ones using cookies and milk because that was what they had and he wanted to give this special gift to those who had been caring for him; as I witnessed a community enveloped by HIV/AIDS singing with voices loud and strong, “when the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there;” as I listened to worshippers who spoke the names and told the stories of those who were living with and dying from AIDS to break the silence surrounding the disease in those early days; as I encountered a community who through song and prayer, lament and praise, claimed God’s promises of steadfast love in the midst of suffering, assured that love is stronger than death, I realized that my scholarship required not only critical engagement and analysis, but also, taking off my shoes. 

I suspect that each of you could tell your own stories about encountering sacredness as you investigated your own questions of meaning and significance, whether in the stories of Jewish women poets, or of the writer of the gospel of Matthew, or of the composers and theologians of gospel music, or of the teachers of non-violent resistance.  As scholars of religion, our work includes traversing the boundaries of holiness, occupying the liminal space between human beings and holy ground.  The story of Moses’ encounter with divine presence gives us one model for how we might continue our engagement in the study of religion. Part of the art of studying religion is taking off our shoes and allowing ourselves to be open and vulnerable to an other’s experience of the holy and sacred, even as we engage critically with it.  Yes, studying religion is about rigorous scholarship and critical inquiry, but it is also about respect, relationship and openness in the midst of the search for ultimate meaning.  To have one aspect without the other does a disservice, I believe, to the art that is studying religion.  It is for this art that our time at the GTU has prepared us.  We have been immersed in this interfaith and ecumenical context, learning the gift and challenge of respectful dialogue.  We have been shaped by interdisciplinary teaching and learning, cultivating an openness to the complex intersections of religion and society.  We have been molded and challenged by relationships with colleagues, mentors and friends, finding in them a sacred intimacy and a place we could call home.  In short, we have, I think, developed not only the skills and knowledge but also the art of studying religion.  

As our diverse interests and areas of study reveal, each of us brings our own unique contributions to this task.  Each of us journeys into questions of sacred significance in different ways, from a variety of viewpoints.  And each of us can endeavor to do so with the openness, respect, vulnerability and intimacy in which we have been formed by our studies here.  As we continue our journeys, down whatever paths our feet may take us, I encourage you to take a look at your shoes every once in a while, and remember the gift and challenge of treading on holy ground that is part of the art of studying religion. 

But for now, let’s put on our dancing shoes, and get on with the party!