Lorena M. Parrish
Dirk Romeyn Professor of Metro-Urban Ministry
Director of the Doctor of Ministry program and the Master of Arts in Ministry and Community Leadership program
A trained systematic theologian, community organizer and activist-scholar, the Reverend Dr. Lorena M. Parrish is committed to connecting spirituality and social justice for faith leaders and fostering transformational leadership for 21st century metro-urban ministries. Her primary teaching interests span the breath of systematic and practical theologies, particularly the history and development of liberation theologies; practical theologies of liberation for metro-urban ministry contexts; transformational leadership for emerging leaders; spirituality and social justice; and womanist theology, practice and ethics. She is currently working on her first book project which explores what she deems the anatomy of “a legacy of a theology of prosperity” and its implications for the Black Church.
Dr. Parrish earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications degree from New York University. She earned her joint Master of Science in Social Work and Master of Divinity degrees from Columbia University School of Social Work and Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York respectively, and her Master of Philosophy (Theology and Culture), and Doctor of Philosophy degrees Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.
Her academic posts have included serving as Director of Ministry Studies and Assistant Professor of Theology & Practice at Andover Newton Theological School and as adjunct faculty at Union Theological Seminary. Dr. Parrish also served as Senior Associate Pastor at Fort Washington Collegiate Church in upper Manhattan, Pastor of Claryville Reformed Church in Claryville, NY, Associate Minister at Trinity Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York and Director of Youth Ministries at The Riverside Church in New York City. A tireless advocate for gender justice, Dr. Parrish leads workshops that address issues of
gender inequity in church and society, and she has written about the plight of women of color in leadership in the church and the academy.
Dr. Parrish is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches, USA, and is regularly called upon to preach and offer program development and coaching in diverse and complex congregations nationwide.
- 2013 – Ph.D. Systematic Theology; Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
Specialization: Womanist & Feminist Theologies; Theology, Ethics and Popular Culture; Theology and the Black Church; Practical Theology
- 2003 – M. Phil.; Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
- 1997 – M.Div. Theology & Culture, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY. Specialization: African American Religious Thought
- 1997 M.S.S.W.; Columbia University School of Social Work, New York, NY (Summa cum laude)
- 1992 B.A. Communications; New York University, New York, NY 10012 (Cum laude)
Doctoral Dissertation: Forsaking the Lowly Jesus for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, or How Shall We Be Saved?: A Theological Reflection on the Legacy of Christian Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty and Its Impact Upon the Black Church.
Directors: Dr. Serene Jones and Dr. Delores S. Williams
This project contemplates Jesus’ teachings on wealth and poverty and the historical roots of Western Christianity’s ambivalence toward Jesus’ position. I catalog Jesus’ teachings on wealth and poverty and those parts of the theologies of some of the most influential theologians in Western Christianity that speak to their valuation of wealth and poverty as a way to outline the anatomy of “a legacy of a theology of prosperity.” I use the term “theology of prosperity” to refer to the way in which wealth accumulation is understood as part of God’s divine order, linking individual prosperity, social power, mobility, and material acquisition to God’s blessings and setting aside the notion that Jesus calls for a radical revaluation of wealth and poverty. I argue Jesus’ teachings on wealth and poverty calls for redemptive responses that renounce stratified power, privilege, and wealth inequity and ushers in a new human paradigm that values non-hierarchical relations, egalitarianism, and a culture of sharing and hospitality. Showing how such ambivalence served to “dilute” Jesus’ views and foster “a legacy of a theology of prosperity” from the patristic period to current black churches’ prosperity gospels; I delineate a descriptive of the anatomy of this legacy for the Black Church. Finally, engaging the work of womanist theologians to ascertain the significance of this genealogy of ambivalence for the construction of a womanist soteriology, I offer a constructive “way out” that takes serious Jesus’ teachings and Black women and men’s longing for “abundant living.”
Areas of Doctoral Study: Systematic and Contemporary Theology; Womanist and Black Liberation Theologies; Theology and Popular Culture; Christian Ethics and Critical Philosophies.
Specialized Graduate Training: Graduate research in African women’s theologies with Mercy Oduyoye, Institute of Women in Religion & Culture, Trinity Theological Seminary, Ghana, 1999.
2015 – 2016 Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Newton Centre, MA
Director of Ministry Studies and Assistant Professor of Theology & Practice
Provide faculty-level educational leadership for ministry studies across Andover Newton’s programs, which include directing the Doctor of Ministry and Field Education programs, advising students across degree programs, teaching two courses each year in the areas of Theology & Practice and Doctoral Research, visioning, planning for, and implementing educational programs for clergy and laity, and envisioning and implementing a strategic plan for non-degree programs.
2014 – 2015 New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, NJ
Doctor of Ministry Cohort Mentor & Dissertation Advisor
Supervise cohort of doctoral students for new Pastoral Care & Counseling D.Min. program; providing academic advisement, evaluating dissertation research and writing, and assisting Director and Dean in planning and administration
Spring 2014 Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
Conceived and taught course “Womanist Theology, Thought, Theory and Praxis”, utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to examine the central concerns of womanist theologians, ethicists, theorists and grassroots practitioners in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the “intersectionality” of race, gender, sexuality, and class.
2008 – 2013 Fort Washington Collegiate Church, New York, NY
Senior Associate Pastor
Oversee all operational and administrative aspects of the church, including budget, staff, program development and community outreach. Conceived of and designed educational programs, special events and guest lecture series of renowned scholars and practitioners to foster spiritual development, engagement, and church growth in a complex urban, multicultural congregation.
2005 – 2008 Claryville Reformed Church, Claryville, NY
Provided leadership and direction for the theological, spiritual, and cultural development and enrichment of the congregation
2006 – 2008 Independent Consultant
Ministry Advisor/Projects Manager
Provided services in the areas of program and administrative development, leadership training, constituents/student retention and volunteer management. Clients included: The Riverside Church of New York City, Claflin University, Fordham University, American Baptist Churches USA – ABC Girls Regional Conference, Global Youth Leadership Institute
2003 – 2005 Girls Incorporated of New York City, New York, NY
Provided vision, leadership and direction for this new organization. Successfully increased donor base, raising $1.4 million; oversaw all aspects of the operation, including program design and implementation, administrative oversight, engaging stakeholders, policy creation, staff supervision, and serving as media spokesperson.
2003 – 2005 Trinity Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
Ministerial Staff Member and Worship Leader, Advisor to Youth Fellowship, Middle and High School Class Sunday School Teacher, and Women’s Ministry.
Summer 2003 Newark School of Theology, Newark, NJ
Designed and taught course on womanist/feminist theology and the Bible
Spring 2002 Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
Taught a guest seminar, “Womanist and African Women’s Theologies in Dialogue” for Professor Delores S. Williams’ course, Womanist Theology
Fall 2000 Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
Facilitated discussions, did research, led field trips and lectured on issues pertaining to women and modern Islamic thought for South African visiting scholar, Professor Farid Esack’s course, Introduction to Islam.
2000 – 2003 The Riverside Church in the City of New York, New York, NY
Director ofYouth Ministries
Provided overall supervision, leadership, counseling, and spiritual development for youth and college age adults; created innovative nationally recognized programs, as seen in Essence Magazine; helped to manage fiscal budget of $18 million, including gifts, donations and grants; and managed a staff of over 90, including fieldwork interns, volunteers and consultants.
1997 – 2000 The Riverside Church in the City of New York, New York, NY
Associate Director of Youth Ministries
Ministerial staff member, Christian Education instructor and program evaluator; developed, implemented and maintained youth programs in a congregation of over 3500, under the leadership of Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister.
1996 – 1997 The Riverside Church in the City of New York, New York, NY
Youth Social Work Case Manager (Supervised field work)
Individual & family caseworker/therapist; group facilitator; program and grant developer.
1989 – 1995 Publishers’ Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal, New York, NY
Vice President, Advertising Sales
1987 – 1989Publishers’ Weekly Magazine, New York, NY
Magazine Production Manager
1985 – 1987 Scholastic Inc. Scholastic Magazines, New York, NY
Magazine Production Manager
“Womanism: Past, Present and Future,” Panel presentation honoring African American womanist scholars Rev. Dr. Jacquelyn Grant, Rev. Dr. Katie G. Cannon and Dr. Delores Williams at Union Theological Seminary, New York, February 25, 2009.
“Listening for the Voice of Vocation,” plenary speaker for Claflin University Center for Vocational Reflection Fall Freshman Conference, Orangeburg, S.C., Aug. 2004; Aug. 2005; Aug. 2006.
“Promoting Peace across Cultural Contexts in Conflict,” facilitator for weekend workshop intensive for Auburn Theological Seminary Seeking Common Ground: Face-to Face/Faith-to-Faith Multicultural, Multi-faith Summer Leadership Program, August 2003.
“Wealth, Poverty and Christianity,” lecture series presenter at The Riverside Church in New York City, September 2002.
“Youth, Faith, Action: Developing Leadership and Social Action Ministries,” workshop facilitator for Children’s Defense Fund Samuel DeWitt Proctor Summer Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry, Tennessee, July 1998 and July 1999.
“When Young People Pray: Youth in the Civil Rights Movement Impacting the World through Activism and Prayer”, workshop presented at American Baptist Churches National Ministries Weekend Conference, June 1999.
“Designing Leadership Programs for Social Action & Community Engagement” workshop facilitator for Episcopal Charities of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, November 1998.
“A Special Report: Race and the Media”, presenter & organizer for The 1998 Symposium on Race with Gil Noble (WABC Like It Is), Elinor Ruth Tatum (publisher, The Amsterdam News), and José Santiago (WBAI Radio) at Union Seminary, New York, November 5-7, 1998.
“The Church, Jesus and Salvation in the Mind of Adolescents: An Introduction to Youth Ministry,” seminar presented for Episcopal Charities of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, June 1997.
HONORS/ PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS /SERVICE
Anne McGrew Bennett/John Coleman Bennett Fellowship, 1997, Union Seminary
Doctoral Fellow, 1997 – 1999, Union Theological Seminary
Dean’s Scholarship, 1981, New York University
Mayor’s Scholarship of New York City, 1980 and 1981
Member, American Academy of Religion
Member, AAR Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society
Member, AAR Black Theology Group
Member, Women of Color Scholarship, Teaching and Activism
Member, National Association of Christian Social Workers
Member, Association for the Sociology of Religion
Initiating Council Member, Women of Color in Ministry Institute
Advisory Board Member, Black Women’s Blueprint
President, Board of Directors of The Moriah Institute
Member, Center for American Progress Faith and Reproductive Justice Institute
Forsaking the Lowly Jesus for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, or How Shall We Be Saved?
A Theological Reflection on the Legacy of Christian Attitudes toward Wealth and Poverty and Its Impact upon the Black Church (Palgrave MacMillan Pub., in process)
“Celebrating Young Adult Sunday” Young Adult Sunday Lectionary Commentary August 11, 2013
“Another Survey Tells Us What We Already Know: Women, Especially Women of Color, Are Not Selected To Lead Religious Organizations” Huffington Post, November 20, 2014
American Baptist USA, ordained June 2003
Conversational Spanish; reading knowledge of Spanish and French.