Campus View
News for friends of MTSO
February 2016


MTSO and Unitarian Universalist Association form partnership

MTSO has formed a Unitarian Universalist House of Studies, serving individuals pursuing ministry within the Unitarian Universalist Association. The house of studies will take shape in a variety of ways over the coming three years, with programming beginning in early 2016.

MTSO Dean Lisa Withrow noted that UU students have long been a valued part of the school’s community.

“In the 17 years I’ve been at MTSO, I’ve found that UU students have challenged their classmates to be clear about their own theologies,” Withrow said. “I welcome this kind of more intentional partnership with the UUA. It will enhance the education here in meaningful ways.”

Susan Ritchie, minister of the North Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Lewis Center, Ohio, and an immediate past trustee and secretary on the national board of the Unitarian Universalist Association, will serve as director of the house of studies.

“Nobody doubts that this kind of collaboration and multi-faith effort is the future for all of us,” Ritchie said. “Progressive people inside of different faith traditions might have more in common with each other than various people within the same faith tradition.”

During the first half of 2016, MTSO is offering two classes with a UU focus, both taught by Ritchie.

A three-credit-hour Unitarian Universalist History is being offered during the Spring Semester. The hybrid course combines online learning with on-campus classroom learning over a three-day weekend in April.

MTSO also will offer a 1.5-credit-hour Unitarian Universalist Polity course during the UUA General Assembly in Columbus June 22-26. This class will meet on-site at the General Assembly.

In coming months and years, MTSO plans to enhance and expand the UU House of Studies both to serve degree-seeking MTSO students and to provide hybrid and intensive classes for UU students who are preparing in other seminaries.

“We also hope for the house to provide an umbrella for a lay ministry program and for providing intellectual resources to UU individuals working on various progressive concerns,” Ritchie said.

Additional courses drawing from the shared values of MTSO and the UUA may be developed, and existing MTSO courses covering areas such as anti-racism, transgender and queer identities, and activism may be enhanced to reflect a UU focus.

“We’re excited to offer this house of studies to UU students,” said MTSO President Jay Rundell. “Students from 20 different faith traditions come together on our campus. They appreciate our progressive approach to issues of social justice, race, gender and sexuality, and ecotheology, including our organic Seminary Hill Farm. Our campus community has long benefited from engagement with UU students, and I’m confident UU students will continue to find that MTSO is a good fit.”

More information on the Unitarian Universalist House of Studies and upcoming classes is available at


Thoughts on an anti-racism course just for white people


By John Henderson, M.Div. ’16

As we celebrate Black History Month, I offer this reflection about my experience in a recent course offered to students on MTSO’s campus – Doing Our Own Work: An Anti-Racism Intensive for White People, taught by Dr. Melanie Morrison, founder and executive director of Allies for Change, a network of educators and activists who share a passion for social justice. I was fortunate to be one of 12 white students of a variety of ages and genders who took this course during the January Term.

For some, it might seem counterproductive to offer a course focused on recognizing white privilege and developing strategies to interrupt racism with no people of color to share in the dialogue. I had my own doubts, but I now believe the kinds of discussions modeled during the week-long intensive class – while certainly not the only conversations necessary – must take place in our churches, our communities, our schools and our families in order for us to move forward toward any significant progress and change.

I believe that we are at a moment in our nation’s history in which white people – a people with historic power over others – must understand their place within movements, such as Black Lives Matter, that seek to end the systemic problem of racism. We have a role to play in reshaping a country that continues to discard black and brown bodies through racial profiling, mass incarceration and police brutality.

Over the course of five full days, our class began the deep work of understanding our collective power and privilege, acknowledging systemic racism, claiming an anti-racist identity and developing strategies for dismantling racism in our daily lives.

What I quickly learned is that this is a collective problem that requires collective solutions within communities such as the one that we would form throughout the week. What I learned is that knowledge of our collective experiences is critical for the work of anti-racism – not just within multiracial communities, but also within all-white communities and institutions.

As white people, it is often easy for us to distance ourselves from the past: Since we didn’t do it, we don’t have to deal with it (that’s been my experience, at least). What I realize now is that “we” does not mean “me.” For me, “we” means “white.” And for many, “white” means “power.”

As a young white male, I entered the class with trepidation and reluctance, thinking that what I would learn in the coming days would be everything I had heard before. I prepared for the white guilt that I would likely feel as I was reminded of my own power and privilege and the hopelessness that I would likely feel under the weight of unattainable solutions.

One of the first exercises in which we engaged as a class was the creation of a “Wall of History.” On a large sheet of paper, we constructed a timeline of racial oppression in America. Opposite the examples of racial violence, we listed examples of resistance. The examples of resistance gave us hope, but they also reminded us of our collective silence and the work still left for us to do.

As a progressive Christian, I like to think that I stand on the side of the oppressed, as Jesus would have wanted. I claim that I’m not like “those” people – you know, the ones who call names and look down on others because of their race or cultural background. In fact, I often refer to myself as an “ally” and “activist.” But, as I was reminded, I have not yet put in the hard work required to deserve these self-identified titles.

Out of defense, along with a chorus of other white voices, my rally cry has become, “I am not racist!” while people of color cry out things like, “Black Lives Matter!” and, “I can’t breathe!” And still, I expect to be trusted. I expect to be trusted although I have done little to earn their trust. Dr. Morrison urged us to think of the term “ally” as a verb, not a noun. It’s a title earned in the doing, not the declaring.

So far, my seminary journey at MTSO has been one of self-discovery – what does it mean for me to be a white, educated, Christian male born and raised in the Midwestern United States? The outcome of my experience in this course was no different.

Over the course of five days, I came a few steps closer to more fully understanding my identity as a white male living in the context of contemporary American society. America’s history is my history. The actions of white men in power are a piece of my story, a piece that I cannot ignore. Unless I do my own work and quit hiding behind voices of color, I will only continue the perpetuation of this nation’s unjust history and the racial divide that continues to deepen today.

I’ve just begun my final semester as a Master of Divinity student at MTSO, knowing that as a young white male entering into ministry, it would be very easy for me to leave this work for someone else. I begin this semester knowing that for some, this work is not a choice, but life.

As I begin this semester, I carry with me Dr. Morrision’s reminder that we are here to do “soul work.” We are here to examine the wounds of racism, claim an anti-racist white identity and walk with each other so that we ultimately build anti-racist, multicultural communities in our churches, in our schools and in our homes.


Counseling ministries degree program celebrates 30 years

During this academic year, MTSO is marking three decades of educating highly competent professional counselors and clinicians. Through the Master of Arts in Counseling Ministries program and its predecessor, the Master of Arts in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Ministries program, hundreds of graduates have gone forth from MTSO to engage in transformational counseling for individuals, families, communities and society.

On March 16, we’ll take a day to reunite, celebrate the past 30 years, and recommit ourselves to the value of holistic, interdisciplinary, spiritually informed counseling education and clinical training with a special symposium. All current and former counseling students and faculty are invited, along with anyone engaged in professional counseling.

The theme for the symposium is “Integrating Clinical Wisdom and Spirituality in the Teaching and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy in a Diverse World.”

Featured speakers are former MACM Director Vergel Lattimore, who now serves as president of Hood Theological Seminary, and Jill Snodgrass, assistant professor of pastoral counseling at Loyola University Maryland and co-editor of the recently published, highly acclaimed book Understanding Pastoral Counseling.

Workshops will be led by three members of the MTSO MACM faculty: Director Fulgence Nyengele, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling Denise Lewis, and fully affiliated faculty member Brad Price.

This special event, including lunch, is presented by MTSO at no cost to participants. An application is pending with the Ohio Counselor, Social Work, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board for professional continuing education clock hours. Credit for these hours will be available for $35, payable online with your registration.

To learn more and register, visit


Scholars and activists unite to confront mass incarceration

People of faith opposed to mass incarceration will gather for an afternoon of conversation at MTSO Feb. 26. Faithful Justice: Confronting Mass Incarceration begins at 12:30 p.m. and continues through dinner. A $10 fee covers the entire event, including the meal. Online registration is required and available at; the deadline is Feb. 19.


The day features a keynote address by James Logan, author of Good Punishment? Christian Moral Practice and U.S. Imprisonment. Logan is associate professor of religion and associate professor and director of the program in African and African American Studies at Earlham College.

Breakout session leaders include Townsand Price-Spratlen, author of Reconstructing Rage: Transformative Reentry in the Era of Mass Incarceration; Frances Jo Hamilton, president of Restart, a work-release advocacy program focusing on first-time, female offenders; Kenya Cummings, director of prison and re-entry ministries for the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church; Ryan Schellenberg, MTSO Assistant Professor of New Testament; and Wendy Tarr, community organizer with Restored Citizens and Community for Change. Tarr will be joined by a panel of formerly incarcerated women.

Throughout the afternoon and at the networking dinner, participants will identify practical actions that can be taken to work toward dismantling mass incarceration.

Feb. 16 Faculty Lecture

Are anti-human-trafficking efforts missing the progressive voice?


In their effort to participate in the movement to end human trafficking, are progressive Christians losing their distinctive voice? Yvonne Zimmerman, associate professor of Christian ethics at MTSO, believes they are.

In her faculty lecture, “Missing in Action: The Disappearance of Progressive Christianity in the Movement to End Human Trafficking,” Zimmerman will discuss the process by which progressive Christian perspectives are co-opted and effectively silenced in the anti-trafficking movement.

The lecture begins at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 in the Alford Centrum. It is free and open to the public.

“In their eagerness to participate in this global human rights movement,” Zimmerman said, “progressive Christians often end up adopting the same social and political analyses of human trafficking as the rest of the mainstream anti-trafficking movement.” This uncritical appropriation is a problem, Zimmerman argues.

“Progressive Christians tend to use the same objectifying images of sexual exploitation and sexual slavery, tell the same kind of patronizing rescue stories, and tout the same punitive political measures that center on abolishing prostitution as the as the best ways to end human trafficking as the rest of the mainstream anti-trafficking movement, as if the tradition of progressive Christianity has nothing distinctive or worthwhile to offer for engaging this or any other contemporary social issue.”

Zimmerman is the author of Other Dreams of Freedom: Religion, Sex and Human Trafficking, published by Oxford University Press in 2012. The book explores the particular religious roots in Protestant Christianity of the notion of freedom that shapes the United States’ official federal response to human trafficking and initiatives undertaken to end it.


MTSO signs on as a primary sponsor of the Thrive conference

MTSO and the Western Pennsylvania Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry are primary sponsors of Thrive: Ministry in the New Millennium, offering pastors and church leaders new perspectives and tangible ways to enhance 21st century ministry. The conference will be held April 10 and 11 at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh/Southpointe in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Registration is open for the conference, with early-bird rates starting at $199 available through Feb. 28. One continuing education unit is available to each participant. Online registration and conference details are at

Running from Sunday evening through Monday evening, Thrive features keynote speaker Joel Comiskey, an internationally recognized cell church coach and consultant, and worship leader Joshua Price, who leads worship at the Woodlands United Methodist Church in Texas. Breakout sessions will offer leading-edge approaches to reaching the next generation, covering topics including children’s ministry, college ministry, technology and worship service design.

“Our school is excited to support Thrive’s goal of helping participants better intersect with young adults,” said April Casperson, MTSO vice president of institutional advancement. “People under 30 expect ministry rooted in social justice and world transformation. They are drawn to communities rooted in authenticity, well-designed worship and asking the hard questions. Helping those who long to reach the church’s next generation is a natural extension of the work we do on the MTSO campus every day.”


Seminary Hill Farm offers new half-share option for 2016 CSA

Seminary Hill Farm has announced the 2016 schedule and membership options for its community-supported agriculture program. CSA members take home a generous supply of organic produce each week during spring, summer and fall terms.

The new year brings a number of updates to the CSA program:

  • Tuesday is the new pick-up day.
  • New, expanded pick-up hours are 2-6 p.m.
  • The new pickup location is the MTSO Coffee Shop porch, near the campus’s Route 23 entrance.
  • Half shares will be available for the first time. Half shares include 6-8 items per week; full shares are 10-12 items.

This year’s spring term begins May 10, with registration open through April 26. Pricing details and online membership registration are available at

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