2016 Proctor Institute Great Preachers and Leaders Bios

Dr. Walter J. Brueggemann 

Dr. Walter J. Brueggemann’s work focuses on the relationship between the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian faith. His 58 books, hundreds of sermons, and worldwide lecture events have deeply influenced contemporary theology and biblical exegesis. Dr. Brueggemann’s books include The Prophetic Imagination, Praying the Psalms, Theology of the Old Testament, and numerous commentaries on the Hebrew canon. Dr. Brueggemann has served as faculty at two institutions in his career: Eden Theological Seminary (1961-1986) and Columbia Theological Seminary (1986-2003). He is currently William Marcellus McPheeters professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia. Dr. Brueggemann’s primary method with the text is rhetorical criticism. Words matter to Dr. Brueggemann, and one can tell that by listening to him speak as he hangs on to particularly theologically significant words. His magnum opus, Theology of the Old Testament (1997), is a rhetorical-critical look at the Old Testament through the lenses of “testimony, dispute, and advocacy.” Many have come to know Dr. Brueggemann through his book entitled The Prophetic Imagination, originally published in 1978. His best-known work, however, may be with the Psalms. Numerous church leaders have used his Message of the Psalms as a new way of organizing and processing the Psalms. He has been writing about the Psalms since 1982, and he continues to this day with a commentary published in 2014. Church leaders find a friend in Brueggemann, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. His work inspires, energizes, and convicts, and he always makes time to interact personally with those to whom he speaks at large events.


Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas 

Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas is Professor of Religion at Goucher College where she holds the Susan D. Morgan Professorship of Religion. She previously served in similar positions at Howard University School of Divinity and Edward Waters College. A leading voice in the development of womanist theology, Essence magazine counts Dr. Douglas “among this country’s most distinguished religious thinkers, teachers, ministers, and counselors.” Her groundbreaking book Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective was the first to address the issue of homophobia within the black church community. Her latest book, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (2015) examines the challenges of a “Stand Your Ground” culture for the Black Church. She has been a pioneering voice in addressing sexual issues in the Black religious community and advocating for equal rights for LGBTQ persons. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Douglas was ordained at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in 1985 – the first Black woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest in the Southern Ohio Diocese, and one of only five nationwide at the time. She was the first to receive the Anna Julia Cooper Award by the Union of Black Episcopalians for “her literary boldness and leadership in the development of a womanist theology and discussing the complexities of Christian faith in African-American contexts.” Dr. Douglas is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Denison where she earned a B.S. in psychology. She went on to earn a master of divinity and doctorate in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary. Dr. Douglas is a member of the American Academy of Religion, The Society for the Study of Black Religion, The Ecumenical Association for Third World Theologians, on The Board of Scholars for Ms. Magazine, and currently serves as the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral.


Marian Wright Edelman 

The President of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), Mrs. Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. Under her leadership, the Washington-based CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families. She began her career in the mid-1960s when, as the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1968, she moved to Washington, D.C. as counsel for the Poor People's March that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death. Mrs. Edelman founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund. For two years she directed the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and in 1973 began CDF. Mrs. Edelman has received many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings, which include: The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, and I'm Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children. A graduate of Spelman College, Mrs. Edelman holds a law degree from Yale University. She is married to Peter Edelman, a professor at Georgetown Law School. They have three sons, Joshua, Jonah, and Ezra; two granddaughters, Ellika and Zoe; and two grandsons, Elijah and Levi.


Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins 

Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins serves as the Senior Pastor and Teacher of South Euclid United Church of Christ (formerly Euclid Avenue Congregational Church). At the age of 27, Rev. Jenkins made history when she became the first woman, first African American and the youngest pastor called to lead this multi-cultural, multi-generational, inner-city congregation. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Spelman College. Rev. Jenkins holds a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary with a concentration in Preaching and Congregational Ministry. Rev. Jenkins is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ denomination and serves in several capacities. Previously, she served as the Designated Pastor of Shaker Heights Community Church and the United Church of Christ. She is the first woman to be ordained at the historic Mt. Zion Congregational Church in Cleveland Ohio. Rev. Jenkins is co-Founder of the Without Walls Ministry. She has served on numerous boards and committees of local and national ecumenical organizations. She has also worked intentionally on teaching and training for anti-racism and youth ministry programs, life-skills for low-income and incarcerated persons, dating anti-violence programs for young adults and African American history as a form of empowering and building community. Rev. Jenkins was the recipient of the 2012 Star Award presented by the Women of Color Foundation to a young professional woman who is making a difference in Northeastern Ohio. She was selected as the 2014 Alumnae Convocation Speaker at Spelman College. In 2015, Rev. Jenkins received Cleveland Mayor Jackson’s “Making a Difference Award.”


Dr. John W. Kinney 

Dr. John W. Kinney is the Dean of the School of Theology at Virginia Union University (STVU). A native of Wheeling, West Virginia, he received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia and Virginia Union University of Theology in Richmond, Virginia respectively. He was awarded a Ph.D. from Columbia University/Union Theological Seminary in New York. As Dean of The School of Theology at Virginia Union University, Dr. Kinney has devoted himself to the pursuit of excellence in theological training and preparation and has distinguished himself as a systematic theologian, academician and administrator in a career that spans some thirty­-five years. Under Dr.  Kinney’s leadership, STVU now offers a Doctor of Ministry Program and a Master of Arts in Christian Education Program, has experienced unparalleled growth in the Master of Divinity Program, and expanded the Continuing Education Program to include activities that serve over 5,000 lay and professional church leaders annually. In recognition of his distinguished service to the Virginia Union University, in 2013, he was named Senior Vice President. Dr. Kinney has shared in instruction at Chicago Theology Seminary in Chicago, Illinois; Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Virginia; Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia; and the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Dr. Kinney has served as a consultant to the American Baptist Convention, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the Baptist General Convention of Virginia and both the United States Navy and Army Chaplain Corps. He has been a member of the American Society of Church History, the American Academy of Religion and the Society for the Study of Black Religion. He has served the larger community of theological educators through multiple leadership roles in the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Dr. Kinney chaired the committee on Race and Ethnicity from 1998-2000 and was then elected to the Commission on Accrediting serving as a member and then chairing the Commission from 2004-2006. Dr. Kinney served as Vice President of the Association of Theological Schools, from 2006-2008, and in June 2008 was elected President.


Rev. James Lawson, Jr. 

The Rev. James Lawson, Jr. was a leading theoretician and tactician of nonviolence and key adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on nonviolent direct action strategies in the Civil Rights Movement. He continues to train activists in nonviolence. In 1951, Rev. Lawson was sentenced to three years in prison for refusing the Korean War draft. Drawing on the example of Christ’s suffering, he taught growing numbers of Black and White students how to organize sit-ins and any other form of action that would force America to confront the immorality of segregation. Rev. Lawson helped coordinate the Freedom Rides in 1961 and the Meredith March in 1966, and while working as a pastor at the Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, he played a major role in the sanitation workers strike of 1968. On the eve of his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr. called Lawson “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.” Rev. Lawson graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College and received a Master in Theology from Boston University.


Dr. Eileen W. Lindner 

Dr. Eileen W. Lindner is the minister of the Presbyterian Church at Tenafly in Tenafly, N.J. She previously served as Connectional Presbyter for the 52 congregations of the Presbytery of the Palisades of the Presbyterian Church USA located in northern New Jersey. For many years she was Deputy General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA. Dr. Lindner continues to serve the NCC as the Senior Consultant for Health Care Policy and as editor of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Long a child advocate, Dr. Lindner conducted the nation’s largest study of child care centers which was published as When Churches Mind the Children. She also preaches and lectures frequently on child advocacy topics and is the author of numerous books and articles on child advocacy, most recently, Thus Far On The Way: Toward a Theology of Child Advocacy. She was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the United States Commission for the International Year of the Child. Dr. Lindner received her PhD, with Distinction, from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and holds Masters degrees in theology, divinity and clinical psychology. Her post-doctoral work addressing international child advocacy and international child protection laws was done at the University of Edinburgh and Harvard University. A participant in the Proctor Institute since its inception she was the inaugural Dean of the Chapel at Haley Farm and serves the Proctor Institute as Theologian in Residence.


Dr. Michael Brandon McCormack 

Dr. Michael Brandon McCormack received his Ph.D. in Religion from Vanderbilt University, where he was a Fellow in the Theology and Practice Program. His dissertation explored the relationship between prophetic Christianity, political activism and popular culture in the era of hip-hop. He has also published articles and engaged in public discourse concerning religious responses (and contributions) to the “moral panic” surrounding contemporary black youth culture. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pan-African Studies and the Department of Comparative Humanities (Program in Religious Studies) at the University of Louisville, where he teaches courses in African American Religion, Religions of the African Diaspora and Religion and Popular Culture. Prior to joining the faculty at University of Louisville, Dr. McCormack taught at American Baptist College in Nashville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, where he continues to engage with their program in Black Church Studies. Before his doctoral studies, he also worked at Western High School and Central High School in Louisville. Dr. McCormack began his ministerial vocation in 2001 and is currently a member at the Bates Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. He has been a frequent speaker in churches, community events and academic forums, including international sermons, lectures and/or panels in Botswana, Ecuador, Ghana and the United Kingdom. He lives in Louisville with his wife, Shashray, and children, Legend, Legacy and (newborn) Langston. 


Dr. Otis Moss, III 

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL. Dr. Moss received his Bachelor of Arts in religion and philosophy from Morehouse College and his Masters of Divinity from Yale University where he was awarded the FTE Benjamin Elijah Mays Scholarship in Religion and the Yale Universtiy Magee Fellowship. Dr. Moss received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He is the former pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta, GA., his first pastorate, where the church grew from 125 members to over 2100 disciples during his tenure. Dr. Moss' many honors and awards include, most recently, the 2016 NAACP Chairman's Award and delivering the Yale University Lyman Beecher Lectures in 2014. He published his first book, Redemption in a Red Light District in 1999 and co-authored The Gospel Re-Mix; How to Reach the Hip-Hop Generation and, with his father Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., co-wrote Preach! The Power and Purpose Behind Our Praise in 2012. He followed The Gospel According to the Wiz and Other Sermons from Cinema (2014) with his most recent book, Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair based on his Lyman Beecher Lectures. His sermons, articles and poetry have appeared in numerous other publications such as Power in the Pulpit II: America’s Most Effective Preachers, Joy to the World: Sermons From America’s Pulpit, Sound The Trumpet: Messages of Hope for Black Men, The Audacity of Faith: Christian Leaders Reflect on the Election of Barack Obama, Sojourners Magazine and The African American Pulpit Journal. Dr. Moss is an ordained minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ, carrying dual standing in both denominations. He is a life member of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, board member of the Christian Century Magazine,  and Co-Pastor-in-Residence of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy. Dr. Moss is married to his college sweetheart, the former Monica Brown of Orlando, Fl, a Spelman College and Columbia University graduate. They are the proud parents of two creative and humorous children, Elijah Wynton and Makayla Elon.


Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. 

The Rev. Dr. Moss, Jr., is the Pastor Emeritus of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to his post at Olivet, he served as co-pastor with Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College, his Master of Divinity from Morehouse School of Religion/ITC, and his Doctor of Ministry from the United Theological Seminary. For more than 30 years, Dr. Moss has been directly involved in the civil rights movement as a religious leader and community activist and espouses the nonviolent approach for affecting social and political change. He has a strong philosophical bond to Mahatma Gandhi, Howard Thurman, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Moss is the recipient of many honors, including four honorary doctorates and a citation in 2000 from the Howard University College of Medicine. He has long served in leadership capacities including chairman of the Board of Trustees of Morehouse College. He is a life member of the NAACP and served as a consultant to former President Jimmy Carter. He was the Lyman Beecher Lecturer for Yale University Divinity School in 2004. Dr. Moss has been selected twice by Ebony magazine as one of "America's 15 Greatest Black Preachers" and listed as one of 30 people who have defined Cleveland in the last 30 years.


Rev. Starsky D. Wilson 

The Reverend Starsky D. Wilson is a pastor, philanthropist and activist pursuing God's vision of community marked by justice, peace and love. He is pastor of Saint John's Church, co-chair of the Ferguson Commission and president & CEO of Deaconess Foundation – a faith-based grant making organization devoted to making child well-being a civic priority in the St. Louis region. From a corpus of approximately $60 million, the foundation has invested more than $75 million to advance its mission in the area. Rev. Wilson's leadership has birthed a dynamic community capacity building model, aligning policy advocacy, organizing and community engagement with grant making. Rev. Wilson has led congregational activism at Saint John's on a myriad of issues, including youth violence prevention, Medicaid expansion, public school accreditation, voter mobilization, capping payday lending, and raising the minimum wage, while more than quadrupling worship attendance and annual giving. There he established The Beloved Community Conference to resource local social justice ministries and Sojourner’s Truth: A Celebration of Preaching Women. He has been honored with numerous awards including the 2016 Saint Louis University’s Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr. Community Leader Award and the 2015 National Urban League Young Professionals Lifetime Achievement. Under Rev. Wilson’s leadership, the Urban League Young Professionals established St. Louis’ Young Blacks Give Back initiative which has provided thousands of community service hours to local non-profits over the last twelve years. Rev. Wilson earned a bachelor of arts in political science from Xavier University of Louisiana, master of divinity from Eden Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a doctor of ministry degree from Duke University’s Divinity School.


Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Streets 

The Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Streets, Proctor Co-Chaplain-in-Residence, is the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University, New York City. He previously served as chaplain of Yale University, senior pastor of the Church of Christ in Yale, and senior pastor of the Mount Aery Baptist Church, Bridgeport, Conn. A native of Chicago, Dr. Streets is an adjunct member of the faculty at the Yale Divinity School and former member of the clinical social work faculty at the Yale Child Study Center. He graduated from Yale University and the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University.


Bishop Robert C. Wright 

Bishop Robert C. Wright is the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, which covers north and central Georgia and embraces 110 worshiping communities. At the time of his election in June 2012, he had served 10 years as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. Prior to that, he was a school chaplain and on the staff of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City. Since becoming bishop, Wright addressed the Georgia legislature about gun control, spoke up for Medicaid expansion and has been a vocal and active opponent of the death penalty in Georgia. In commemoration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, he prayed with a City of Atlanta sanitation crew before taking an early morning shift on the back of a city garbage truck. In January 2015, he was named among the 100 Most Influential Georgians by GeorgiaTrend magazine. Bishop Wright was born in a Roman Catholic orphanage in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was adopted at 9 months of age. After graduating high school, he served five years in the U.S. Navy. While attending Howard University in Washington, D.C., he worked as a child advocate for two mayors. He earned a Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary, and he has been awarded honorary doctor of divinity degrees by the Virginia seminary and Sewanee: The University of the South. He is married to Beth-Sarah Wright, Ph.D., and they have a grown daughter and four school-age children.