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Practical Theologian Rachelle R. Green of Emory Joins GRE Faculty

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The Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education has appointed Rachelle R. Green assistant professor of practical theology and religious education, effective fall of 2019.

Currently, Green is preparing to defend her dissertation this summer toward completion of her doctorate in religious education and practical theology in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. Her work brings together theological ethics and critical pedagogy in interdisciplinary research on liberative education for marginalized populations.

In particular, Green focuses on theological education in contexts of confinement, an area she was drawn to as the result of her work in women’s prisons. For the past two years, she has directed the Certificate in Theological Studies Program at Arrendale Prison for Women, a collaborative project among Emory’s Candler School of Theology and three other Atlanta seminaries.

“What my students [at the prison]have shown me is that theology is—in their words—a matter of life and death,” said Green, who taught in the program for five years before being appointed director.

“Religious language often gets co-opted by our criminal justice speech. Words like ‘redemption’ and ‘transformation’ come to mean something very specific in a prison. And what I’ve seen is that theology is able to provide spaces and resources to critically engage these concepts—to discern and distinguish between God’s redemptive reality for the world and what the systems of the world make us think.”

Theological education offers a kind of liberation, Green contends. She argues in her dissertation that when we analyze, engage, and confront theological discourse, we grow in our ability to critically engage with other systems and structures—such as the criminal justice system.

“Liberation is different from freedom. Freedom is a state of being, but liberation is a process,” said Green. “In my students’ case, there is ‘freedom’ as in being released from prison, but there is also freedom as a state of mind, a sense of agency—and that can be actualized inside. In their study of theology, they have found ways to do that.”

“What my students [at the prison]have shown me is that theology is—in their words—a matter of life and death . . . Theology is able to provide spaces and resources to critically engage these concepts—to discern and distinguish between God’s redemptive reality for the world and what the systems of the world make us think.”Green has also served as associate director of Theological Education Between the Times, a project funded by the Lilly Endowment, and was assistant director of the Youth Theological Initiative at Emory’s Candler School of Theology. She is a licensed minister in the National Baptist Convention USA.
Before beginning her doctoral studies, Green worked in business management and strategic marketing, focusing on the needs of women and families of color.

She will complete her degree program in June and join the GRE faculty for the 2019-20 academic year.

“Jesuit pedagogy is deeply committed to social justice and to pushing the boundaries of what we mean by religious education, which is why I was drawn to Fordham,” she said.

“I’m thrilled about getting to continue my work on criminal justice so that we can think differently about what theological education looks like both for the church and for the broader community—especially the spaces we forget to think about.”

— Joanna Mercuri, GRE ’19

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