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LI: Jared, tell us about yourself and your current work.
JA: At present, I’m an assistant professor of homiletics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where I’ve been teaching since July 2014. I completed my PhD in homiletics at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2014. My wife Jennifer and I have three beautiful daughters, ages 8, 6, and 2.
My first book came out in October: Crossover Preaching: Intercultural-Improvisational Homiletics in Conversation with Gardner C. Taylor (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015). I’m currently finishing the manuscript for my second project, Learning from a Legend: What Gardner C. Taylor Can Teach Us About Preaching (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, forthcoming 2016). The first book is largely theoretical and is written for homileticians in the academy whereas the second book is half the length, it is largely practical, and it is written for pastors who may or may not have been to seminary. In the next couple of years, I’m planning to deepen my academic research in Latino/a preaching, and I’m hoping to publish a next-generation preaching textbook.
LI: What core question/concern guided your dissertation research?
JA: My claim was that an analysis of Dr. Gardner C. Taylor’s preaching revealed an improvisational-intercultural approach, and my guiding question was, “How might this approach reveal Taylor’s contemporary significance to preaching and homiletics in the United States now and in the future?”
LI: How has your dissertation impacted/framed your current ministry/work?
JA: The guiding metaphor for my research was that of border crossing. Dr. Taylor was a border-crosser, a transgressor of racial, ethnic, and ecclesial divides. His willingness to cross borders has inspired me to do likewise in my research, teaching, and ministry.
LI: What would you like us to know about your book Crossover Preaching: Intercultural-Improvisational Homiletics in Conversation with Gardner C. Taylor?
JA: I’m excited that the time has finally come for this book to be released. It’s been a long journey for me. I started writing it (first as a dissertation) in 2011. A few thoughts come to mind as I reflect on the book’s release. First, Crossover Preaching is not intended to be a biography or a work of church history (although such projects on Taylor would be warranted and welcome). Rather, it’s an attempt at constructing homiletical theory in conversation with a particular person who embodied the proficiencies preachers and homileticians will need in an intercultural church with an intercultural future. Second, in this book, I attempt to do the work of a practical theologian by enlisting multiple conversation partners from a variety of disciplines. My final comment is that this book is not just written for African American preachers and homileticians who respect and admire Dr. Taylor. Everyone in my discipline needs to know more about who Gardner Taylor is, and why his preaching should matter to 21st century seminaries and churches.
LI: Anything else we should know?
JA: I’m so thankful to my friends at the Louisville Institute for granting me the Dissertation Fellowship in the final year of my PhD program at Princeton. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have been able to complete this project and provide for my family without the generous financial support, training, and encouragement I received from everyone. I’m truly humbled and grateful!
LI: Cody, tell us about yourself and your current work.
CS: In August, I moved to Boston (MA) to become the pastor of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Harvard Square. OCBC has a long legacy of peace and justice activism and was the first Baptist congregation in the U.S. to become openly welcoming and affirming of gay and lesbian people in 1983. So a great deal of my current work involves the continued cultivation of a community that is responding in new ways to an historic call toward the work of peace and justice. I’m also preparing to teach a spring course in LGBTQ pastoral care at Andover Newton Theological School and I continue to work on my pastoral theological scholarship. Currently I’m writing a book on ministry with LGBTQ youth, under contract with Westminster John Knox.
LI: What was the core question or concern that guided your dissertation research?
CS: I was concerned about the prevalence of suicide attempts among LGBTQ people and the ways religious and theological narratives were treated simplistically in the social scientific literature on the subject. I proposed that the metaphor of “soul” could differently enable pastoral theological research into the experience of “subjective precarity” that is engendered in some LGBTQ persons leading to suicide. In my interviews with LGBTQ people who had attempted suicide and survived, I asked questions that helped me to understand the ways religious and spiritual narratives and theological symbols and metaphors became constitutive of “a perceived core sense of self” for them—both leading up to suicide attempt and in the aftermath. I discovered extraordinary stories of pain and spiritual violence, as well as narratives of individuals who became brave, creative theologians in their own right by recovering helpful aspects of their religious experience and commitments in order to counter the harm perpetrated against them.
LI: How has your dissertation research impacted your current ministry at OCBC?
CS: Much of my current work is informed by the ways I now better understand religious and theological narratives as constitutive of our deepest sense of who we are as human beings and how our subjectivities are co-constructed in discourse within community. This helps me see the ways ritual, liturgy, and religious speech can shape lived human realities with the potential for cultivating wellbeing as well as perpetrating violence.
LI: Tell us about your new book Microaggressions in Ministry: Confronting the Hidden Violence of Everyday Church
CS: I wrote this book with my Baptist colleague, Angela Yarber, to help churches deal with the everyday slights, insults, and injurious communications based on race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity that are perpetrated unintentionally and often go unnoticed in our faith communities and institutes of theological education. After developing a theological understanding of the social scientific concept of “microaggressions,” the book provides useful tools for dealing with these within the contexts of preaching and education; worship and spirituality; and pastoral care and counseling. We hope this book will help church leaders and churchgoers begin talking about the presence of microaggressions in all faith communities, including institutions of theological education as well as local congregations.