Main content
Catholic theologian Shawn Copeland to give Candler’s McDonald Lectures

Shawn Copeland, the 2020-2021 McDonald Lecturer, is recognized as one of the most important influences in North America in drawing attention to issues surrounding African American Catholics.

Candler School of Theology welcomes M. Shawn Copeland as the 2020-2021 Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and Their Impact on Culture. Copeland is professor emerita of systematic theology at Boston College.

As McDonald Chair, Copeland will present two public lectures and teach a systematic theology course, “Suffering, Solidarity and the Cross.” Her first lecture will be held Wednesday, Oct. 14, via webinar. The second lecture will take place during the spring semester. The lectures are free and open to the public, but registration is required.

In her first lecture, Copeland will discuss "The Political Imagination of Jesus of Nazareth" on Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register here. With acts of healing, images, stories and parables, Jesus of Nazareth advanced a distinctive political vision on behalf of the reign of God — a vision at once historical and eschatological, ethical and moral, political and religious, personal and communal. While his preaching aroused suspicion among imperial and religious authorities, it was, in fact, an appropriation of the ancient Jubilee traditions of Israel.

This lecture explores Jesus’ vision in order to discern imperatives for authentic human living in our nation’s increasingly divisive and polarized social situation. This lecture is addressed not only to Christians, but to all women, men and youth of good will who are concerned for our “common home.”

Copeland earned her PhD in systematic theology from Boston College. Before returning there in 2003 as a faculty member, she taught at St. Norbert College, Yale Divinity School and Marquette University. In addition, she served for 12 years as a summer adjunct-faculty member of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of New Orleans. She retired from Boston College in 2019. 

A frequent lecturer on college and university campuses, Copeland addresses topics related to theological anthropology, political theology, social suffering, gender and race. She is recognized as one of the most important influences in North America in drawing attention to issues surrounding African American Catholics.

Copeland is a prolific author, with more than 100 publications to her credit. She is author of “Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race and Being” (Fortress Press, 2010) and “The Subversive Power of Love: The Vision of Henriette Delille” (Paulist Press, 2009). She is the principal editor of “Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience” and co-editor with Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza of “Feminist Theologies in Different Contexts” and “Violence Against Women.”

Copeland has been the recipient of several awards, including the Yves Congar Award for Excellence in Theology from Barry University, Miami, Florida; the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Black Religious Scholars Group of the American Academy of Religion; and five honorary degrees. She is a member of numerous academic societies including The Catholic Theological Society of America, The American Academy of Religion, The Society for the Study of Black Religion and The Black Catholic Theological Symposium.

The October lecture is made possible by the McDonald Agape Foundation, with additional support provided by The Aquinas Center at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. 

About the McDonald Chair

The Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and Their Impact on Culture is supported by gifts from the McDonald Agape Foundation, founded by Alonzo L. McDonald, a longtime trustee of Emory University. The McDonald Agape Foundation “supports lectures and other public presentations that deal creatively and imaginatively with the person and teachings of Jesus as they shape and form culture.” 

Recipients are given a distinguished visiting professorship, in which they speak and teach in the focused area of Jesus’s effect on culture and, conversely, culture’s shaping of the figure of Jesus.

Past McDonald chair lecturers include Judge John T. Noonan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; composer Alice Parker; art historian Herbert Kessler; historian and documentary filmmaker Randall Balmer; author James Carroll; Episcopal priest and bestselling author Barbara Brown Taylor; Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Garry Wills; Jesuit priest and film professor Lloyd Baugh; scholar David H. Kelsey; scholar David F. Ford; scholar Walter Earl Fluker; and scholar Roberto S. Goizueta, among others. View a full list of past chairs.

Recent News