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Carpenter Certificate Program

Through an individually designed course of study, students in the certificate program explore the complex set of issues presented under the interdisciplinary rubric of "religion, gender, and sexuality." Open to full-time students in Vanderbilt Divinity School, the Vanderbilt Graduate School, and the College of Arts & Science, the certificate program normally requires candidates to have a 3.0 GPA and the support of their faculty advisor. Application may be made at any time following the first semester of study. Courses taken at Vanderbilt prior to admission to the program can be counted toward the certificate requirements.

The certificate requires eighteen credit hours encompassing the fields of textual interpretation, theology, ethics, and contemporary practice; a project relating to community issues; and a culminating exercise presented and defended in an open forum. A minimum of twelve hours of course work will be chosen from a list of core courses listed annually and found on the website. Six hours of core courses may be taken as independent study (see course listings below). The remaining six hours may be chosen from either the core courses or electives chosen with the advice of the Program Director. To avoid the potential of having the topic of sexual orientation receive only cursory attention, at least one course or independent study must directly address this subject.

For M.A. and Ph.D. students, at least two of the courses must be outside of the student's primary field. The student, his or her advisor, and the director of the Carpenter Program will plan the course of studies for the certificate. When appropriate, representatives from Field Education will be consulted.


Fall 2013

3336/01. Gender and Religion in America with Kathleen Flake
This course will explore how religious experience in America has been shaped by ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman. Rather than a broad survey of gender in American religion, the course will focus primarily on the nineteenth century, with particular attention given to Evangelical Protestantism, the Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing (Shakers), and New Thought/Christian Science. The course will explore how religion and gender intersect in the ideologies and practices of these religious groups.

3340/01. Feminist and Womanist Theology with Ellen Armour
"Feminist" theology broadly conceived seeks to reflect critically and constructively on Christianity from the perspective of women from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of concerns. This course will examine both "classical" (1970-1989) and contemporary (1990-present) texts by (white) feminist, womanist, mujerista, disability and queer theologians. Prerequisite: Constructive Theology I and/or II or permission of the instructor.

Spring 2013

3414/01. Feminist and Womanist Theological Ethics with Stacey Floyd-Thomas
This seminar places the moral agency and theological reflections of African American women at the center of human social relations and ecclesiastical institutions. Using various womanist ethical methods and theories, we will develop a range of tools, conceptual and practical, by which to assess ways for going beyond normative reflections of theology and dominant ethical systems which often discount the exigencies of tripartite oppression. This course will explore and analyze the insights into the relationship between black women and the Divine and the ways this relationship shapes their moral agency in attaining wholeness, integrity, and meaning. Issues under our investigation will include womanist explorations of: the Divine or ultimate reality; the origin and purpose of human existence; authority and freedom in religious understanding; pluralism and religious truth; embodiment and sexuality, evil, suffering and death; compassion, joy, and hope; and Divine involvement in human history.


3808/01. Ancient Goddess with Annalisa Azzoni
This course will examine how ancient cultures (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Ancient Israel, and beyond) conceived of the feminine divine, primarily through a survey of the available literature (myths, hymns, and prayers) and iconographic evidence (statues, plaques, figurines). The roles of specific goddesses, their spheres of influence, and their place in the various pantheons will be taken into account, while also paying attention to cultic practices and religious syncretism across the cultures.


Fall 2012

3059/01. Seminar in Shame and Guilt with Evon Flesberg
Students enrolled in this seminar will examine the dynamics of shame and guilt in social and personal life from theological, psychological, and pastoral perspectives.

3063/01. The Body and Theological Knowledge with Bonnie Miller-McLemore
This class will be conducted as a seminar based on shared reading and discussion rather than lecture and will explore the question of how theological knowledge is shaped in and through the body, focusing on exploratory reading in human science research, critical theory, constructive theology, and practical theology.

3348/01. Queer Theology with Ellen Armour
This course examines emergent queer theology in relationship to the theological and cultural issues (historical and contemporary) that it seeks to address. Prerequisite: Constructive Theology I or II or permission of the instructor.

3213/01. Women and Religion with Dr. Welch
Themes and issues in the traditions and texts of selected Western religions from a feminist perspective. Biblical and theological images of women, sources of religious authority, psychological and ethical implications of feminist approaches to religion.

3067/01. Sexuality: Ethics, Theology and Pastoral Practice with Evon Flesberg
A critical investigation of selected readings in the general area of sexuality, intimacy, and relationships as they inform pastoral practice. Uses autobiography and case study methods in conversation with theories in social sciences, ethics, and theology.


Other Past Courses

2563/01. The Shakers in American Religion
Students who enroll in this seminar will focus on the Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, better known as the Shakers. The Shakers offer a case study in the development of a religion, from charismatic beginnings to institutional formation and decline. Shakerism will be a lens through which to explore topics in American religious history such as: revivalism and the Second Great Awakening, utopian communal societies, experiments in sexual equality and the restructuring of family relationships, spiritualism, and religious expression in ritual, music, and material culture. For students in the master of divinity degree program, this course may satisfy the core elective requirement in gender and sexuality.

3072/01. Pastoral Theology: Transitions and Crises
Students who enroll in this intermediate-level seminar will examine various pastoral responses to persons who are confronting transitions such as birth, vocational discernment and choice; partnering, marriage, aging, and dying and crises such as illness, bereavement, and interpersonal discord. Careful attention will be given to the theological and psychological dimensions of these experiences; the current research in coping and in religious coping theory will be studied for developing strategies for developing theological reflections and pastoral action.

3081/01. Christian Spirituality and Pastoral Care
Students will engage in an exploration of the history and the contemporary literature on spirituality within the pastoral care tradition. The topics addressed in this seminar will include the differentiation between spiritual direction and pastoral care, the history of the cure and care of souls, feminist spirituality, African American spirituality, and spirituality from the margins.

3044/01. Women’s Preaching: Finding God’s Word in a Higher Pitch
When Christian women preach, they face a multitude of issues that male preachers do not have to think about as intensely. After all, the Bible does not tell men to keep silent and to ask their spouses what they want to know about God. This course will explore a history of women’s preaching; authorization and authority for women’s preaching; gender, epistemology, and communication theory; womanist and feminist hermeneutics; finding God’s Word in a higher pitch; contextuality and embodiment; the rhetorical demands of the preaching event; current sermons by women; and how women are changing homiletic history. In addition to reading, constructing ethnographic research, listening to lectures, and discussing the issues, students will preach two sermons and participate in respectful feedback. Men are welcome to experience learning from a predominately inclusive female perspective. The seminar’s enrollment is limited to twelve students. An alumna of Vanderbilt University’s Graduate Department of Religion and the Divinity School, Professor Stricklen served as assistant professor of homiletics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for eight years before her appointment as the Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology and Worship for the Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church, USA. (Gender and Sexualities requirement)

3414/01. Black Women’s Literature and Ethics
Participants in this seminar will examine the Black women’s literary tradition as a repository for constructive ethics. Attention will be given to how Black women of various periods, cultures, and literary traditions have brought distinctive imaginative and critical perspectives to bear on “the sacred.” In addition to addressing the complicated presence of religious themes, biblical references, and theological issues in these texts, literary and religious methods of “reading” and “writing” will be employed by comparing constructive and hermeneutical approaches among both literary writers and womanist theologians.

3808/01. Seminar: Marriage in the Ancient Near East and Hebrew Bible
By researching ancient Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian sources, as well as the relevant sections of the Hebrew Bible, students will explore the religious, legal, and socioeconomic aspects of marriage as an institution at the beginning of recorded history.