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Professors receive Louisville Institute Grants
Posted 01/03/2019 11:09AM

Two faculty members receive 2019 Louisville Institute grants

Austin Seminary is pleased to announce that Professors David Jensen and Gregory Cuéllar have both received 2019 Project Grants for Researchers from the Louisville Institute. Jensen, academic dean and professor in the Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Distinguished Chair of Reformed Theology, received a grant for a project that will help mainline seminaries learn from Jewish and Catholic communities. The grant given Dr. Gregory Cuéllar, associate professor of Old Testament, will enable him to research and write a book on the current immigrant detention crisis along the southern US border.

Dean Jensen has taught at Austin Seminary since 2001; he has been academic dean since 2014. He is the author or editor of eleven books, the most recent, Christian Understandings of Christ: The Historical Trajectory, is due out in April from Fortress Press. Professor Cuéllar has been working especially with children of asylum-seekers at the Texas/Mexico border since 2014. He led a group of Austin Seminary students to McAllen, Texas, before the Christmas break.

Following are summaries of the two selected proposals:

David Jensen: “Protestant Theological Formation in a Religiously Diverse Age.” This project is an experiment in attentive listening to patterns of theological and pastoral formation beyond customary sources that Protestants rely upon. It takes seriously the oft-cited statistics of declining seminary enrollment and religious affiliation among mainline Protestants in the United States. But instead of sensing these trends as cause for collective lament, it argues that these realities might provide renewed opportunities for learning from other religious communities and their distinctive practices of theological and pastoral formation. The heart of the project involves time spent in residence at four theological institutions and interviews with faculty and administrators about the curricular and co-curricular elements that contribute to theological formation and pastoral identity. Two of these institutions will be Jewish seminaries in the United States, where models of rabbinic formation inculcate a strong sense of identity in dialogue with the surrounding non-Jewish culture; two will be Catholic Institutions in Austria, where streams of dis-establishment and pluralism are more advanced than in the United States. By listening and learning from these other traditions, I will offer suggestions for how mainline Protestant seminaries might renew their own practices of theological formation and nurturing pastoral identity in an increasingly diverse culture.


Gregory Cuéllar: Religion in Immigration Detention: Securing Faiths in a State of Removal.” This project aims to examine the current role of religion in both structuring immigration detention and fostering resistance to detention in the United States and the United Kingdom. It does so by focusing on the following areas of analysis: 1) control of religion by the private corporations that run detention facilities; 2) religious activists and communities of faith resisting detention; 3) the religious views and practices of detained immigrants. Pertinent to the issue of control are the carceral logics woven into the architecture of detention chapels and the rhetorics and procedures used by private corporations to ensure a specific type of chaplain within their detention facilities. Here, the aim is to interrogate the degrees to which religion is instrumentalized by elite power to exert control over detainees in ways that advance the profit goals of the private corporations rather than their emancipation. Opposite to these forms of control is the work of religious-based activism in mobilizing public resistance to the immigration detention industrial complex. Specific to the final area of analysis is how religious beliefs and practices offer detained immigrants powerful resources for resisting the dehumanizing logic of detention and constructing a counter-discourse of emancipation.

The Louisville Institute seeks to fund innovative, experimental projects that will contribute to new learning within both church and academy. As a program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., the Louisville Institute builds upon the Endowment’s long-standing support of both leadership education and scholarly research on American religion, including American Catholicism, American Protestantism, the historic African-American churches, and the Hispanic religious experience. The Religion Division of Lilly Endowment works with people and institutions of promise to generate knowledge, communicate insights, nurture practices, and renew and sustain institutions that help to make accessible and effective the religious resources upon which a flourishing and humane society depends.

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