Union Institute & University Alumna makes history

Rev. Betty Whitted Holley, Ph.D.

Rev. Betty Whitted Holley, Ph.D. made history last week. On June 14th, Dr. Holley was the first African American woman elected to serve as the Chair of the Board of the Commission on Accrediting at the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). The honor humbles the Union Institute & University Ph.D. graduate.

“This opportunity to be the first African American woman elected as Chair of the Board of Commission on Accrediting for ATS is humbling. To have my gifts, skills and talents in theological education recognized by such a great entity as ATS, which serves schools across the U.S. and Canada, means that opportunities for underserved communities and people of color are broadening. To give an opportunity of this nature to someone from Payne Theological Seminary, where I serve as Academic Dean and a full-tenured professor of ecological theology, also speaks volumes and gives light to what we are doing in theological education as the oldest stand-alone Historically Black Seminary in the United States.”

Dr. Whitted Holley credits her doctoral studies at Union Institute & University with her ability to look at the world through an interdisciplinary lens that expanded and deepened her knowledge and expertise. “Union truly prepared me by offering a plethora of opportunities, especially in racial and social justice, which enabled me to pursue the field of Environmental Ethics and African American Religious Studies. My dissertation focused on “Raising and Sustaining the Ecological Consciousness of the African American Community.”

Dr. Whitted Holley expands on her Union education by explaining, “Because of Union, I am able to share the importance of understanding ecological theology and all of its ramifications not only with my students here at Payne Theological Seminary [in Wilberforce, OH], but with my denomination, The African Methodist Episcopal Church. I helped in the development of our statement on ‘Climate Change.’ I also represent my denomination as a member of the Board of Directors for Creation Justice Ministries, which is part of the National Council of Churches. On this board, we develop policies related to racial and social justice issues. We just finished a resource for our many communions entitled, ‘Faith Resilience and Climate Justice.’

The interdisciplinary approach that Union used in my Ph.D. program was for such a time as this. Being able to look at world problems through an interdisciplinary lens is a major way to meet the needs of the people that you serve, especially in the African American community and people of color. The COVID crisis that we are still experiencing really brought to fruition the plethora of justice issues that our world, globally, are facing; especially issues around healthcare, climate justice, environmental racism, to name a few.”

Dr. Whitted Holley is Academic Dean, Director of the Master of Divinity Degree Program & Full Professor of Ecological Theology at Payne Theological Seminary. The seminary’s mission is to prepare leaders for ministry in the African-American tradition of liberation, reconciliation, social justice, and the dignity of all humankind.

The Commission on Accrediting of ATS accredits institutions and approves degree programs offered by ATS accredited schools.


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