Introduction to the New Spotlight Editor, Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner

Jeanne Stevenson-MoessnerJeanne Stevenson-Moessner is professor of pastoral care at Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University), member of the International Academy of Practical Theology, a Henry Luce III Fellow, former chair of the Society for Pastoral Theology, and an American Association of Pastoral Counselors Fellow. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Basel, Switzerland. In 2012, she was a resident member of the Center of Theological Inquiry (Princeton, NJ) and a guest professor at The University of Luzern.

Transforming the field of pastoral theology, she has edited or coedited four volumes involving fifty contributors over twenty-two years: Women in Travail and Transition (Fortress Press, 2000); Through the Eyes of Women (Fortress Press, 1996); In Her Own Time (Augsburg Fortress, 2000); and Women Out of Order (Fortress Press, 2009). Additional publications include The Spirit of Adoption (Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), A Primer in Pastoral Care (Augsburg Books, 2005), and A Prelude to Practical Theology (Abingdon Press, 2008).  She was honored with AAPC’s Distinguished Achievement in Research and Writing Award.

“Theologians, like artists, are given the opportunity to be embraced in an endeavor greater than the sum of our fields. We are capable of creating a rhythm that can be organically and structurally related to other theological disciplines and to other fields in academic research" (Stevenson-Moessner 2008, xii). I learned a great deal about teamwork in my four years as a dancer with the Memphis Civic Ballet. Often, soloists were in the “spotlight,” but all of us in the ballet corps knew that only fine-tuned collaboration would make a production a success.

Collaborative work has been the impetus for many of my academic and professional interests. The opportunity of serving on the AAR’s Theological Education committee as Spotlight editor and the chance to work with contributors to Spotlight has provided occasions for the teamwork that I find personally stimulating. It is my goal to orchestrate and broaden a repertoire that will offer different “movements” in theology and spotlight understudies as well as principals. 

For twenty-two years, I have engaged in collaborative work with fifty women to edit four volumes published by Fortress Press. For two of the volumes, I was the single editor. For two other volumes, I served as coeditor. My professional interests were to bring together an intercultural team to cross subdisciplinary lines and to reframe theological questions. We did this.

My primary area of academic interest is practical theology. In 2000–2001, I was chosen as a Henry Luce III Fellow in theology for the area “Christianity and contemporary culture.” My cohort group was together for three years, filled with energized exchanges; through our interactions, our differences of opinion, and our varying styles of communicating information, I became a more thorough scholar and a more mature teacher.

While recently on research leave from Perkins School of Theology, I was a resident member of the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, NJ. As one of six scholars, I was privileged to participate in interdisciplinary inquiry and to present my work on bicultural children; bicultural children are those who have spent their early years (birth through seventeen or eighteen) growing up in more than one distinct culture. This research probes the theological questions of our identity, our rootedness, and perhaps, our rootlessness. I mention these writing and research opportunities to illustrate the fact that I enjoy working with others in professional and academic settings.

My membership in the International Academy of Practical Theology has taken me to meetings outside the United States to engage with scholars from other cultures. For four years, I served on the steering committee for the Society for Pastoral Theology and eventually became chair. I have flourished in collaborative endeavors.

Although my academic interests have focused in practical theology, my DrTheol at the University of Basel, Switzerland, required concentration in secondary areas as well: systematic theology and the New Testament. This interdisciplinary approach has been of benefit to my theological education. My current interest in educational methodologies includes the approaches that will be most effective with multi-cultured personalities, with those from transnational, borderland, or hybrid communities.

I entered this position as Spotlight's editor after learning from many principals or soloists in the revolving sets of my life. The late Nelle Morton, educator and activist, alerted me to the importance of images. Concepts are learned; images are absorbed (Morton 1985, 20). Morton concluded that in order for an image to be altered, it must be shattered. Surely the work of theology is to reexamine the images we have absorbed. The late Letty Russell left the image of the round table of dialogue, where we face each other in theological endeavor (1993, 75). In her work on a theology of embodiment, Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel proposes that we start our theological reflections with “violated bodies" (1994, 77). The cues that I have received from these and other principals continue to shape my work.

I always wanted to be a soloist. In all honesty, I must admit that I, along with other dancers in the Memphis Civic Ballet, dreamed of being the lead dancer or the prima ballerina. However, on any opening night—actually on any given performance—when the lights were dimmed, when the opening bars of music rose from the orchestra pit, when the audience hushed, I was enraptured by the sublimity of corporate creativity. It did not matter—for a few hours— that I was in the chorus. I became an admirer of beauty that was greater than the individual parts. That is artistry at its best. As Spotlight’s editor, I draw from this memory as a chorus member, and I am proud of our teamwork and artistic endeavor in the Divine Dance.


Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, DrTheol


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