Rachel Baard, Melanie Jones to join Union Seminary faculty

RICHMOND, VA (May 2, 2019) – Upon recommendation of the president, the board of trustees of Union Presbyterian Seminary has appointed Dr. Rachel S. Baard as Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Richmond campus; and The Rev. Melanie C. Jones as Instructor of Ethics, Theology and Culture and Director of the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership at the Richmond campus.

Baard is currently an Assistant Professor at Villanova University. She received her Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary; and her B.A. in Law, B.Th. (M.Div. equivalent), and M.Th. in Theological Ethics from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Her research areas include systematic and constructive theology, theological ethics, and political theologies. She has a forthcoming (2019) book from Westminster John Knox Press, titled “Sexism and Sin-Talk: A Critical-Constructive Feminist Rhetoric.” She also is the editor of a volume, “The Political Theology of Paul Tillich,” which is scheduled for publication by Lexington Press in spring 2020, and is working on a new book tentatively titled “Bonhoeffer and Tillich: Responses to Nazism,” for which she received a Villanova VERITAS Faculty Research Award in 2018. Baard is the author of multiple articles and has given scholarly presentations around the United States and in South Africa on a variety of topics, including Reformed confessions, Protestant perspectives on Mary, and the thought of Augustine through the lens of the African concept of ubuntu.

Baard is a member of an international collaborative research initiative on the theme of “Redeeming sin: Hamartiology, ecology and social analysis/diagnostics,” a research fellow at the University of Stellenbosch, and a member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. She has served on the board of directors of the North American Paul Tillich Society and as co-chair of the “Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group” of the American Academy of Religion. Having completed her ordination process under the care of New Brunswick Presbytery, she will be seeking ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) upon her appointment to Union Presbyterian Seminary.

“With her grounding in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and her academic formation at the University of Stellenbosch and Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Baard brings to her instruction and scholarship a wealth of knowledge and experience in Reformed Theology,” said Union Presbyterian Seminary President Brian K. Blount. “A gifted teacher, she has accomplished a strong and exciting publishing record. She will be a wonderful resource not only for our seminary faculty and students, but for the church and community.”

Jones currently serves as Crump Visiting Professor and Black Religious Scholar in Residence at the Seminary of the Southwest. She is a womanist ethicist, millennial preacher, and intellectual activist. She holds a B.A. in economics and political science from Howard University; an M.Div. from Vanderbilt University Divinity School; and is completing her Ph.D. in Ethics, Theology and Culture, with a concentration in Black Faith and Life at Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS). Upon completion of her degree at CTS, Jones’s appointment will transition to assistant professor. She has served as adjunct instructor at CTS and the Illinois Institute of Technology; visiting instructor of ethics, theology, and culture at Brite Divinity School; and adjunct instructor in religion at American Baptist College. Her doctoral dissertation, “Up Against a Crooked Gospel: Black Women’s Bodies and the Politics of Character in Religion and Society,” interrogates black women’s body politics and moral formation utilizing approaches in womanist theological ethics and black aesthetics. For her distinguished research, she was named a Doctoral Dissertation Fellow by The Louisville Institute and a Junior Fellow with the Villanova University Church Management Research Program.

A third-generation ordained Baptist preacher, Jones is the first theologian-in-residence at Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas, the second oldest and fastest growing black Baptist church in Williamson County. She is the co-founder of The Millennial Womanism Project and #MillennialWomanism editorial forum, hosted on Black Theology Project. Jones serves on the board of the Daughters of the African Atlantic Fund and the Black Religious Scholars Group. Her most recent article “The Will to Adorn: Beyond Self-Surveillance, Toward a Womanist Ethic of Redemptive Self-Love” is featured in the Black Bodies in Ecstasy Special Issue of the International Black Theology Journal. In addition to published articles and book chapters, her popular writings and sermons are featured in The Feminist Wire, Chicago Theological Seminary Challenge & Response Magazine, The Forum for Theological Exploration Blog, Alpha Kappa Alpha Ivy Leaf Magazine, Sunday School Publishing Board — National Baptist Convention, USA, Urban Ministries, Incorporated, and Urban Faith App. Her research interests explore methods in womanist theological ethics, black millennials and faith, public theology and digital futures, African-American religious history, and black popular culture.

“Rev. Jones is an exciting addition to the faculty of Union Presbyterian Seminary,” said President Blount. “Though she is just now completing her dissertation, her impact in and upon the academic community of theological ethics is already widely apparent. In her teaching, scholarship, and direction of the Katie Geneva Cannon Center For Womanist Leadership, she brings sharp theological insight and an engaging ethical perspective. She will be a great resource for our seminary as we strive to be a witness to and for the church in the world.”

Both appointments will begin on July 1, 2019.


Rachel S. Baard photo

Melanie C. Jones photo


Mike Frontiero
Director of Communications
Union Presbyterian Seminary