Union Seminary awarded $400,000 grant to support womanist leadership

RICHMOND, VA (December 11, 2019) — Union Presbyterian Seminary will use a $400,000 grant to lift the voices and perspectives of Black women in the church, academy, and the world.

The three-year grant was awarded by the Henry Luce Foundation to the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership, which was established at the seminary in April 2018 to inspire, equip, connect, and support Black women divinely motivated to serve as change-makers in their community.

“The Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership is the first and only effort of its kind in the country,” said director Rev. Melanie C. Jones. “This grant will support our programmatic agenda to shape the next generation of Black women seminarians, graduate students of religion, clergy, and theological faculty who seek to demystify hidden manifestations of systemic oppression and address persistent and effective strategies of justice-making. Through six womanist initiatives (wellness, wisdom, witness, worship, wares, and works), the Center nurtures the soul of Black women as they cultivate pathways to whole communities.”

The word “womanist” is a dynamic term that describes a growing field of study and social movement that takes seriously the historical and contemporary experiences of Black women while advocating for the wholeness and wellbeing of all humanity.

Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon (1950-2018) was Union’s Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Ethics, womanist progenitor of theological ethics, and the guiding force of the Center for Womanist Leadership. She was the first African American woman ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Established in 1936, the Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. The Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art, and public policy. For more information, please visit www.hluce.org.


Top photo: The Center for Womanist Leadership’s 2018 Inaugural Gathering in Richmond, VA.

Melanie C. Jones photo


Mike Frontiero
Director of Communications
Union Presbyterian Seminary