Learning how God communicates has always been important to Tolieth Marks. This understanding inspires her work in replying to God in her worshipful lifestyle, and this communication is ultimately was directed her to Gordon-Conwell. After learning about others in her circle who had studied at GCTS, she submitted her application out of obedience to the calling.
Tolieth has been empowered to manage her roles of being a mother of three, an ISBCE Scholar, a vocal coach, and a consultant helping worship teams develop their programs. Her work involves focusing teams so that God can do the work He wants to do. Born in Jamaica and raised in America, she brings a global perspective to conversations, aiming at getting away from the enslavements of what we have been taught and inspiring others to be empowered to move forward in spite of difficulties.
Sensing the urgency of the current cultural climate, she has never been afraid of addressing things that need to be addressed, nor tiptoeing around issues that cause hurt. During her studies, Tolieth hopes to learn how to navigate a way through tough subjects “to win people back to oneness – to be kingdom minded, one voice, one sound”.
Being an ISBCE Scholar is important to Tolieth because the words “race reconciliation” resonate strongly with her. While she prefers to be behind the scenes, she steps forward to bring people together through her music and worship.
The reputation for developing ministerial leaders is what first attracted Casey Johnson to Gordon-Conwell. Coming from an area in Tennessee where women were not prominent in seminary circles, Casey found that GCTS would open doors and opportunities that she might not have access to otherwise.
Casey began her studies as a Master of Divinity with a focus on ordained ministry but found that a more academic focus served her gifts better. While struggling the decision to change her major, Casey registered for The Project of Reconciliation course (http://isbce.com/the-project-of-reconciliation-intersectionality-the-church-culture/) and found avenues to explore the ideas she was passionate about. Casey’s conception of religion has always been that there is a social dimension to faith that should be acted out. Because the body of Christ suggests a community of believers, Casey believes that the social issues of the community are a part of an individual’s faith. Her new major of MA in Religion and the flexibility of the coursework in the ISCBE allowed her to tailor her academics to her gifts.
When Casey learned of the opportunity to complete her studies as an ISBCE Scholar she jumped at the opportunity. “The presence of the ISBCE in a predominantly white seminary that is now focusing on being internationally, domestically and experientially diverse acknowledges that different voices within the Christian experience are important.” As an ISBCE Scholar, Casey recognizes that her role gives her distinct purpose to speak in a prophetic way to people in her sphere that may not feel comfortable having the dialogue about race and reconciliation.
Reputation and word of mouth introduced Jaronzie to Gordon-Conwell, but her long-standing interest in the roots of Black religion drew her to the ISBCE. Within the Institute, she’s found exciting coursework in an academic setting with others who are interested in the potential for research, collaboration and ultimately, growth.
Jaronzie’s calling and vocation are rooted in education with a particular passion for interpreting the Word. She appreciates the Biblical foundations that are a hallmark of GCTS training. Her experiences have led her to recognize the need to address the spiritual health of the Black community by deepening the interaction between social analysis and scriptural exegesis.
The Institute has become important in her theological development through its use of scholarship, critical inquiry and dialogue to engage the many dimensions of the Black Christian experience and consider the significance of those witnesses to the church today. Jaronzie’s research within the ISBCE will draw upon the diverse history of thought and activism that characterizes much of the Black Christian experience, exploring how the skepticism and relativism that marks the postmodern ethos has influenced how millennials organize around race, religion and movement building. Through theology and scholarship, Jaronzie hopes to minister with activists on the front-line; acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.
Having finished a certificate in theological studies at Bethel Seminary of the East, waiting on God’s timing to further her education led her to GCTS in ISBCE’s inaugural class of Scholars. The existence of the Institute was a key factor for her because to have a program explicitly centered on the Black Christian Experience proved that “our worship and dynamic experience transcends our community”.
Katishia manages her full-time work with her full-time studies while her ministerial development is unfolding. She is currently an ordained minister looking to focus on individual and small group development through mentoring and training teams for spiritual growth.
“I feel the Black Christian Experience, principally in the U.S., has a wealth of experiential knowledge to offer the Church. The historic birth of black churches came forth in the context of white supremacy. We embraced a Bible and a Gospel that many used to oppress us and invalidate our humanity. I’m interested in studying how we were able to love and live a Biblical Gospel, while inhabiting a world that marginalized our existence. I’d like to explore the social dimensions of the Gospel, and how we can promote the equal value and dignity of all human beings created in the image of God.”
Katishia plans to faithfully contribute her voice, abilities, and resources to assist the Institute in fulfilling its vision, mission, and goals. She wants to know what she doesn’t know about the Black Christian Experience, and how that knowledge will change her and the people she influences. Her research will explore the effects of injustice and inequality on the soul of both the those in power, and the marginalized, and determine how the eternal redemption and reconciliation found in Christ comes to bear in repairing the souls of both.
Coming to Gordon-Conwell in the Fall of 2017 marked Lindse` Owens return to her birthplace of New England. Born in CT, Lindse` is the daughter of Rev. Ray P. Owens Sr. and First Lady Peggy Owens, pastoring Franklin Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Laurinburg, NC.
Feeling a call on her life at a young age, Lindse` has chosen to focus on counseling for women and children. She has self-published two books and working on her third. Her background in communications and counseling led her to begin her ministerial education at the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell. In learning more about the Seminary, she began to inquire and pray about opportunities at the Hamilton campus.
Applying and being accepted as an ISBCE Scholar allowed Lindse` the opportunity to advance her education in counseling through the in-depth program (http://www.gordonconwell.edu/degree-programs/MA-Counseling.cfm) offered at the Hamilton campus. Recognizing that many today have the need for wise counsel, obtaining her degree and licensure through GCTS would couple her background in faith with the call to counsel in the areas of marriage and family therapy, or clinical mental health.
From her time in Hamilton thus far, Lindse` is cognizant that GCTS and the Institute are mission-driven. She appreciates the fact that the work of the ISBCE is addressing the need for another perspective. “The work is about erasing stereotypes and understanding that just because an experience is different does not make it wrong.” Her research at the Institute will tap into the benefits of the black church and look outside what we have accepted as the norm.