RON SOMMERVILLE, William G. Irwin Associate Professor of Church History, came to CTS in 1994 from Fisk University. Strongly rooted in the African-American church tradition, he approaches church history from a global, ecumenical perspective. A third-generation minister in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, Sommerville answered the call to ministry in 1975 in Jacksonville, Florida, where he briefly served as an associate minister under his father. Sommerville is a 1980 graduate of Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama. He was awarded a Benjamin E. Mays Fellowship to further his ministerial preparation at Duke University Divinity School; while at Duke, he was appointed to inner-city churches in Durham and Raleigh.
Sommerville completed a doctoral program in Church History in 1999 at Vanderbilt University, where his dissertation focused on the role of African-American Methodists in the Civil Rights Movement, with a special emphasis on CME Church participation. While in Nashville, he taught three years at Fisk, served as a teaching assistant at Vanderbilt, and worked for the United Methodist Publishing House. Since coming to CTS, Sommerville has been a visiting professor at Butler University and an associate minister and director of Christian education at Phillips Temple CME Church in Indianapolis.
Sommerville's published works include An Ex-Colored Church: Social Activism in the CME Church" (Mercer University Press, 2004, reprinted 2006). He has published articles in Notable Black American Women, Encounter, and the Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center. Current research projects include a study of Black Methodists in a global perspective, religion and conflict resolution in Africa, and the HIV/AID pandemic.
In addition to the Global History of Christianity, he teaches courses on African-American religion, Christianity in Africa, the History of African-American Methodists, anti-racism/pro-reconciliation pastoral leadership, and HIVAIDS education. He helped to launch a series of new courses on the history and growth of Christianity on the Africa continent, supplemented by study tours he led to Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya. In 2008, he was named as the seminary’s Diversity Officer and chair of the Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation Team. He has also represented the CMEC on the Council of Church Unity and Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches.
His outside interests include working with mentoring programs for African American youth, teaching spiritual formation and ministerial leadership, and participating in international travel experiences.