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Indianapolis, IN—Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) recently announced the honorary degree recipients for its 2022 commencement ceremonies. Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes will be awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters and will be this year’s commencement speaker. Rev. Dr. Harold Keith Watkins and Rev. Dr. John R. Foulkes Sr. will each receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. “The seminary is thrilled to honor these three distinguished persons for their service to the academy, the church, and the CTS community,” President David Mellott said. “We are especially excited to have Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes, whose field-defining scholarship and visionary leadership have had immeasurable impact, share her wisdom and insight with this year’s graduating class.”

Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes

Townes is a prominent Christian social ethicist and theologian, currently serving as the Dean and Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. The author of many books, including Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil (2006), Townes is a towering figure in theological education. Known especially for her contributions to womanist thought and social ethics, she has received numerous awards and recognitions and has served as president of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for the Study of Black Religion, and she will serve as the president of the Society of Christian Ethics in 2025.

“It is a great joy to welcome Rev. Dr. Townes back to the CTS campus and to honor her in this way,” Dean Leah Gunning Francis remarked. “We are also delighted to honor Rev. Dr. Watkins and Rev. Dr. Foulkes, who have provided exemplary leadership to the church and the academy. We are ever grateful for Rev. Dr. Watkins’s contributions to the CTS community during his long tenure on faculty, and for Rev. Dr. Foulkes’s life of service to the local church, the broader community, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).”

Watkins is the Herald B. Monroe Professor of Worship and Practical Parish Ministry Emeritus at CTS, having served on the faculty from 1961-1994. He taught courses on pastoral leadership and has written widely on the history, theology, and celebration of Christian worship. Watkins was active in the ecumenical movement and served as a representative to the Commission on Worship of the Consultation on Church Union from 1968-1988. Among his many books are, most recently, an institutional history of the seminary entitled Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis: A History of Education for Ministry (2001), The American Church that Might Have Been (2014), and Talking about God When People Are Afraid: Dialogues on the Incarnation the Year that Doctor King and Senator Kennedy Were Killed (2020).

Foulkes began his ministry and community leadership as Associate Pastor of the Berean Baptist Church in Chicago, IL. After working for a time as a public school teacher and then the facilitator of a Department of Labor contract, he was called to serve as the Senior Pastor of Parkway Garden Christian Church. Foulkes provided leadership for numerous denominational initiatives for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Among them, Foulkes assisted in the merger of the National Christian Missionary Convention and the International Convention of the Christian Church. He was appointed Administrative Secretary Emeritus of the National Convocation in 2013 and Trustee Emeritus of the National Christian Missionary Convention’s Black Disciples Endowment Fund in 2021, and he now serves as Senior Consultant for GWD Ministries, a ministry designed to enable other Christian ministries in achieving their mission.