Media Contact: Curtis Prather
[Alexandria, Va.] – Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) is proud to announce that the Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, Ph.D. was appointed by the Board of trustees unanimously, as Dodge Professor of Biblical Interpretation.
“Dr. Fentress-Williams has a major profile in the academy and the church,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “Her scholarship connects scripture with life; her teaching excites the potential preacher and scholar; and she is easing into a remarkably productive season of creative research. For all this and more, the Dodge Chair is simply a recognition of everything she has done and is doing.”
This is one of the earliest faculty chairs in existence at VTS and was first held by the Rev. Dr. Joseph Packard (1871-1897) and most recently by the Rev. A. Katherine Grieb, Ph.D. ’83, before her retirement in 2020.
“Awarding a faculty chair is never automatic, and properly comes only after a faculty member has contributed an impressive body of work to the field and to the seminary, said the Rev. Melody Knowles, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs and associate professor of Old Testament. “It is particularly apt that this chair in Biblical Interpretation be awarded to Dr. Fentress-Williams given her focus on the dialogic and intertextual nature of scripture, as well as her embrace of both the church and academy.”
Fentress-Williams came to VTS in 2002 after as professor of Hebrew Bible and director of the Black Ministries Certificate Program at Hartford Seminary from 1993-2002. She earned her Ph.D., M.Phil., M.A., and M.Div. at Yale University, and her A.B. at Princeton University. She was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel in the National Baptist Convention and Progressive National Baptist Convention in 2012 and serves as Senior Assistant to the Pastor for Preaching at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria. She was given the Distinguished Alumni Award for Excellence in Theological Education by Yale Divinity School in 2016.
Fentress-Williams’ published works such as Holy Imagination: A Literary Guide to the Whole Bible (Abingdon, 2021) and Ruth (Abingdon Old Testament Commentary Series, 2012) highlight the theological and literary complexity of Scripture and give the reader tools to interpret with depth and imagination. Her service as the Old Testament editor for the CEB Women’s Bible edition of the Common English Bible (Abingdon, 2016) provided a fresh and accessible approach to the ancient text.
In addition to teaching and writing, Fentress-Williams is known as an excellent preacher. She has given sermons in prominent contexts across the county including Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. She also gave the Gardner C. Taylor Lecture at Duke Divinity School, and was the McClendon Scholar-in-Residence at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in D.C.
Virginia Theological Seminary was founded in 1823 by St. Paul’s Church in Alexandria, Virginia. It is the strongest seminary in the Anglican Communion and has a long tradition of shaping faithful women and men, lay and ordained, for leadership in The Episcopal Church and beyond. Visited by three Presidents, the seminary provides over 25% of the clergy of the Episcopal Church. The seminary’s campus, a few miles from Washington, DC, reflects the creative genius of Andrew Jackson Downing, the 19th century founder of American landscape architecture; and Robert A.M. Stern and Associates who designed Immanuel Chapel which was consecrated in 2015. The historic campus is also home to a 21st century imagination about ways to follow Jesus Christ in an ever-changing Church and world.