Protestant Educators

Picture of Delores Carpenter

DELORES CAUSION CARPENTER (1944--) is a professor of Religious Education at Howard University School of Divinity and a world-renowned preacher, teacher, and lecturer. She was ordained in the Progressive Freewill Baptist Church and transferred her credentials to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1973. Carpenter served as the senior pastor of Michigan Park Christian Church in Washington, DC. Her research has focused on African American women in ministry, hymnology, liturgy, and preaching. For Carpenter, all aspects of worship and liturgy are breeding ground for Christian education.

Biography

Delores Carpenter was born on July 26, 1944 in Baltimore, MD and was raised in Towson, MD. She was the only child of single mother, Sarah Elizabeth Causion Whye, but grew up in a close extended family and was the oldest grandchild among her twenty-one cousins.  Members of her extended family lived on a farm in Sparks, Maryland, while others lived in Towson and Baltimore. Carpenter would travel between these three communities and become familiar with rural and urban life. From 1969 – 1999, she was married to Rev. Dr. Anthony Carpenter, a United Church of Christ minister and Navy Chaplain (now retired).  Together they have two daughters, Jane and Susan.

            Carpenter was exposed to a variety of Christian faith traditions from a very early age. She and her mother lived with her grandmother until she was nine years old. "My grandmother was a semi-invalid, so she had religious people in the home all the time" (Carpenter, 1992, p. 64). As she spent time with her grandmother she saw Missionary Baptist Church deacons bring her communion. She sat and spoke with Jehovah's Witnesses when they visited. Her grandmother was also very involved with the Church of God in Christ. "During those first nine years of my life, I saw my grandmother writing religious tracts, and I helped her look up the correct spelling" (Carpenter, 1992, p. 65). Carpenter's grandmother only had a third grade education, so helping her grandmother with the writing of these tracts was one of Carpenter's early endeavors into Christian Education.

            Carpenter was a girl preacher and teacher.  The story of her call appears in "Acceptance of a Call at a Funeral" published in William Myers' The Irresistible Urge to Preach: A Collection of African American "Call" Stories. In that recollection she tells of a golden book of Bible Stories her mother gave her as she was learning how to read. Her grandmother always said that Carpenter preached her first sermon at five years old.  She would memorize the stories that she read and have the other children sit down as she told them what she knew.  They were playing church.  One day, when Carpenter was almost thirteen, she and her cousins were playing church when they began to sing, He's Calling Me. She recalls that when she was singing and clapping her hands, she got to a point where she couldn't stop:

I began to feel that I was moving to a different level of consciousness. I was aware of where I was and what we were doing, but I was also aware of something pulling me to go inside, like and inscape. (Carpenter, 1992, p. 67)

            After this experience, Carpenter spent a lot of time praying and reading Scriptures, and she became more involved in the Free Will Baptist Church across the street from her home.  "That raised the question for me. And so my search started for the meaning for these various things” (Carpenter, 1992, p. 67). At thirteen, she became in charge of teaching preschoolers during Vacation Bible School before becoming a girl preacher.  Knowing she was called, yet still not knowing exactly what that meant, she prayed asking for the gifts of healing and prophecy. "There was no audible voice but something inside said to me, 'I want you to preach, and all these gifts will be added to you'" (Carpenter, 1992, p. 69).

            She was fourteen when she first shared her call to preach.  She shared it with a woman within the congregation, but the woman told her that what she heard was the voice of the devil because women were not called to preach. Carpenter fell into a deep depression and really struggled, but she stayed active in the church.  Congregational leadership knew that she was struggling, but, also knowing that she was called, continued to encourage her involvement in ministry. There was one minister in particular, Reverend Sister Johnson, who would ask Carpenter about her ministerial call.  And when Carpenter saw her in the hospital during her last visit, she asked, "'Delores, why don't you do what God wants you to do?" (Carpenter, 1992, p. 69).  At Reverend Sister Johnson's funeral, Carpenter announced that she was called to preach. "It was as though a mantle had been laid down, the one that she had, and I picked it up" (Carpenter, 1992, p. 69).

            Carpenter views her call to preach and her call to Christian education as one combined call to ministry.  At fifteen, Carpenter became responsible for the congregation's youth ministry and Wednesday night Bible Study, and became assistant pastor of the congregation. Shortly after, the pastor of the congregation had a stroke and died suddenly. She preached her trial sermons in the wake of his death and began running the Sunday Services and preaching at age sixteen. At age eighteen she became the first woman ordained in the Progressive Freewill Baptist Conference of Baltimore.

            Carpenter earned her bachelors degree from Morgan State College in 1966 with a sociology major; she then attended Howard University School of Divinity as the first Gorge Terry Fellow. At the time that Carpenter was working on her M.Div., the only positions women could have were in Religious Education, so she worked at the YMCA and continued to nurture her teaching skills. In 1969, Carpenter graduated cum laude from the Howard University School of Divinity and became the first female to receive a Master of Divinity from the school.

She retuned to her sociology roots and received an M.A. in sociology from Washington University in 1972 and an Ed.D. from Rutgers University in 1986, and wrote her dissertation, The Effect of Sect-typness Upon the Professonalization of Black Female M.Div. Graduates under the advisement of Dr. William Phillips. It involved the study of economics as she approached it from a career education point of view. Her primary question was "What is the value of the degree for Black women's careers?"  She wanted to develop ways that seminaries could place women.  This served as the source of many of her early writings.

            Carpenter began to work at Howard University School of Divinity in 1982 as assistant professor of Religious Education; in 1999, she became a full professor.  While working as a professor, Carpenter also served as the senior pastor of Michigan Park Christian Church in Washington, DC for more than 20 years. Carpenter also serves on the Board of Directors for National Capitol Christian Education Association, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is a member of the Religious Education Association. She is the founder and chair of the board of African Heritage and Cultural Institute of America, Inc. "Having done some serious public organizing in 1990 against homicide in the District of Columbia, I discovered that women clergy's leadership was not appreciated by many of my male colleagues.  Therefore, I turned my eyes toward Africa, where there seems to be more opportunity for community development because the needs are much greater." (Carpenter, 2005, p. 79). Carpenter coined the term "A Living Bridge to Africa" to capture her desire to facilitate contemporary interchange between Africans and African Americans.

            Carpenter prides herself on being a pastor/professor She drew inspiration from two of her dissertation committee advisors, Rev. Dr. Samuel Proctor and Rev. Dr. James Scott, who served as role models on how to fully integrate both roles. She has, in turn, influenced a number of people in various aspects in ministry. People that have had the privilege of learning from her include: Rev. Dr. Clara Guyton, president of the minister association for the Capital Area Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Bishop Derrick Johnson, founder and pastor of Joshua Harvest Church; Rev. Nolan E Williams, Jr., author, minister of music, and chief music editor of the African American Heritage Hymnal; and Rev. Yvonne Gilmore-Essig, pastor, lecturer, performer, and member of Hip Hop group “Cornel West Theory.” There are many more students who have gone on to further the goal of Christian education in a variety of areas. As a pastor/professor she believes Christian education should be integrated in all aspects of a congregation’s life.  To that effect, she writes and lectures on how liturgy, homiletics, and leadership all connect to the work of the teaching ministry of the church.

 

Works Cited

Carpenter, D. C. (2005). The journey I have known.  In C. LaRue (Ed.), This is my story: Testimonies and sermons of Black women in ministry (pp. 73 − 82).  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Carpenter, D. C. (1992). "Acceptance of a call at a funeral." In W. Myers (Ed.), The irresistible urge to preach: A collection of African American "call" stories (pp. 64-70). Atlanta, GA: Aaron Press.

Carpenter, D. C. (personal communication, March 15, 2013)


Contributions to Christian Education

Carpenter contends that the purpose of Christian education “is to guide Christians through a nurturing, maturing, and increasingly self-initiating spiritual journey toward God, through Jesus Christ, and on behalf of others” (Carpenter, 1991, p. 8). Her approach to achieving this goal is through a mission-oriented framework that requires that congregational education attend to four different dimensions: climate/relational dimension, a biblical/theological dimension, a cognitive/thinking dimension, and an interpersonal/group process dimension; each dimension has three goals, one for each stage of life of a congregation member.

The climate/relational dimension focuses on nurturing the student and affirming her unique gifts.  When all members of the community are nurtured and affirmed, they form a warm, loving, interdependent community.  The goals for this dimension are: “1) Every adult should be valued as a recognizably gifted and graced participant in the community of faith. 2) Every adolescent should have a place of belonging and acceptance and count as friends those who share in the faith. 3) Every child should be loved and joyously claimed as belonging to the whole community” (Carpenter, 1991, p. 17).

The biblical/theological roots Christian Education in Christian beliefs and its distinguishing concepts. Carpenter further contends that the basis of these beliefs and concepts lies in an understanding of the Bible and Trinitarian theology. The dimension also has three goals: “[1] Every adult should be a teaching Bible student, who practices various disciplines of the spiritual life, and can articulate who Jesus Christ was and is. [2] Every adolescent should be a teachable Bible student who practices various disciplines of the spiritual life, identifies faith figures within the congregation, and can articulate who Jesus Christ was and is. [3] Every child should be a Bible student who is learning the Bible stories, how to pray comfortably and who Jesus was and is” (Carpenter, 1991, p. 19).

“The cognitive/thinking dimension refers to the life-long process by which people appropriate knowledge through thinking, discussing, and expressing ideas” (Carpenter, 1991, p. 19). Carpenter contends that all too often, Christian education is not as intellectually challenging as it should be.  The three goals for this dimension are: “[1] Every adult should be a practical theologian, who is able to interpret life situations in light of the gospel. [2] Every adolescent should be a moral reasoned and ethical thinker. [3] Every child should be given an understandable religious language, and encouraged to learn more about the faith” (Carpenter, 1991, p. 22).

The final dimension is the interpersonal/group process dimension. “Integral to achieving any mission, goal, objective, or action plan is a network of people who work well together, both interpersonally and in groups” (Carpenter, 1991, p. 22). The goals for this dimension are: “(1) Every adult should work cheerfully with all groups and individuals within the congregation and broader faith community to advocate and actively work on behalf of others. [2] Every adolescent should be self-assured individual who relates well to others and works along with others in service projects. [3] Every child should be a trusting, self-expressing person who cares about and shares with others” (Carpenter, 1991, p. 23).

These four dimensions and 12 goals support Carpenter’s mission-oriented framework, which serves as her view of Christian Education.  Taken as a whole, the framework broadens the scope of Christian education and stops it from being overly compartmentalized.  Carpenter pushes for a broad view of Christian Education wherein the educational ministry of the church is integrated into every part of worship and every aspect of the life of the congregation. Carpenter’s work as a pastor/professor shines through not only in the positions she has held, but also by her academic contributions to the field. Because Carpenter believes that Christian education should be integrated into the entire life of the congregation, her contribution to the field also encompasses the life of the entire congregation as she writes about leadership, homiletics, and hymnology.

Carpenter's primary research has been on female Master of Divinity graduates, 1972 − 1999.  Her findings are described in A Time for Honor: A Portrait of Black Clergy Women.  Three articles on this topic also appear in journals and textbooks.  A Time for Honor is often quoted as a prominent source on the challenges and triumphs of formally educated Black clergywomen. Carpenter notes that while much had been written about the social change of women leading congregations, not much had been written about the social change in African-American religious institutions.  Carpenter's seminal work provides helpful data on the paths  clergywomen take and proposes ways for congregations to collectively break the stained-glass ceiling through the acceptance and use of the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation and womanist theology.

Carpenter's other research revolves around the connection between Christian education and liturgical studies.  She is the editor of two hymnals and author of several articles and book chapters on liturgy, hymnology, and homiletics within African American Christian traditions. "Teaching and preaching always went together. I'm a pastor/professor. The study and the teaching tied to the preaching. Teaching came first; preaching came out of the teaching. When I preach, I teach. The teaching and the preaching go together” (personal communication). Carpenter also contends that much of a congregation's religious learning is facilitated through singing together.  "A lot of the theology we learn comes from the music.  We need to go deeper into the theology of the song.  We need to learn about our history and our theology” (personal communication).  With this desire in mind, Carpenter has begun to speak and write about the sermon song. Sermon songs tell stories of social justice and show the power of the spoken word and the collective song. Noting how some congregations have heritage Sundays or fine arts Sundays where the choir is in the pulpit for the sermon, Carpenter believes this to be the future of worship.  She further believes that, because we learn theology from these songs, the opportunity for Christian education is endless. 

Carpenter's current research reflects yet another passion of hers—Black history.  She describes her goals as: "Keeping Black history within the worship service within the regular church calendar, more than following a liturgical year, but litanies and other ways the church can participate” (personal communication).  She is currently working on a companion  to the  African American Heritage Hymnal that has more Black history to teach the background to the litanies.  Therefore, the choir director can teach things to the choir as they are getting ready to sing, and Black history can be more imbedded into the weekly life of the congregation." Carpenter believes that teaching history is essential for motivating people to get involved in social justice movements. "Not just to study, but to be inspired to be a part of it” (personal communication).

For Carpenter, the expression of history in worship is Christian education.  The songs we sing and the sermons we hear are also a part of the teaching ministry of the church.  Therefore, the influences of this pastor/professor encompass topics of the life of the congregation as a whole.For Carpenter, Christianity is the harmonious synthesis of disparate facets: pastor and professor; sermon and song; Christian Education and Christian faith, not competing but complementary.

 

Works Cited:

Carpenter, D. C. (1991). The purpose, office, and goals of congregational education: A mission-oriented framework. The Disciples Theological Digest, 6, 7-28.


Bibliography

Books

(Current contract). 52 Sundays of Soulful Worship: An Introduction to the Black Church Year. Chicago, IL: GIA Inc.

(2012). Associate Editor. Total Praise Hymnal. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications.

(2001). Editor. African American Heritage Hymnal. Chicago, IL: GIA, Inc.

(2001). A Time for Honor: A Portrait of African American Clergywomen. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press.
 

Chapters in Books

(2005). The Journey I Have Known. In C. LaRue (Ed.), This Is My Story: Testimonies and Sermons of Black Women in Ministry (pp. 73 − 82).  Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

(2005). What Can You Get With the Faith You've Got? In C. LaRue (Ed.), This Is My Story: Testimonies and Sermons of Black Women in Ministry (pp. 83 − 88). Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

(1995). Walking Together in Sisterhood. In S. Johnson Cook (Ed.), Sister to Sister: Devotions for and from African American Women (pp. 37-40). Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press.

(1994). Bridging The Chasm. In D. Trimiew (Ed.), Out of Mighty Waters: Sermons by African-American Disciples (pp. 11-16). St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press Inc.

(1992). Acceptance of the Call at a Funeral. In W. Meyers (Ed.), The Irresistible Urge to Preach: A Collection of African American "Call" Stories (pp. 64− 70). Atlanta, GA: Aaron Press.

(1992). God's Healing Power. In C. Birchett (Ed.), How I Got Over: Testimonies of African Americans, Reflections on the Books of Job and Psalms, Bible Study Applications (pp. 111-121). Chicago, IL: Urban Ministries Inc.

(1991). Women ministers: Heirs of the promise - On Fire, Under Fire. In E. P. Mitchell (Ed.), Women: To Preach or not to Preach: 21 Outstanding Black Preachers Say Yes! (pp. 111-117). Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press.

 

Articles

Carpenter, D. C. (2002-2001). A Time for Honor: A portrait of African-American Clergywomen. Journal of Religious Thought, 56-57(2-1), 75-93.

(2000). A Religious Educator Examines African-American Hymnology. The Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center, 27(1-2), 267-288.

(1998). Female Seminarians Changing the Face of Theological Education. ICAM, Atlanta, GA. [publication information unknown]

(1994). A Word from God's Woman. Good News for God's Women, 1(2), 3.

(1993). A Response to Brian Tippen, featured article, A Historical Look at the Succession of Major Professors of Religious Education, Religious Education, 88(4), 618-623.

(1991). The Purpose, Office, and Goals of Congregational Education: A mission-oriented Framework. (Lead article with two scholarly responses: "A Response to Dr. Delores Carpenter's Essay" by Joseph H. Bragg, Jr. and "An Invitation Accepted" by J. Cy Rowell), The Disciples Theological Digest, 6, 7-28.

(1989-1990). Black women in religious Institutions: A Historical Summary from Slavery to the1960's. The Journal of Religious Thought, 46, 7-27.

(1987) Congregational Life and Discipline. Midstream, 26(3), 391-398.

(1986, October) A Kingdom Divided, The Northern Kingdom Destroyed, The Southern Kingdom, A Promise of Return, A Remnant Rebuilds, Rejoicing in the Law, The Disciple, [page numbers unknown]

Carpenter, D. C. (1986, Spr-Sum). The professionalization of the Ministry of Women. Journal of Religious Thought, 43(1), 59-75.

 

Other Resources

(2009). James Daniel Tyms in Christian Educators of the Twentieth Century, an electronic monograph for teaching and research. ce20.org. Project Director Kevin Lawson, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.

Carpenter, D. C. (2008, 1995). The Present Crisis for the Souls of Black Folk. Sound recording.

(2007). Palm Sunday. National City Christian Church Lenten Guide.

(2006). The Burden of Your Blessings. A Stewardship Book, National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

(2003). A Time for Honor: A Portrait of African American Clergywomen. C. Eric Lincoln Lecture Series, Clark Atlanta University, Alton Pollard, Editor, Palgrave Macmillan.

(1999). Black Heritage and Christianity: Assessing our Faith, A Monograph with Videotape, New York: National Council of Churches, African American Christian Education, 1998.

(1999). Biblical Foundations of the African-American Family. In C. Eric Lincoln (Ed.) African-American Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Nelson Press Inc.

(1997). An Apprenticeship in Kinship Monograph, Pension Fund Ministers' Breakfast delivered in Denver, CO: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Pension Fund

(1997). Cycles of life: Ecclesiastes 4 meditation. African-American Devotional Bible, Zondervon. p. 736.

(1997). Learning, Leaning, and Lifting published in the Book of Speeches of State Mothers of the Year at the 1996 American Mothers Convention in Lincoln, Nebraska, New York: American Mothers, Inc.

(1996). In J. Salzman, editor. Religious Education. Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History.( pp. 2310-2313).  New York: Columbia University Press.

(1996, 1993,1990) Bible Discovery Leader's Guide. Louisville: Presbyterian Publishing House.

(1996, 1993, 1990) Bible Discovery Children's Storybook. Louisville: Presbyterian Publishing House.

(1996,1993,1990) Bible Discovery Leaflets. Louisville:Presbyterian Publishing House.

(1992). I believe In Sunday school, Prophetic Voices, (pp. 8-11) Children's Defense Fund, 1992.

(1989) Standing for Truth in an Anxious World. Baccalaureatae Address, Lynchberg College, Lynchberg, Virginia.

Carpenter, D. C. (1989) Heir of the promise. Hampton University, Sound recording.

Trimiew, D., H. H. Beecher, and others (2003).

(1986). The effects of sect-typeness upon the professionalization of Black female M.Div. graduates, 1972-1984. (Doctoral dissertation, Rutgers University, 1986).

 

Responses to Work by Delores Carpenter

Joseph H. B. Jr. (1991). A Response to Dr. Delores Carpenter's Essay [A Response to the Article “The Purpose, Office, and Goals of Congregational Education: A Mission-Oriented Framework”] The Disciples Theological Digest, St. Louis: The Division of Higher Education For The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Division of Higher Education, Vol. 6.

Rowell, J. C. " An Invitation Accepted" [A Response to the Article “The Purpose, Office, and Goals of Congregational Education: A Mission-Oriented Framework”] The Disciples Theological Digest, St. Louis: The Division of Higher Education For The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Division of Higher Education, Vol. 6.


Excerpts from Publications

(2001). A Time for Honor: A Portrait of African American Clergywomen. St. Louis: Chalice Press.

"While much has been written about social change, not much has been written about social change within African American religious institutions.  The needed change spoken of is gender.  For this change to take place it has to be undergirded by two important pillars—one is the acceptance of the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation, and the other is womanist theology.  One deals with the sacred texts that are the authoritative foundations of the community.  The other deals with how people think about God-ordained systems, in this case, the church." (p. 178).

 

(2000). A Religious Educator Examines African-American Hymnology. The Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center, 27(1-2), 267-288.

"I hope that the African Heritage Hymnal will demonstrate that Christianity is not the religion of white alone. I hope that it teaches in a powerful way that we have consistently made Christianity our own through Afrocentric music and liturgy.  I hope that the hymns of yesterday and today, standing side by side in the same hymnal, will testify to the continuity of our faith and the centrality of Scripture.  The words of empowerment and vocation can reawaken and rekindle the theme of liberation." (p. 287)

 

(1991). The Purpose, Office, and Goals of Congregational Education: A mission-oriented Framework.

 “This is an invitation for congregations and the general church to reexamine the educational ministry. It does not offer particular strategies and methods. Rather, it presents a mission-oriented framework for congregational education.  Its thesis is that the educational ministry is critical for the understanding, interpretation, and achievement of a congregation’s mission. Secondly, the office which manages such an important task within the church is worthy of ordination. Thirdly, the ordained religious educator provides the possibility for the laity to construct their own theology which would lead to a deepening of their spirituality.  Fourthly, a mission-oriented framework requires that congregational education attend to a climate/relational dimension, a biblical/theological dimension, a cognitive/thinking dimension, and an interpersonal/group process dimension.” (p. 7)


Recommended Readings

(2005). The Journey I Have Known.  In C. LaRue (Ed.), This Is My Story: Testimonies and Sermons of Black Women in Ministry (pp. 73 − 82).  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

In this reflective autobiographical essay, Carpenter speaks of her call to ministry, her challenges to being a professor/pastor, and her overall legacy.  It is a great peek into her life journey, her theological and hermeneutical commitments, and the goals for her current and future work.

 

 (2002-2001). A Time for Honor: A portrait of African-American Clergywomen. Journal of Religious Thought, 56-57(2-1), 75-93.

Based on her dissertation research, and additional research since, Carpenter explores the paths of Black clergywomen within the Black Church.  She presents an overview of the concerns and celebrations of Black clergywomen.  This text presents a wealth of survey data that has served as a reference point for much writing on this topic.

 

(2000). A Religious Educator Examines African-American Hymnology. The Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center, 27(1-2), 267-288.

This article explains the birth and goals of the African American Heritage Hymnal.  Carpenter also expands on how liturgy teaches congregants theology. 

 

Carpenter, D. C. (1991). The purpose, office, and goals of congregational education: A mission-oriented framework. The Disciples Theological Digest, 6, 7-28.

This article addresses some of Carpenter’s main emphases in Christian Education.  She argues that the educational ministry is critical for understanding the mission of the congregation.  She then argues for the ordination for the religious educator that oversees the teaching ministry of the church.  Thirdly, she argues that the ordained religious educator would lead to a stronger laity.  Fourthly, she proposed a mission-oriented framework with four dimensions and twelve goals.


Author Information

Annie A. Lockhart-Gilroy

Annie A. Lockhart-Gilroy, (Princeton Theological Seminary, M.Div., 2005) is a Ph.D. candidate at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

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