College Theology SocietyServing Church and Academy Since 1954

Plenary Sessions 2022

Whiteness, White Christian Privilege, and the Academy

SimonMary Aihiokhai, Karen Enriquez, and Karen Teel 

SimonMary Asese Aihiokhai, Ph.D. (University of Portland):

Dr. SimonMary Asese Aihiokhai was born in Nigeria. He received his undergraduate education in philosophy at the Spiritan School of Philosophy, Nigeria (1997). He began his initial studies in theology at the Spiritan International School of Theology before migrating to the United States to continue it at Saint John Seminary, Camarillo, California, where he earned a graduate degree in theology with a focus in medical ethics (2007). He obtained his Ph.D. in systematic theology from Duquesne University (2013). Dr. Aihiokhai is currently an associate professor of systematic theology at the University of Portland. He is the coordinator of the University’s Theology Thursday Lecture Series. He is the recipient of the University of Portland Outstanding Scholar Award for 2021. He is also a Fellow at the Westar Institute. Dr. Aihiokhai has worked extensively with communities at the margins in Nigeria and in the United States of America. He has held academic positions at Loyola Marymount University; Valparaiso University; and Saint Leo University. As a product of multiple contexts, he is intentional at creating spaces for multiple perspectives in his research and teaching. His research focuses on Religion and identity; African approaches to ethics; African philosophies, cultures, and theologies; religion and violence; comparative theology; themes in systematic theology; and interfaith studies. Among his published works, include a monograph, titled, Fostering Interreligious Encounters in Pluralist Societies. Hospitality and Friendship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019); an edited volume, twelve book chapters and twenty-five peer-reviewed articles in reputable journals. His works have been published by Routledge, Palgrave MacMillan, Paulines Press (Africa), Oxford University Press, Cambridge Scholars Press, and several peer-reviewed national and international journals. One of his forthcoming books explores the contributions of women of color to the Woman Suffrage Movement (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021). The other offers a decolonial critique of whiteness and systemic racism. Dr. Aihiokhai will gladly tell you that at the heart of all that he does as a theologian is to create space for God’s life to be experienced by all in our world.



Karen B. Enriquez, Ph.D. (Loyola Marymount University):

Dr. Karen B. Enriquez is visiting assistant professor in the Theological Studies department at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California. She teaches in the areas of Christian contemporary systematic theology and comparative theology. Her primary areas of interest include: (1) Buddhist-Christian comparative theology, with an emphasis on the diversity of voices from both traditions, the comparison of spiritual and social practices, and ways of learning from and working with each other, and (2) Philippine/Philippine-American theology from an intersectional liberationist and feminist lens, with a focus on popular religiosity. She received her Ph.D. in comparative theology from Boston College where she focused on the comparison of spiritual practices in Buddhism and Christianity and the transformation of the self and society, and dialogue among religions. Previously, she was at Xavier University in Cincinnati where she taught courses on Buddhism, Buddhist-Christian comparative theology, and religion, gender, and violence. Before coming to the U.S., Karen lived in the Philippines, where she studied and taught at Ateneo de Manila University. 




Karen Teel, Ph.D. (University of San Diego):

Karen Teel, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of San Diego in San Diego, California. Dr. Teel earned her PhD in Catholic systematic theology at Boston College under the mentorship of Dr. M. Shawn Copeland. She has taught at the University of San Diego since completing her studies in 2007. Her teaching and research endeavors center around the Christian dimensions of the problems of racism and white supremacy. She is especially interested in how whiteness has evolved as a racial, cultural, and Christian identity in what is now the United States from its colonial period to the present. Aware that the professional is always personal, Dr. Teel strives to hold herself theologically accountable to the fact that her European Christian ancestors participated in creating the white racial advantages that persist in US society today. To this end, she consciously theorizes her own positionality as a white, cisgendered, female, US American, Roman Catholic theologian.  Dr. Teel’s articles and essays have appeared in venues including the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Theological Studies, Teaching Theology and Religion, Black Theology, Critical Theology, the T&T Clark Handbook of Theological Anthropology, and the T&T Clark Handbook of African American Theology. She is also the author of the book Racism and the Image of God. She belongs to the College Theology Society, the Catholic Theological Society of America, the American Academy of Religion, and the Black Catholic Theological Symposium. Dr. Teel is a parishioner and Eucharistic minister at Christ the King Catholic Church in San Diego. She lives with her two children in the diverse neighborhood of City Heights. She enjoys the beach, gardening, and improving her Spanish.


"I Can't Breathe": Racism and the Church, Past and Present

Shawnee M. Daniels-Sykes, Cecilia A. Moore, and Melissa Pagán

Shawnee M. Daniels-Sykes, Ph.D. (Mount Mary University):

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dr. Shawnee M. Daniels Sykes is a Professor of Theology and Ethics at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A Registered Nurse by trade, Dr. Daniels-Sykes is the only Black Catholic female Health Care Ethicist in the United States. Dr. Daniels Sykes received her doctorate from Marquette University in Religious Studies with a specialization in Theological Ethics and a sub-specialization in Bioethics. She is a faculty member in the Theology Collaborative for Ascension Health Care USA, where she teaches an online course on Moral Theology and Catholic Social Teaching for Ascension Health Care Executive Leaders. During the summers, she teaches the course Moral Questions in the Black Community at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana where she is an adjunct Associate Professor. As a Catholic theological ethicist, her research interests lie in beginning of life issues, middle of life issues, and end of life issues, especially as these relate to institutionalized race, class, and gender oppression. She has an array of items in print media and verbal communications, such as book chapters, articles in peer reviewed journals, popular journals, podcasts, radio interviews, and webinars. She is also a national and international speaker.

Cecilia A. Moore. Ph.D. (University of Dayton):

Born and raised in Danville, Virginia, Dr. Cecilia A. Moore is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and the University of Virginia. She is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton. There she teaches Introduction of Religious and Theological Studies, U.S. Catholic Experience, and African American religious history. In the summers, she is part of the faculty of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana, where she teaches Black Catholic history. Dr. Moore’s area of specialization is the history of African American Catholics and nearly all of her published works are in this field. A few of her more recent publication are: “From the Ivory Tower to the Pews: Theology’s Role in Shaping Catholic Racial Thought and Practice in the Twentieth-Century”; “Dealing with Desegregation: Black and White Responses to the Desegregation of the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, 1953”; and “’To Serve Through Compelling Love’: The Society of Christ Our King in Danville, Virginia, 1963.” In addition to publishing articles in numerous scholarly journals, popular magazines, and chapters in books, Dr. Moore also co-edited Songs of Our Hearts and Meditations of Our Souls: Prayers for Black Catholics with the late Father Paul Marshall, S.M and Dr. C. Vanessa White. She has been a member of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium since 2000. She is an editor of The Journal of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium.


Melissa Pagán, Ph.D. (Mount Saint Mary’s University):

Dr. Melissa Pagán is a decolonial feminist ethicist. She holds a Ph.D. in Religion, Ethics, and Society from Emory University. Her current research project provides a feminist decolonial and critical spatial appraisal of the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching to ascertain whether, and to what extent the coloniality of knowledge, coloniality of being, and coloniality of gender undergird and therefore undermine its teachings on social justice. Dr. Pagán’s areas of expertise and research include feminist social ethics, critical geographies, postcolonial and decolonial theories and theologies, and Latinx theologies. For the academic year 2021-2022, Dr. Pagán was the recipient of a First Book Grant for Scholars of Color from the Louisville Institute. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS), the Board of Directors for the Web Branch of Feminist Studies in Religion, Inc., and is the current Chair for the Committee on Underrepresented Groups for the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA). She is currently Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Religious Studies at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles. 

Recentering the Theological Canon: The Future of Theological Education

Emilie Townes, Ph.D.

Emilie Townes, Ph.D. (Vanderbilt Divinity School)

Dr. Emilie M. Townes, an American Baptist clergywoman, is a native of Durham, North Carolina.  She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University.  Dr. Townes is the Dean and Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, becoming the first African American to serve as Dean of the Divinity School in 2013.  She is the former Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology at Yale University Divinity School and in the fall of 2005, she was the first African American woman elected to the presidential line of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and served as president in 2008.   She was the first African American and first woman to serve as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Yale Divinity School.  She is the former Carolyn Williams Beaird Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Social Ethics at Saint Paul School of Theology. Editor of two collection of essays, A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering and Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation; she has also authored Womanist Ethics, Womanist Hope, In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness, Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Issues and a Womanist Ethic of Care, and her groundbreaking book, Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil.  She is co-editor with Stephanie Y. Mitchem of the Faith, Health, and Healing in African American Life.   Her most recent co-editorship is Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader done with the late Katie Geneva Cannon and Angela Sims was published in November 2011.  Townes was elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009.  She served a four-year term as president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion from 2012 to 2016.





      Antonio Eduardo Alonso (Emory University)

      Kim Harris (Loyola Marymount University)

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