The San Francisco Theological Seminary Board of Trustees has appointed Reverend Yolanda Norton, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, to the H. Eugene Farlough Chair beginning in the 2018–2019 academic year.
The H. Eugene Farlough Chair provides annual funds to offer programming that supports the ministry of African-American churches, the recipient’s research and the Black Church Studies certificate. Criteria for the appointment include leadership experience in African-American congregations, accomplishment in an academic field of study, distinction in teaching, and service to the seminary’s mission.
The endowed chair appointment is made with recommendations from the SFTS Faculty, the Dean of the Seminary, and the President. The H. Eugene Farlough Chair was most recently held by Dr. James Noel, who passed away in 2016.
Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr., Pastor Emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church and Professor Emeritus of the American Baptist Seminary of the West, says, “Rev. Yolanda Norton is an excellent scholar and is well loved by her students. She is well received by the churches of Northern California, and will do a superlative job in continuing the pioneering work of the late Dr. James Noel. I am hopeful that we will give her the prayers, and the support needed to bring the churches into a closer relationship with the seminary in bringing healing, and harmony to a hurting and broken world. I congratulate San Francisco Theological Seminary for making this appointment!”
Rev. Dr. Martha C. Taylor, National Historian and President’s Executive Staff member at the Progressive National Baptist Convention, adds, “With great honor I honor Reverend Yolanda Norton, a young, gifted Black scholar, preacher, professor, the first female, and second occupant to hold the distinguished Eugene Farlough Chair in African-American Christianity for such a time as this. Indeed you are a trailblazer; I join Sojourner Truth in reminding you, ‘Now, Ain’t I a Woman!’”
Ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Norton is an extraordinary scholar with an impressive amount of ministry experience. A Fellow in the prestigious Theology and Practice program at Vanderbilt Divinity School, she came to SFTS in 2016 already having taught Old Testament at Vanderbilt, Wesley Theological Seminary and Moravian Seminary. Norton earned her Bachelor of Arts from Syracuse University, and her Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies from Wesley Theological Seminary. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt University.
Norton’s research interests include the Book of Ruth, Womanist Biblical Methodology, and Preaching. She recently made headlines around the world with her groundbreaking Beyoncé Mass at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Norton has lead students, church leaders, and faculty from across the United States to Israel since 2012. Most recently she has taken students, staff, and trustees from SFTS as a part of her work with an archaeological project—the Jezreel Archaeological Expedition.
Dr. Jana Childers, Dean of the Seminary, says, “SFTS is very excited about the ministry of its ‘new old testament professor’ Yolanda Norton and greatly pleased with the work she has done in the two years she has been on the faculty. We are delighted to be able to appoint her to the important work of the Farlough Chair. She brings a wealth of pastoral experience, an ability to connect with people across generations, a talent for cutting edge scholarship and great teaching skills. She has been instrumental in moving the seminary forward into anti-racism work, a development of its worship programs and other important matters. Over her short time with us we have seen clearly that, in Yolanda, we have a great leader in the making—one whose star is, in fact, already rising like a rocket. Her scholarly work on a Womanist reading of Ruth began garnering publishers’ attention before the ink was dry on the manuscript, and her Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible class took the campus by storm this semester. We could not be happier with this appointment and look forward to the innovation and invigoration Professor Norton will bring to the programs of the Farlough Chair.”
Dr. Jim McDonald, President, sums up the enthusiasm at SFTS: “Yolanda Norton brings intellectual firepower, a deep commitment to the church, a passion for social justice, and a gift for preaching and teaching to the F. Eugene Farlough Chair at SFTS. She represents a new generation of leadership for the Black Church that will make both Eugene Farlough and James Noel proud of their successor. Because of this appointment there’s rejoicing in heaven and on earth!”