The Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes is an American Baptist minister and womanist ethicist. A native of Durham, North Carolina, she earned her doctorate in the joint Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Northwestern University program and her doctor of ministry degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School. She earned her bachelor degree from the University of Chicago and her master's degree from its Divinity School.
Dr. Townes has edited two books, A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering (Orbis,1993) and Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation (Orbis, 1997). She has co-edited two books: Religion, Health, and Healing in African American Life, with Stephanie Y. Mitchem (Praeger, 2008) and Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader, with Katie Geneva Cannon and Angela D. Sims (Westminster John Knox, 2011). She has also written four books: Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope (Oxford, 1993)—a study of the social and moral perspectives of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Black woman activist Ida B. Wells Barnett; In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness (Abingdon, 1995); Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Issues and a Womanist Ethic of Care (Crossroad, 1998); and Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). She is on the editorial board of Theology and Sexuality, the Journal of Religious Ethics, The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Second Opinion, and the Encyclopedia of Women and Religion.
Townes is currently the dean and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society of Vanderbilt University Divinity School. She is the former Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology at Yale University Divinity School where she was the fourth Black woman to be tenured in the university’s history. She is the former Carolyn Williams Beaird Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and Professor of Christian Social Ethics and Black Church Ministries at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2005, she was elected vice-president of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). In 2008, she was the first African American woman to serve as president of AAR, which is the largest professional society for scholars of religion with over 10,000 members. She is a member of the Society of Christian Ethics and the Society for the Study of Black Religion. She was president of the latter from 2013 to 2016. In 2009, she was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among her other organizations affiliations are the International Association for the Study of Religion and Gender (IRAG) and the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education.
Townes has served as pastoral leader of United Faith Affinitas, a Black LGBT congregation in Chicago, and interim pastoral leader of Christ the Redeemer Metropolitan Community Church in Evanston, Illinois. She serves on a number of boards, including the Advisory Committee of the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project. Active in forging networks between Afro-Brasilian feminists and U.S. womanists, in her writing and scholarship, Townes focuses on the intersection of class, gender, and race as windows into our inhumanity and guideposts for our attempts at justice.
(This biographical statement provided by Emilie Townes.)