Category: Ecumenical Institute News

EI Staff Retirements

St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute congratulates three long-serving colleagues who will enter retirement this summer.

Zenaida Bench, Assistant to the Dean, Admissions & Academic Services, will retire after 23 years of service. For nearly half of the EI’s existence, Zenaida has been at its center, ensuring that each new cohort of students can enjoy the journey of faith seeking understanding. An EI alum (MAT ’93, CAS ’11), she has used her theological education joyfully in the ministry of administration.

In addition, two long-serving EI faculty members will enter retirement. Dr. Art Thomas began teaching in the EI in 1996, teaching courses in spirituality. Dr. Thomas is retiring from full time ministry in the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, and will be moving to Richmond. Dr. Brian Berry began teaching in the EI in 1998, teaching moral and systematic theology. He is a permanent Dunning Distinguished Lecturer. Brian is retiring from full time teaching at Notre Dame University of Maryland and will be moving to Ohio along with his wife Susanne.

Together, these colleagues have a combined 63 years of service to the EI. We are grateful for their commitment to our mission and generosity with our constituents, knowing that we would not have been as strong a school without them. Each will be celebrated at the annual graduation dinner.


Loyola University Names EI Alum Vice President for Student Development

Donelda Cook, Ph.D., EI class of 2009, will become Loyola University’s vice president for student development. Dr. Cook, who went to Loyola in 1993 to become director of the Counseling Center, currently serves as associate vice president for student development. Dr. Cook earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Delaware State University, a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Southern Illinois University, and both a Master of Arts in Theology and a Graduate Certificate in Biblical Studies from St. Mary’s Seminary & University. During her tenure at Loyola, Dr. Cook has twice served as acting vice president for student development. She is a member of the ministerial staff at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington, DC, where she serves as a spiritual director. Dr. Cook’s scholarly publications focus on multicultural psychology and the integration of spirituality and psychology in psychotherapy with African Americans.


DMin Partnership Moves toward Second Year

One year ago, St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute announced a new partnership with Ashland Theological Seminary, offering local access to a Doctor of Ministry program. Last fall the first group of students began their DMin coursework here on the St. Mary’s campus. The program allows them to complete their first year of coursework with three intensive classes in Baltimore at St Mary’s Ecumenical Institute . Then, students finish coursework with two intensives at the Ashland campus in Ohio (one week in the Fall, one in the Spring). Finally, students develop a major ministry project which they document in a thesis.

A program overview will be presented by  the Deans of both institutions on Wednesday, March 29 at 7 pm on the St. Mary’s campus. The event is open to all. Individual admissions conversations can be scheduled for Thursday morning or afternoon, March 30. For details or to schedule an admissions conversation, contact Patty Rath (410.864.4203).


Dunning Lecture

The Ecumenical Institute of Theology will host Robert Louis Wilken, William R. Kenan Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia, for its Dunning Lecture on Thursday, March 30, 2017 at 7:30 pm. The lecture, “Liberty in the Things of God: Christian Origins of Religious Freedom,” is free and open to the public. For more information, please click here to see the flier.


Ecumenical Institute Welcomes 12 New Students

With the 2017 spring semester poised to begin on January 9, St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute is pleased to welcome 12 new students to campus. The group gathered for the first time on January 4 for pizza and orientation with the deans and staff as well as a few faculty members. As is always true of Ecumenical Institute students, these women and men represent a rich array of denominations. Their goals, whether focused around professional excellence or personal growth, are equally diverse. We wish each and all a robust and rewarding first semester of graduate theological study.


Ecumenical Institute Announces MDiv Partnership

St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute will now offer Baltimore-area students a pathway to the Master of Divinity through a partnership with Lancaster Theological Seminary. “This pathway is ideal for working adults who cannot enroll in traditional, daytime MDiv programs” said Dean Brent Laytham. “I’ve long known that there are Baltimore students who want to study here with us, but need to earn a degree we can’t offer—the MDiv. Now they can.”

The first half of the degree is taken at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute; the second half is earned through Lancaster’s easily accessible weekend program of unique and integrative courses. Most of the classes taken at the Ecumenical Institute are foundational in content and typically offered on weeknights. Most of the classes taken at Lancaster are integrative and contextual in focus; they are always scheduled on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings.

This partnership pairs America’s oldest Catholic seminary (celebrating its 225th year) with one of America’s oldest Protestant seminaries (in existence for 190 years). Lancaster’s newly revised, 75-credit MDiv is designed to address the pressing needs of the church and the realities of student’s busy lives. It is fully accredited, and is also approved for United Methodists who are pursuing ordination.

See more information, or contact Patty Rath (410.864.4203).


Public Lecture by Dr. Ellen Davis

Ellen Davis
Noted Old Testament scholar Dr. Ellen Davis will lecture at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute on Friday, October 7, at 7 p.m. Her topic is “Envisioning Wholeness: Connecting Scripture and Health in Africa and Baltimore,” with co-respondents Rev. Darriel Harris and Dr. Dan Hale.

The lecture marks the return of CONNECT: Faith, Health & Medicine, the Ecumenical Institute’s graduate certificate in faith and health running throughout the 2016-17 academic year.

Ecumenical Institute Dean Dr. Brent Laytham selected Dr. Davis for the lecture because of her superb work interpreting Scripture from the perspective of wholeness. That work includes her scholarly tour de force, Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible (Cambridge, 2009). It also includes her dozen years working in South Sudan to develop theological education, community health, and sustainable agriculture.

In an editorial, Davis wrote, “As we have seen in South Sudan, whenever the church engages in health care practices with a scripturally informed imagination, lives are transformed.” In that same piece, Davis recounted how the Rev. Darriel Harris worked for more than a year in South Sudan developing and implementing a Bible-based curriculum called Community Health Education Program. Now based in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins’ Center for a Livable Future, Rev. Harris will respond to Davis’ lecture by recounting some of the challenges involved in connecting Scripture and health in Africa. Then Dr. Dan Hale, founder and Director of the Healthy Community Partnership run by Johns Hopkins Bayview, will reflect on ways that those same challenges take shape in Baltimore. The conclusion of the presentation will include thirty minutes for questions and answers with the presenters.

The lecture is free and open to the public. St. Bede’s Books will be on hand to retail Dr. Davis’ books, including the brand new text Preaching the Luminous Word. Call 410-864-4202 for further information.


NPR Author to Present Life Reimagined

On Tuesday evening, June 14th, the St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute welcomes former NPR religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty, who will be speaking about her new book Life Reimagined:  The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife.  St. Bede’s Books will have her books available for purchase.

We are co-sponsoring this event with the Williams College Association of Maryland, which will also be giving a special award to Robert Embry, the President of the Abell Foundation.

The program begins at 6:15, following a wine & cheese reception at 5:30.  We will be in Laubacher Hall.  Tickets are $10; you may register at


Ecumenical Institute Partners for New DMin Program

Laytham and Bevere 4.27.16-contrast600x406St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute has announced a partnership with Ashland Theological Seminary offering access to a Doctor of Ministry program, that combines the Ecumenical Institute’s strengths with an existing program’s advantages. Dr. Matthew Bevere, Ashland’s Associate Dean for the Doctor of Ministry, was here on campus April 27-29. He and Dr. Brent Laytham, Dean of St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute, offered an introduction to the new program, and individuals interested in applying were able to meet with Dr. Bevere.

Students in the new DMin program will complete 40 percent of their coursework with the EI’s exceptional faculty teams, ecumenical student body, and accessible class schedule, then continue the remaining 60 percent of their courses and their final Doctor of Ministry project through Ashland. The degree will be conferred by Ashland Theological Seminary. DMin courses will be offered on the St. Mary’s campus beginning fall 2016.

For more information, contact Patty Rath (410.864.4203).