Theologian-in-Virtual-Residence Program

Theologian-in-Virtual-Residence Program

The Southern New England Conference is committed to theological exploration and inquiry as we journey toward more fully realizing our mission to “Live the Love and Justice of Jesus”.  On our journey it will be important to invite other laborers to join and come alongside us in our mission pursuit.

In 2022, we invited our first two inaugural Theologians-In-Virtual-Residence, who joined us in teaching and prophetic moments throughout the course of the year.  We welcomed Bishop Yvette Flunder and Rev. Dr. Diane Schmitz to the Southern New England family.  Bishop Flunder helped us wrestle with the question, “What is radical inclusivity in a post-pandemic church” and Rev. Dr. Diane Schmitz invited us to more fully explore the concept of “whiteness" and how it can be an impediment to our pursuit of mission and radical inclusivity. 

Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder engaged in the following:

  • Met with the Conference Staff Team Leaders and with the SNEUCC Board centering around the concept of “radical inclusivity."
  • Served as Co-Presenter and Keynote for the SNEUCC Justice Summit  on Sept. 24, 2022
  • Preached at Clergy Revivals in Hartford on Oct. 25, 2022 and Boston on Oct. 27, 2022.
  • Gave the Keynote and led discussion at the online Martin Luther King Jr. Conference Celebration in January 2023. 

A San Francisco native, Bishop Flunder has served her call through prophetic action and ministry for justice for over thirty years. This call to “blend proclamation, worship, service and advocacy on behalf of those most marginalized in church and in society” led to the founding of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in 1991. In 2003, Rev. Dr. Flunder was consecrated Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a multi-denominational coalition of over 100 primarily African American Christian leaders and laity. Rev. Dr. Flunder is on the Board of Starr King School for the Ministry and DEMOS and has taught at many theological schools. She is a graduate of the Certificate of Ministry and Master of Arts programs at Pacific School of Religion and received her Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She is also an award-winning gospel music artist and author of Where the Edge Gathers: A Theology of Homiletic and Radical Inclusion.

Rev. Dr. Diane Schmitz engaged in the following:

  • Served as as the 2022 Keynote for the online Martin Luther King Jr. Conference Celebration in January, 2022.
  • Led Racial Justice Training with the SNEUCC Board of Directors and with the Conference Staff Team Leaders centering around the concept of “whiteness”. 
  • Facilitated Conference-Wide Conference engagement centering around dismantling “whiteness," including through an Affinity Group.
  • Served as Co-Presenter and Keynote for the SNEUCC Justice Summit on Sept. 24, 2022

Rev. Dr. Schmitz is an educator, minister, and writer with 20 years of experience designing and leading transformational group processes. Her primary focus is working with predominantly white communities to increase the awareness, knowledge, and skills needed to be effective partners in the dismantling racism efforts led by communities of color. As an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Diane has served as a pastor and has a specialized ministry in racial justice that has included leading workshops, retreats, and co-facilitating training for churches seeking to become anti-racist, multicultural communities. She creates learning experiences for church communities to gain insight about how socialization in a “white racial frame” has created attitudes and beliefs that shape individuals, the church and society to daily produce harmful impacts on communities of color. A Master of Divinity and an Ed.D. in Leadership from Seattle University led to Diane’s dissertation examining Whiteness in Jesuit Higher Education.

The Theologians-In-Virtual-Residence program is made possible by the Phillis Wheatley Fund for Innovation. The Phillis Wheatley Innovation fund sponsors creative and innovative programs that help to further the missional imperative of the SNEUCC, that might otherwise not be possible with existing budgetary frames.

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