Canon Theologian Kelly Brown Douglas Wins 2023 Grawemeyer Award
WASHINGTON – The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, canon theologian at Washington National Cathedral and author of “Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter,” was named winner of the 2023 Grawemeyer Award in Religion for the book’s ideas. She is congratulated by The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral.
“When Kelly speaks, people listen,” said Dean Hollerith. “Hers is one of the most impactful voices in the church today, and this award is a long-overdue recognition of her many gifts. God has graced this Cathedral with her presence and moral witness, and we are blessed to share her with the world.”
Douglas, who is also the dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, is one of the first Black female Episcopal priests in the United States and the first Black person to head an Episcopal Church-affiliated educational institution.
In “Resurrection Hope,” she shows how a “White way of knowing” came to dominate America through an anti-Black narrative tracing back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle. She also cites examples of how the bias persists today, from the refusal to dismantle Confederate monuments to attempts to discredit The 1619 Project, an effort to reframe U.S. history starting from the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia.
While recognizing the prolonged suffering of Black people raises deep questions about the credibility of Christianity, she argues that faith, not despair, is the best hope for assuring Black lives are valued.
“Douglas takes us on a captivating, painful journey with personal and erudite reflections on America’s corrupted soul,” said Tyler Mayfield, religion award director. “Her insights are lucid and disturbing. Her remedies are bold and constructive. May we find the courage to walk into the future she envisions for us all.”
Douglas, who has doctor of philosophy and master of divinity degrees, has been a faculty member at Edward Waters College, Howard University and Goucher College. She has written five books, including Sexuality and the Black Church, in which she addresses homophobia from a womanist perspective.
Orbis Books published her Grawemeyer Award-winning book in 2021.
The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give the religion prize. Recipients of next year’s Grawemeyer Awards were named this week pending formal approval by university and seminary trustees. The $100,000 prizes also honor seminal ideas in music, world order, psychology and education. Winners will visit Louisville in the spring to accept their awards and give free talks on their winning ideas.
“I never believed that I would be the recipient of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion,” Canon Douglas said in a statement. “I am overwhelmed and humbled by this incredible honor. I am so grateful to Louisville Seminary and everyone who read my book as part of this process. I am especially moved by the fact that I am being recognized for Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter, a book that my son, Desmond, played such a pivotal role in. Desmond challenges my faith and my thinking. He makes me better in every way, and this award is a testament to that.
“I also want to thank Orbis Books and Robert Ellsberg who have been instrumental in each and every one of my books. When I had just finished my PhD, they gave me a chance and opened the door for me, a Black woman, to publish The Black Christ. They believed in me from the start when so many others did not.
“And finally, there is a deep and almost inexpressible feeling of pride because I am sharing this award with my friend and mentor, James Cone. Truly I would not be doing this work without him. James Cone opened up this field of theology for me. I am grateful that I can honor his legacy through my work.”
About Washington National Cathedral
Grounded in the reconciling love of Jesus Christ, Washington National Cathedral is a house of prayer for all people, conceived by our founders to serve as a great church for national purposes.
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