School of Theology to Host 2019 Peter Rhea and Ellen Jones New Testament Lectures

Jones Lectures 2019

ATLANTA – Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology will host the 2019 Peter Rhea and Ellen Jones New Testament Lectures March 18-19 on the theme “An African-American Interpretation of Scripture.”

The lectures, which will take place in the Atlanta Administration and Conference Center on the University’s Cecil B. Day Campus, are free and open to all seminary students. All other attendees must purchase a ticket for $75, which provides access to all three lectures, dinner on Monday evening and a panel discussion on Tuesday. Additionally, students may purchase a dinner ticket for $30. Tickets are available online.

The opening lecture, titled “After Thurman: Strides toward a New Identity,” will be delivered on March 18 at 2 p.m. by Thomas B. Slater, Ph.D., professor of New Testament language and literature at McAfee School of Theology.

The second lecture, titled “Surviving Rome: Womanist Interpretation as Prophetic Language of Resistance,” will be delivered on March 18 at 4 p.m. by Mitzi J. Smith, Ph.D., professor of New Testament and early Christianity at Ashland Theological Seminary.

Following dinner, the final lecture, titled “No Longer Invisible: Afrocentric Biblical Interpretation,” will be delivered by Kenneth L. Waters Sr., Ph.D., associate dean for the School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University.

“This will be an engaging lecture series for preachers, teachers and lifelong learners that will expand an understanding of how to read and be transformed by scripture,” said Greg DeLoach, D.Min., interim dean of McAfee School of Theology. “We are fortunate to have these scholars join us for this event. I am personally looking forward to it.”

A panel discussion with all three lecturers will take place on March 19 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

“I am delighted that Dr. Ken Waters Sr. and Dr. Mitzi Smith will join me for this lecture series,” said Dr. Slater. “Dr. Waters was the first New Testament scholar to publish using the term ‘Afrocentric,’ and Dr. Smith is one of the leading womanist scholars of our time. I am looking forward to a lively, scholarly and informative exchange.  I am very appreciative of Peter Rhea and Ellen Jones for their support of this topic.”

Dr. Slater earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism with honors from Arkansas Tech University and his Master of Theology and the Doctor of Ministry degrees, respectively, from Perkins School of Theology and Southern Methodist University. Additionally, he earned his Ph.D. in biblical studies from King’s College London, the University of London.

Before joining the faculty at McAfee, he worked at Jackson Theological Seminary in Arkansas, Birkbeck College in London and the University of Georgia. He has written two books, edited two books and has contracts for more after retirement. He has more than 40 refereed and invited publications in the areas of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.

An ordained elder in full connection in the Georgia North Region of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Dr. Slater has pastored five congregations in Arkansas, Virginia and Georgia and been an associate pastor in four other congregations. He currently serves as chair of the Georgia North Committee on Ministerial Examinations and Conference Relations. He is the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in biblical studies in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Smith earned her Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard University, Master of Divinity from Howard University School of Divinity, Master of Arts from Ohio State University and bachelor’s degree from Columbia Union College.

She answered the call to ministry in 1980 and has been preaching since 1982 in churches and prisons in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, Massachusetts and Virginia. She moved to the Detroit area in March 2006 to accept a position as assistant professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary’s Detroit Center. She has since been promoted to professor and teaches introductory courses in both testaments, theology of scripture in ministry, womanist/African American/postcolonial criticisms, Acts, Luke, and both biblical Hebrew and Greek languages, among others. She has written and co-edited books and is currently working on two other book projects.

Dr. Smith has served as executive minister at the Oak Grove AME Church in Detroit, youth pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Southeast D.C., and an elder in the Bladensburg and First SDA churches in the Maryland/D.C. areas. She is the first African-American female to earn a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard.

Dr. Waters earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from Fuller Theological Seminary.

In addition to serving as associate dean for the School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University, he serves as a professor in the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies. His areas of expertise include New Testament and early Christian literature, the book of Revelation and other apocalyptic literature, Second Temple Judaism and the Greco-Roman world, biblical and Christian ethics, the personalities of Jesus and Paul, and African-American religious thought and history.

He is a licensed and ordained minister in the Missionary Baptist Church and also served as a pastor in the Methodist Church for 28 years.

The Jones Lectures in New Testament Studies were established in 2008 in order to enable theology students to hear the finest New Testament scholars in the world during the course of their studies at McAfee. The lecture series was made possible by a gift from the Rev. Peter Rhea Jones and his wife, Ellen. He is professor of New Testament and preaching at McAfee and served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Decatur for 21 years.

About the School of Theology

The Mercer University School of Theology, named for James and Carolyn McAfee, who provided the founding gift for the School, forms Christian leaders whose practice and scholarship, empowered by their passion for God and neighbor, change lives and transform communities. The School accomplishes this mission by: 1) integrating spirituality with service through: practicing spiritual disciplines that nurture us for Christian service; embracing ethnic, gender and theological diversity to enhance our spiritual growth and moral formation; creating opportunities to learn in community, experience transformation and risk action; 2) integrating theological inquiry with prophetic vision through interpreting the story of the Christian faith through sacred scriptures and traditions; connecting faith to global contexts in ways that engage personal, communal and political realities; critiquing the structures of our society from an informed prophetic voice; 3) integrating worship with witness through celebrating God’s presence in worship as the source of the Church’s call to community and global transformation; reading cultural contexts to create holistic strategies for ministry; proclaiming the love of God in Jesus Christ through dialogue and in partnership with others. For more information, visit