Virginia Theological Seminary awards five Honorary Doctorates degrees

October 4, 2006

At the annual Academic Convocation of the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) on October 3, 2006, honorary doctorates were conferred upon five distinguished recipients that included three bishops, the Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, and a lay musician and composer. The degrees were awarded by Bishop Peter J. Lee of Virginia, chairman of the Board of Trustees of VTS. Information about the degree conferees follows:

Betty Carr Pulkingham, musician, composer, and founder of The Community of Celebration, studied professional music at the University of Texas in Austin and the Eastman School of Music. Her marriage to the Rev. Graham Pulkingham provided the foundation for a shared ministry that transformed the Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas, from a nearly defunct inner-city parish in 1963 into a congregation with an average weekly attendance of 2,200 by 1972. In the early 1970s, Pulkingham worked with her husband to establish The Community of Celebration, a religious community of men and women, which continues its work today in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Her adaptations of South African tunes into the well-known Freedom Mass, as well as the many other musical compositions she created, continue to enrich our Church's song today.

The Rt. Rev. Jacob Erasto Chillingo Chimeledya, bishop coadjutor of Mpapwa in Tanzania, committed his life to Christ at the age of 17 at an open air meeting in 1974. Chimeledya holds a degree in health care administration from the Institute of Development Management in Mzumbe Morogoro, Tanzania. Chimeledya then attended St. Paul's United Theological College in Limuru, Kenya, and graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1996, the same year in which he was ordained. In 2003, Chimeledya received the Masters in Theological Studies from Virginia Theological Seminary. In 2005, Chimeledya was consecrated bishop coadjutor of Mpapwa, where he leads, preaches, teaches, and ministers in a rural, vibrant community widely spread out among the hills of central Tanzania.

The Rt. Rev. Suheil S. Dawani, Palestinian Christian and bishop, descended from a Greek Orthodox family and was raised an Anglican on the West Bank of the Jordan in the city of Nablus. He has served congregations in Bir Zeit, Ramallah, Haifa, Beirut, and Jerusalem. In 1986, Dawani was awarded the degree of Master in Theological Studies from Virginia Theological Seminary. At every campsite along his life's journey Dawani has reached out to cooperate with his neighbors. In Ramallah he persuaded the various Christian congregations to agree on common dates for commemorating the mysteries of shared faith. In Haifa he helped organize Clergy for Peace, a group composed of grassroots leaders from communities too often at odds: Christian, Muslim, Druze, Orthodox, and Reform. Through his work, he has offered and accepted the hand of peace.

The Rev. Bruce B. Lawrence, Ph.D., the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of Religion at Duke University, graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, from the Episcopal Divinity School, and from Yale University where he was awarded a Ph.D. degree with a focus on Islam and Hinduism. Lawrence, an Episcopal priest and an expert on Islam, also speaks with an authoritative voice on Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. A member of the faculty at Duke University since 1971, Lawrence's genius can be found in his efforts to reconnect the turbulent religious worlds of the East and West. His critically acclaimed books and award-winning books include "Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt against the Modern Age," and "Shattering the Myth: Islam beyond Violence." In a recent book, "Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden," Lawrence translated al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's writings and analyzed more than 20 of his speeches and interviews.

The Very Rev. Samuel Thames Lloyd, dean of Washington National Cathedral, is a native of Mississippi. After graduating from "Ole Miss" in 1971, Lloyd served for three years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, received an M.A. from Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, both in English literature. Lloyd's Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1981 was followed more recently by an honorary degree from the University of the South, where he currently serves as a member of the Board of Regents. Lloyd's remarkable career has taken him to Charlottesville, Virginia, as assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and assistant to the Rector at St. Paul's Memorial Church; to Chicago, as rector of St. Paul and the Redeemer, serving a diverse congregation in the inner city; to "the Mountain" at Sewanee as chaplain to the University of the South; and to Boston as rector of the historic Trinity Church, Copley Square. In 2005, Lloyd was formally installed as the Ninth Dean of Washington National Cathedral.

Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church and was founded in 1823. The school prepares men and women, representing all eight of the domestic provinces of the Episcopal Church, as well as students from several different provinces and countries within the Anglican Communion, for service in the Church, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas.