Winston-Salem resident establishes new WFU Divinity School lectureship

Winston-Salem resident Sylva Billue has pledged $20,000 to establish the Phyllis Trible Lectures at Wake Forest University Divinity School. The lecture series is named in honor of Phyllis Trible, University Professor of Biblical Studies at the Divinity School, who became one of the school’s first faculty members before its opening in 1999.

Billue, who describes herself as a “perennial student,” has participated in several classes in the Divinity School and in the women’s studies program at Wake Forest. She says she has chosen to help create the lecture series because it is a fitting way to honor Trible, a pioneer in the text-based exploration of women and gender in scripture. Billue says she believes the lecture series is an effective way to expose the Wake Forest community to feminist theology, an area that seldom gets adequate national attention.

“I have always thought that it is very important for students to be exposed to the best,” Billue said. “Phyllis Trible is the best, and she will bring in the best speakers in the area of feminist theology. Her work has reached a very broad audience, not only within the academic community but also in the lay community as well. I think it is time that she is honored for her extensive work.”

The $20,000 gift is intended to help fund the lecture series for the next 10 years. Billue, who served on the College Board of Visitors at Wake Forest from 1992 to 1996, says that during that time, she hopes, with additional monetary support from diverse and generous donors, the event will grow into one of the nation’s leading conferences on feminist religious perspectives.

The inaugural Trible Lectures are scheduled for March 18-19, and the theme for the series is “Feminist and Womanist Religious Perspectives.”

Carol Myers, the Mary Grace Wilson Professor of Religion at Duke University, will speak on the subject of biblical studies; Margaret Farley, the Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics at Yale University Divinity School, will discuss the topic of medical ethics; and Katie Cannon, the Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Education at Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education, will address the subject of womanist theology. The Wake Forest women’s studies program, religion department, philosophy department and Multicultural Affairs office, as well as the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Bioethics Task Force will join with the Divinity School in sponsoring the event.

Lu Leake, a former Wake Forest administrator, and Jill Crainshaw, associate dean for vocational formations at the Divinity School, are co-chairwomen of the lecture series organizing committee.

Leake says that because Trible started her career at Wake Forest and initially taught at the university from 1963 to 1971, it is appropriate that the institution host an event that honors her life-long contribution to biblical scholarship and feminist theology.

Trible graduated magna cum laude from Meredith College in 1954, then attended Union Theological Seminary. In 1963, she earned her doctorate from Union and Columbia University. She served as the Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature at Union Theological Seminary from 1981 until joining the Divinity School in 1998. The Wake Forest Board of Trustees elected Trible a University Professor in 2002.

Internationally known as a Hebrew scholar and rhetorical critic, Trible provided expert commentary for Bill Moyer’s public television series, “Genesis: A Living Conversation.” She is the author of the books, “God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality,” “Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives” and “Rhetorical Criticism: Context, Method, and the Book of Jonah.”

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