Emilie M. Townes (born August 1, 1955) is an African-American Christian social ethicist and theologian, currently Dean and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School. She was the first Black woman to be elected president of the American Academy of Religion in 2008. In 2009, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion from 2013-2016. She is the author of the groundbreaking book Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2006). Other books include Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Care and A Womanist Ethic of Care (Continuum, 1998), In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness (Abingdon Press, 1995) and Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope (Scholars Press, 1993). She co-edited Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) with Katie Geneva Cannon and Angela D. Simms. In addition, Religion, Health, and Healing in African American Life (Praeger, 2008) was co-edited by Townes with Stephanie Y. Mitchem.
Townes received the 2015 Pacesetter Award from the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education.
Townes is an ordained American Baptist minister and native of Durham, North Carolina. She holds degrees from the University of Chicago (AB in Religion in the Humanities, AM in Religion, DMn) and from the joint Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary/Northwestern University program (PhD).
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