Advisory Board

Serene Jones

The President and Johnston Family Professor for Religion and Democracy at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York

A highly respected scholar and public intellectual, the  Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is the 16th President of the historic Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. The first woman to head the 180-year-old institution, Jones occupies the Johnston Family Chair for Religion and Democracy. She is also currently the President of the American Academy of Religion, which annually hosts the world’s largest gathering of scholars of religion. Jones came to Union after seventeen years at Yale University, where she was the Titus Street Professor of Theology at the Divinity School, and Chair of the University’s Program in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. The author of several books including Trauma and Grace, Jones, a popular public speaker, is sought by media to comment on major issues impacting society because of her deep grounding in theology, politics, women’s studies, economics, history, and ethics.

Euan Cameron

Henry Luce III Professor of Reformation Church History

Euan Cameron was educated at Eton and Oxford, where he graduated BA in History in the First Class in 1979 and received the D.Phil. in 1982. From 1979 to 1985 he was a junior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. In 1985 he moved to the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where he worked in the Department of History for 17 years, receiving promotions to Reader (1992) and full Professor (1997) and serving as Head of Department. He was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in 1996/7. In 2002 he was appointed as the first Henry Luce III Professor of Reformation Church History at Union Theological Seminary in New York, with a concurrent appointment in the Department of Religion in Columbia University. From 2004 to 2010 he also served as Academic Vice-President in the seminary. During 2010/11, while on sabbatical leave, he held a fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford.

Prof. Cameron’s scholarly work analyses the role and transformations of religion in European society in the later Middle Ages and Reformation periods. His academic research first began in the area of religious dissent, especially the Waldensian heresy: he has published two books on that subject, The Reformation of the Heretics (1984) and Waldenses: Rejections of Holy Church in Medieval Europe (2000) and is editing a collaborative volume on this subject, contracted to Brill Publishers, in collaboration with Professor Marina Benedetti of the University of Milan.

In 1991 he published his analytical history of the Protestant Reformation movements in Europe, The European Reformation, which remains in print and widely used. A fully revised and updated second edition of this book appeared in 2012. He also investigates the relationship between theology and popular belief through the debates over “superstition” from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment: in this area he has published Enchanted Europe: Superstition, Reason and Religion 1250-1750 (hardback 2010; paperback 2011). This work reviews how the debates over “superstition” helped to define the nature and boundaries of religious belief through several centuries of dramatic change.

Professor Cameron’s current research explores how Biblical and theological concerns informed and shaped historical thought in the Later Middle Ages and the Reformation era. He has completed a chapter on ‘The Bible and the Early Modern Sense of History’ for the third volume of the New Cambridge History of the Bible, which he is editing for Cambridge University Press. For 2014-2015 Cameron holds a Henry Luce III Fellowship in Theology to work on a project entitled “The Biblical View of World History 1250-1750: Rise, Refinement and Decline”, and is on sabbatical leave for the current academic year.

Professor Cameron is also a volume editor for the Annotated Study Edition of the Works of Martin Luther, in preparation with Augsburg Fortress Press: he is editing volume 6, on Luther’s writings on the Bible.

In addition, he has edited two survey volumes on European History in the early modern period (c. 1500-c. 1800), the widely adopted college text Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History (1999) and The Sixteenth Century, in the series Short Oxford History of Europe (2006) which has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Polish.

He has also published over 40 articles and chapters, and regularly contributes to the standard works of reference in Church History. He regularly lectures around the US as well as in Britain and Europe. He has appeared on television and radio in the UK and US, including appearances on the series Millennium Minds, for Channel 4 Television (1999), the frequently re-broadcast Lion Television / PBS mini-series Martin Luther (2002) and Lord Bragg’s series on the history of ideas, In Our Time, BBC Radio 4 (2002). More recently he has been interviewed for CBS, OWN, Showtime and ABC as well as numerous production companies.

Prof. Cameron takes very seriously the relationship between faith commitments and historical insights. In 2005 he published his personal account of the relationship between history and faith, Interpreting Christian History: The Challenge of the Churches’ Past. He was ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church of the USA in March 2014, and Priest on September 27th 2014. Following his ordination as priest he will serve in part-time parish ministry within the city of New York, especially at his home parish of the Church of the Heavenly Rest.

John A. McGuckin

Ane Marie and Bent Emil Nielsen Professor in Late Antique and Byzantine Christian History & Professor of Byzantine Christian Studies, Columbia University

John Anthony McGuckin is the Nielsen Professor of History at Union Theological Seminary, and Professor of Byzantine Religion at Columbia University. He is an Archpriest of the Orthodox Church, and over 30 years has taught in numerous European and American University settings. He is a specialist in early medieval Christian thought and history who has published 25 books on topics ranging from  New Testament history to Byzantine mysticism; several of which have won awards. He has long followed a special interest in the culture of monasticism. Prof. McGuckin is  a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of Great Britain, and the recipient of the Romanian Order of St. Stephen, the Cross of Moldavia and Bukovina. He is the recipient of Honorary Doctorates from St. Vladimir’s Academy, and Sibiu University.

John J. Thatamanil

Associate Professor of Theology and World Religions

John J. Thatamanil teaches a wide variety of courses in the areas of comparative theology, theologies of religious diversity, Hindu-Christian dialogue, the theology of Paul Tillich, theory of religion, and process theology. He is committed to the work of comparative theology—theology that learns from and with a variety of traditions. A central question that drives his work is, “How can Christian communities come to see religious diversity as a promise rather than as a problem?” He is also an passionate but irregular practitioner of vipassana meditation and includes time for meditation in virtually all of his courses at Union.

Professor Thatamanil’s first book is an exercise in constructive comparative theology. The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicament. An East-West Conversation provides the foundation for a nondualist Christian theology worked out through a conversation between Paul Tillich and Sankara, the master teacher of the Hindu tradition of Advaita Vedanta.

He is currently completing his second book, The Promise of Religious Diversity: Constructive Theology After Religion (Fordham University Press). That book takes up the recent and extensive literature on the Western construction/invention of the category “religion” with the following questions in mind: If “religion” is a relatively recent invention of the modern West, then is the category applicable to non-Western cultures and traditions? Can we really divide the world up into a set of discrete world religions? If it is problematic to talk of “race relations” now that we know that race is a construct, a biological fiction, does it still make sense to talk of interreligious dialogue if “religion” too is likewise a fiction? Does it still make sense to ask if the world’s “religions” are paths up the same mountain or paths up different mountains? How should theologies of religious diversity be reconfigured in light of these new questions and challenges?

He has also begun research and writing toward a third book, Theology Without Borders: Religious Diversity and Theological Method. The central question for that book is this: if the theologian is one who thinks from and for a particular religious tradition, then how can comparative theologians seek to learn from traditions other than their own? Should they?

Professor Thatamanil is a past-president of the North American Paul Tillich Society (NAPTS) and the founding Chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Theological Education Committee. He is a frequent lecturer in churches, colleges and universities both nationally and internationally. He also co-edits (with Dr. Loye Ashton) a book series for Fordham University Press on “Comparative Theology: Thinking Across Traditions.” He blogs periodically for The Huffington Post and other online publications and has published editorials in The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.

William Cavanaugh

Senior Research Professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

William Cavanaugh is professor of Catholic studies and director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, a research center housed in the Department of Catholic Studies and focusing on the Catholic Church in the global South—Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He did his undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame, where he planned to study chemical engineering but got hooked on theology. He received a master’s degree from Cambridge University in England and then spent two years working for the Church in a poor area of Santiago, Chile, under the military dictatorship. Upon returning to the United States, he got a PhD from Duke University, and then taught at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota for 15 years before coming to DePaul. He is married and have three sons.

William Cavanaugh’s major areas of research have to do with the Church’s encounter with social, political, and economic realities. He is especially interested in the social implications of traditional Catholic beliefs and practices, such as the Eucharist. He has authored six books and edited three more; his books and articles have been published in 10 languages. He has dealt with themes of the Church’s social and political presence in situations of violence and economic injustice. He is currently working on a book on secularization and idolatry, exploring the ways in which a supposedly disenchanted Western society remains enchanted by nationalism, consumerism, and cults of celebrity.

William Cavanaugh’s teaching has been at the level of introducing students to the Catholic tradition. He tries to teach in an interdisciplinary way, showing the riches and challenges of the Catholic tradition through art, theology, scripture, music, poetry, history, novels, and so on. Some of the more specialized courses he has taught include courses on Christianity and consumer culture, and a course on Latin American theology. One of his favorite courses to teach is a first-year Discover Chicago course entitled “Global Catholicism in Story and Stone.” During Immersion Week, he and his staff take students to ethnic Catholic churches in Chicago: Polish, Irish, Chinese, Mexican, African American, etc. We tell the story of immigrant Catholicism in Chicago through history and theology, but especially through art and architecture.

Conrad Fischer

Associate Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Pharmacology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Touro College of Medicine.

Reverend Dr. Fischer is the residency program director in Internal Medicine for 100 trainees at Brookdale University Medical Center in Brooklyn. He is Vice-Chair of Medicine and Chair of the institution’s Ethics Committee. He is ordained as an Interfaith Minister. Dr. Fischer is board certified in both internal medicine and infectious diseases. He is the author of 15 textbooks of medicine with 250,000 copies in print.

His work at Union explores the life-cycle of religious violence using the same methodologies put to work at stopping the life-cycle of HIV.


David Cook

Associate Professor, Rice University Department of Religion. He received undergraduate degrees at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and his PhD from the University of Chicago.

David Cook’s interests include the study of early Islam, Muslim apocalyptic literature and movements for radical social change, dreams, historical astronomy, Judeo-Arabic literature and West African Islam.

His most recent books are Understanding Jihad and Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature. He is currently working on a book on the theme of Islamic martyrdom for Cambridge University Press, and has published on the subject of martyrdom operations.

In the future, Cook intends to work on the understudied subject of West African Islam, focusing on the vast Arabic literature of sub-Saharan Africa (especially in Nigeria). Other future projects include finishing the trilogy of apocalyptic works (Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic, on classical apocalyptic beliefs; and Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature being the first two in the series) with a work on the apocalyptic and millenarian foundations of Muslim civilizations. Hopefully this will be the beginning of the serious study of the role which apocalyptic and radical social movements have played in Islamic history.

Selected Publications:

  • Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic. Darwin Press, Princeton 2003, in the series “Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam.”
  • Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005.
  • Understanding Jihad, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
  • Martyrdom in Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Understanding and Addressing Suicide Attacks (with Olivia Allison). Greenwood: Praeger Press, 2007.