In celebration of Black History Month, the BST Bulletin asked Dr. Ron Burris, Associate Professor of History, to reflect on the impact that historic African scholars still have on theology today.

Remembering the African Fathers

As an African American scholar, I love teaching students about the North African church fathers; persons like Tertullian, Cyprian and St. Augustine, to name a few. In my first book, “Where is the Church?”, I try and bring understanding regarding the Donatist Church in North Africa, by showing how much of their theology was influenced by Tertullian and St. Cyprian. The history of the Donatist Church and their rivalry with the Roman church is both a sad and encouraging study. Sad, because Christians would persecute other Christians and encouraging because those persecuted Christians would stand strong in the face of such persecutions. Of course, It is my hope today, that we will take the painful lessons of our past and forge a future where tolerance is the norm.

It is a joy to see students elated by their newfound knowledge of church history. In my second book, “Wisdom from Africa”, I offer a thoughtful refection and commentary on St Augustine’s work, the “Confessions” and try to highlight the wisdom of this great African Father. The Confessions of St. Augustine deal with so many aspects of everyday life that it remains one of the most popular religious books to this day and is illustrative of how the African Fathers have much to say to our study of theology today, especially in the African American church.

Although it might not be common knowledge, my first degree was a B.A in Music from UC Davis. As a result, I taught Music in the public school system for over 10 years. I put my music career on hold while I earned a MA in theology and a PhD in Church history. My love of music performance was rekindled when my mother requested that I play my saxophone at her 80th birthday party. Since that time, I have recorded two CDs. My first CD, “Mr. Cool” was dedicated to my late brother, Clint Burris. My second CD, “Shades of Jazz” is out and doing very well on jazz radio, reaching as high as #28 on the JazzWeek national chart and is for sale here. As a pastor, scholar and musician, it is my hope that through the gifts God has given me, I can reach people in positive ways and bring joy to their lives.

Two weeks ago the GTU Board of Trustees unanimously affirmed GTU president Dr. Uriah Kim’s appointment of Dr. Jennifer Davidson, BST tenured professor of theology & worship, to be the next academic dean of the GTU. The search committee started its search in August 2021 and concluded their work at the end of December with unanimous and enthusiastic support of Dr. Davidson. In the words of Dr. Uriah Kim to the GTU Board: “Dr. Davidson has the preparation, the temperament, and the vision to be a stellar dean for the GTU. Her understanding of theological education is deep, and her vision is creative; at the same time, she doesn’t shy away from the administrative details that anchor the work of the Dean. She embodies the emotional intelligence to excel as Dean with the ability to inspire others, work collaboratively, and listen with intent.” To which we say, Amen! We wish to express our congratulations to Dr. Jennifer!

Of course, this is a bittersweet moment for BST, but in the meantime, we invite each of you to congratulate Dr. Jennifer on this appointment when you get the chance and know that we will celebrate her in the coming months, especially at our commencement in May, where she has agreed to be our speaker.

The Public Theology of BST’s own Dr. Valerie Miles-Tribble

Faithe Colene Oestreicher Ledbetter, a long-time American Baptist laywoman and church musician, completed her earthly journey of 91 years at peace and in love, and died on January 19, 2022. She is reunited in death with her husband of 68 years, Jim (BD ’54, DD ’88, former ABC pastor, area minister, and Oregon regional minister), who died a year ago. A devoted Christian servant and church musician with a heart for humanitarian compassion, until two months ago she was able to play by heart many popular hymns in any key on the piano despite having advanced dementia. Faithe and Jim are parents of Karen, Tim (MDiv ‘81), and Greg (MDiv ‘84). Her complete obituary and a recording of the family celebration of Faithe’s life can both be viewed at

Save the Date! Join with Berkeley School of Theology this upcoming fall (delayed a year for Covid) for a weekend of celebration of BST’s 150th anniversary. We will have alumni reunions, a dinner gala, and many other celebratory events. Start making plans now to join us in October!

Turning 72 in 2022? Happy Birthday and a tax-tip for you!

If you’re turning 72 in 2022, you’ll want to be aware of your required minimum distribution (RMD) from your retirement accounts. Your required minimum distribution (RMD) is the minimum amount you must withdraw from your retirement accounts each year. This applies to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), SIMPLE IRAs, and SEP IRAs. Of course, you can give more than your RMD to a charitable organization, like BST, and it has the added tax-advantage of counting toward your Quality Charity Donation (QCD). The QCD regulations allows you, starting at age 70½, to instruct your IRA administrator to direct IRA distributions —up to $100,000 per year — to a qualified 501(c)(3) charity like BST. This process must be initiated by you and your IRA custodian. If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact a BST Advancement team member here.

BST Administration, Faculty, and Staff are available to speak at your next event. Whether you are looking for a sermon, lecture, or lesson, someone from Berkeley School of Theology can provide it for you! For more information or to inquire or book, please email Sam Fielder at

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