Meet Truett's Newest Faculty: Angela Gorrell, PhD
Assistant Professor of Practical Theology
Angela Gorrell joined Truett in August 2019. She is a prolific author, researcher, and practitioner who engages students in innovative thinking about youth and family ministry.
Q: What do you bring to the classroom from your background in youth ministry, particularly as Truett looks to expand its youth ministry initiatives?
Gorrell: I have a bachelor’s degree in Youth Ministry and a Master of Divinity with focused courses in family and youth ministry, as well as 14 years of experience in congregational and parachurch ministry. I am passionate about intergenerational worship, discipleship and mentoring, partnering with parents, and training adults in adolescent development and faith formation so that the work of discipling teenagers and emerging adults is shared. I hope to bring my education and experiences into classroom discussions and inspire students to attend to the multiple dimensions of youth and family ministry. I want to offer students concrete ways to serve youth in church — and beyond — by partnering with the entire congregation. I aim to create space for students to imagine, innovate, and nurture new ways of caring about young people in their communities.
Q: What is your typical leadership style in the classroom with students?
Gorrell: I aim to create healthy learning communities that welcome vulnerability. This requires vulnerability on the part of me and the students. I encourage students to share their questions, confusions, passions, and longings and to tell their stories because the lives of those present are vital to teaching and learning. As students learn to embrace vulnerability and share who they are and learn from one another, my hope is that students feel not just part of a course, but part of a community.
desire for students to believe their insights and experiences are valued and that they belong. I try to inspire students to relate what they are learning to how they are living and will live and to name concrete ways their learning can be embodied in their future work and daily lives. Students should finish a course having developed articulacy regarding new ideas as well as having discovered actions and practices they can engage in.
Q: How will you work to include diverse voices into the curriculum of the class?
Gorrell: Addressing issues of diversity requires including course material from a variety of perspectives. Whenever I create a course syllabus, I try to make sure the required materials celebrate cognitive diversity, which then creates space for compelling dialogue among texts and the learning community. This means intentionally pursuing and choosing course materials that include voices from and attention to themes regarding a variety of racial, ethnic, ability, socioeconomic, cultural, and gender standpoints.
Engaging students in case studies and the arts are other excellent ways to help students attend to issues of diversity. Case studies create holding environments so that students can more easily empathize with another perspective. The arts have a unique way of massaging the imagination with new possibilities. It is also helpful to be able to take students into diverse environments when possible. In order to discuss particular themes, I have taught students on the sidewalk, in a planetarium, on a hike, around a table of food and so on.
Q: Why is it important for both women and men students at Truett to have women professors?
Gorrell: The Bible sets a powerful precedent for the seminary and the church regarding women. Miriam, a prophet, innovatively saved Moses’ life. Esther saved her people from destruction. The women at Jesus’ tomb were the first to testify about the resurrection. The Bible demonstrates that God specifically chooses women and invites them to participate in what God is doing.
Without seminary students who are trained to extend such invitations as God has and does, the church suffers. Given that more than half of students’ congregants will be women and they will need them to serve and lead in various ministries of churches, it is crucial for students to be given opportunities to think about how to minister to women, create space for women’s voices, and encourage women during seminary. Of course, male professors can do this work, but it is vital that part of this work is done by women given that one’s standpoint gives shape to how they perceive and experience the world.
This perception and experience are important for teaching and learning. As a female pastor, I will share experiences related to being a woman in ministry and provide an example to Truett’s students of a woman that is engaged in shaping congregational life, preaching, teaching, and leading. For some students, I have been and will be the first female pastor they have ever known personally or heard preach. I will also offer Truett students examples of moments when I have experienced the church to be a difficult place to exist and serve, simply because I am a woman. I hope my experiences will help students to overcome similar difficulties and also assist students in creating welcoming spaces in their ministries for female voices.