Joy J. Moore

A Working Preacher

Joy J. Moore is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and on September 1, 2020 moves into the role of Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean at Luther Seminary.

Before joining Luther Seminary as an Associate Professor of Biblical Preaching in July 2019, she served as Associate Dean for African American Church Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and established the William E. Pannell Center for African American Church Studies.  Prior to that, Joy was Associate Dean for Church Relations and Associate Dean for Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School and pastored a historic African American United Methodist congregation in Flint, Michigan.

She shares, “I had the privilege of being spiritually formed in a small non-denominational congregation on the southside of Chicago. Rather than Christianity as an accolade or reward, we were taught the responsibility as Christians to be ambassadors for Christ. My maternal grandmother was ordained in the Baptist Church, so, as a pre-teen, I began my aspirations to be a minister. Of course, when I began high school, it became clear that planning to be a preacher compromised my capacity to be popular – so I attempted to renegotiate the call as Teacher rather than Preacher.”  That vocational alteration led Joy to a BA with a double major in Mathematics and Elementary Education.  Dr. Moore jokes that she taught sixth grade in math in an attempt to avoid a call to pastoral ministry.

While teaching in a Chicago suburb, Joy realized that getting sixth-graders ready for Algebra was not the most significant thing she had to offer, so she joined the ministerial staff of the Baptist church she attended. Her pastor required that staff members enroll in Seminary.  Joy says, “It was at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary that I recognized my theological perspective was Wesleyan.“

While pastoring in West Michigan, Joy came to love the parish and expected to remain there. Before being invited to a staff position at Asbury Theological Seminary, Joy served with Les Longden, a John Wesley Scholar, who teased out the scholar in her. Demonstrating the practical theologian as pastor challenged Joy to give an account for what she believed from Scripture in such a way as to call local congregations to recognize their vocation of glorifying God as a peaceable community—practicing hope, hospitality, and honesty.

When Les Longden talked about the John Wesley Fellowship, he talked about the Christmas Conference and the privilege of sitting down with Wesleyan scholars like Billy Abraham, Richard Hays, and Ben Witherington – he never mentioned that there was a scholarship component attached.  It was Joel B. Green, a John Wesley Fellow and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary who made her aware of the financial support through the Fellowship if she sought to complete doctoral studies.

When asked what it means to be a Wesleyan scholar, Joy shares, “I like to describe John Wesley as an opposable thinker – one who is able to hold two opposing ideas together with integrity to offer an alternative that is more both/and, than either/or. His practice and teaching of: individual conversion and accountable discipleship; social holiness evident as personal transformation with communal impact; the primacy of Scripture while well-versed in the philosophies and writings available to his contemporaries; and, leading by enabling others to find their sphere of influence, has shaped my understanding of the preaching scholar. “

AFTE seeks scholars to join the Fellowship who are interested in a focus on church renewal.  Reflecting on this key attribute of the Fellowship, Joy says, “It is so easy to forget that the reason for theological education is to prepare Christian leaders empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve in the world.  As AFTE scholars keep this focus – of scholarship for the sake of the church – we continue the role of Jesus’ disciples to create an environment where seekers can experience the living God. Increasingly this is difficult as our denomination, like our society, segregates into the very divisions that Paul challenged in ancient Rome and Greece.  As a woman casted as Black in 21st century America, I find no evidence of hope outside of the biblical mandate for every nation and every tribe to find our identity as those who practice justice, favor mercy, and live so that the Creator-Covenanting God is glorified.  I teach preaching and serve the academy because the good news proclaimed in a Christian reading of Scripture is that in our God-given diversity, we can find our true community as spirit-filled reflections of the God made known in Jesus.”

Joy has found her community among the John Wesley Fellows.  Gathering each year for the Christmas Conference has been one of the most life-giving events of each year. Together we journey with Ph.D. students through their post-graduate work, first jobs, promotion, meeting their spouse’s, watching their families grow, grieving loss, illness, death, disappointment, and celebrating retirement, all while making it possible for others to participate. This seems to be precisely what the gathering of Christ-followers as Church is supposed to be.

Joy has focused on cross-racial ministry in urban, rural and suburban congregations.  She is an “ecclesial storyteller” who seeks to encourage theologically framed, biblically attentive, and socially compelling interpretations of Christian scripture in order to understand the critical issues influencing community formation in contemporary culture.  (all that means is she tells community-forming stories from the Bible as a follower of Christ!).

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