Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade, Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary, has been named President of the Academy of Homiletics (AOH) for the 2024 term.
The Academy was founded in 1965 and now has nearly 300 members spanning every corner of the globe. Homiletics is the study of writing and preaching sermons, and membership in the AOH is open to teachers and doctoral graduate students of homiletics. LTS is a sponsor of the AOH.
“This is a very collegial guild, very supportive,” Dr. Schade said. She has been involved with the Academy since 2010, starting when she was a PhD student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (now United Lutheran Seminary), where she also earned her MDiv. She was elected as second vice president of the AOH in 2021 and served in that capacity in 2022. In 2023 she served as first vice president, which allowed her to prepare for the time when she would become President.
Dr. Schade’s theme for her tenure is “Preaching Builds Bridges.” Since 2019, when the Academy’s theme was “Unmasking Homiletical Whiteness,” the guild has made a concerted effort to critically look at whiteness and how it has dictated the way preaching is taught. “Our members have made considerable efforts to be more expansive and inclusive in the ways that they teach preaching,” Dr. Schade said.
The theme for 2024 takes up the mantle. “We want to build bridges, especially to historically underrepresented groups, to bring them from the margins to the mainstream and allow them to bring us the questions, observations, and recommendations they have for building bridges,” Dr. Schade said.
She is also working with the Executive Committee to introduce a robust online platform to help the AOH build bridges within the organization. “During Covid, we met for two years in a row online,” Dr. Schade explained. “In 2022 and 2023, we were back to meeting in person, and that was wonderful, but it makes it difficult for our international members, those who have disabilities, and those who do not have institutional support for travel and lodging to come to in-person meetings. At least for this year, we’re going to meet in an online platform to build bridges of access and equity.”
In order to maintain collegiality when not meeting in person, the online hub will allow members to connect with each other throughout the year, Dr. Schade said. Because of her experience with LTS’s primarily online curriculum, she is familiar and comfortable with the nuances of creating an online community and looks forward to helping the AOH create their hub.
“LTS has definitely prepared me well for stepping into this role and thinking in innovative ways about how to connect collegially and beyond the academy,” she said.
The new platform will enable the AOH to do livestream webinars and even offer some online courses for its members. One of the webinars will be “Building Bridges within the Multilingual Homiletics Classroom.” “Many homeliticians have students in their classroom for whom English is not their primary language, and we don’t always know how best to create a good pedagogical setting where they feel their gifts are welcome,” Dr. Schade said. “We plan to equip our members with ideas, strategies, and practical things to help them in their work.”
A second webinar will include a panel discussion on building bridges in the midst of disabilities, and the third will focus on preaching in a climate-changed world, a subject that Dr. Schade said is “close to my heart.” She is the EcoPreacher blogger for Patheos and was instrumental in leading the Green Task Force at LTS during its process of becoming the first Green Chalice Certified Seminary.
During the AOH’s annual meeting, plenaries will include building bridges within the LBGTQIA community as well as building bridges to preachers in non-traditional contexts, such as itinerant preaches, lay preachers who don’t have formal theological training, and chaplains. “We need to think about building bridges beyond our academy to listen to those preachers about what it’s like for them and also give them access to the scholarship and the learning that we can offer,” Dr. Schade said.
Dr. Schade has been at LTS since 2016. She has pastored congregations in suburban, urban, and rural contexts in Pennsylvania and Kentucky. She is the author of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015) and Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), which explores how clergy and congregations can address controversial social issues using nonpartisan, biblically centered approaches and deliberative dialogue. She is co-author, along with her LTS colleagues Dr. Jerry Sumney and Dr. Emily Askew, of Introduction to Preaching: Scripture, Theology, and Sermon Preparation (Rowman & Littlefield, 2023). She has been a featured speaker for the Festival of Homiletics and leads workshops and retreats and keynotes events across the country. She directed a Wabash grant that explored the use of deliberative dialogue and preaching in congregations and theological education.
An ardent advocate for faith-based climate and environmental activism, Dr. Schade has partnered with organizations such as ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow, the BTS Center, Creation Justice Ministries, and the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development to create resources and programming to support clergy preaching about environmental issues. She is also co-founder of the Clergy Emergency League, a network of more than 2,600 pastors throughout the United States who provide support, accountability, resources, and networking for clergy to prophetically minister in their congregations and the public square in this time of political upheaval, social unrest, and partisan division.
“Dr. Schade is a gifted teacher, researcher, and preacher, and Lexington Theological Seminary fully supports her leadership as President of the AOH,” said LTS President Dr. Charisse Gillett.