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Scholar of theology, race joins University of Dayton faculty as Spearin Chair

By Meagan Pant

Joseph Flipper has traveled to Chile to study Catholic social thought as a Fulbright scholar, delved into the life of a man who led a spiritual resistance against the Nazi regime, and witnessed the religious nature of protests that followed the shooting death of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville, Kentucky.

“The common thread in my research,” Flipper said, “is ecclesiology, or understanding the Church, and how that is shifting through different cultural contexts.”

A nationally recognized scholar of Black Catholicism in America, race and religion, and 20th-century Catholic theology; Flipper joined the University of Dayton faculty in fall 2021. He is the Mary Ann Spearin Endowed Chair in Catholic Theology, an important position at the University for a professor making significant contributions to the religious studies field.

Flipper brings his scholarship to bear on some of the most pressing issues of contemporary life, particularly those concerning race and racism in its global context, said Sandra Yocum, religious studies professor and chair of the Spearin chair search committee.

“To be able to work with and learn from Dr. Flipper highlights the exciting opportunities offered to students, faculty and staff in religious and theological studies at the University of Dayton,” Yocum said. “We truly are a lively learning community engaged at the intersections of Catholic theological traditions and contemporary life. In other words, Dr. Flipper's scholarship, teaching and service is at the very heart of UD's commitment to enlarging and integrating our understanding of Catholic intellectual traditions in responding to the signs of the times.”

The breadth and depth of his theological perspective and interest is evident in his current projects, said Yocum, the University Professor of Faith and Culture. Those include his forthcoming book, Theological Terrain: Geography and Ecclesiology in Twentieth-Century Catholicism, which demonstrates his global focus. 

Flipper also has a deep commitment to engaged learning in the classroom and community involvement. In his new role, he will mentor doctoral and master’s students.

“I was drawn to the University of Dayton for the opportunity to connect with the graduate and Ph.D. programs, where I can make an impact,” he said. “I was also drawn to the faculty, especially Neomi DeAnda and Cecilia Moore, who are doing amazing work. I have looked up to them as models for doing teaching and research with a passion for the community in which they work.”

Flipper, who was previously at Bellarmine University, holds a doctorate in religious studies from Marquette University; a master’s of theology from the University of Dallas; and a bachelor’s in philosophy from Franciscan University.

He is author of Between Apocalypse and Eschaton: History and Eternity in Henri de Lubac; was awarded a Ford fellowship for his study in Chile; and serves on the Committee for Underrepresented Ethnic and Racial Groups at the Catholic Theological Society of America. 

He holds a joint appointment with the Department of Religious Studies and Race and Ethnic Studies program.

Photo: College of Arts and Sciences Dean Jason Pierce (left) with Dr. Joseph Flipper.

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