Collaboration: Engaging a theological degree in our world today

Written by Rhea Panela
October 30, 2018

The School of Theology and Ministry invited three leaders in the Greater Northwest area to speak at the first Collaboration: Engaging a theological degree in our world today panel on October 22. Each panelist comes from a different faith background and a broad range of professional and philanthropic experiences. The purpose of the panel was to join these leaders together to open a discussion based on specific challenges in society they would like to address. After remarks from the three panelists, participants were asked to discuss among themselves what it means to engage a theological degree in today’s contemporary context. Rev. Dr. Mark Hearn, Director of Contextual Education and Assistant Clinical Professor of Contextual Education & Ministry, facilitated the event.

CollaborationScreenCap.00_00_22_13.Still004-300pxThe first panelist, Rev. Shalom Agtarap, is the Associate Director of Innovation for a New Church at Pacific Northwest United Methodist Conference. She spent almost a decade as a United Methodist pastor after obtaining her Master of Divinity degree at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. Her current responsibilities include facilitating vitality work in existing and emerging faith communities within the Greater Northwest area, primarily through community organizing.

Rev. Agtarap comes from a family of immigrants, and she describes that the pain she feels about the current immigration system led her to her vocation. Her interest in social justice led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Law, Societies, and Justice as well as a minor in Japanese Language and Culture at the University of Washington prior to her Master of Divinity degree.

About her vocation, Rev. Agtarap says, “We are pilgrims. We go where we serve.”

CollaborationScreenCap.00_00_06_08.Still005-300pxLike Rev. Shalom Agtarap, Collaboration’s second panelist, Rev. Bianca Davis-Lovelace, entered her vocation inspired by issues that hit close to home. For Rev. Davis-Lovelace, police brutality personally affected her. Sandra Bland, whose arrest and death went viral in 2015, was her sorority sister. Rev. Davis-Lovelace found her passions for ministry rooted in social justice.

She is an ordained United Church of Christ Minister who also currently serves as the Executive Director at Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech from Jackson State University and a Master of Arts Management degree with a focus in Nonprofit Management from Columbia College Chicago in 2010. Three years later, she received her Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary.

At first, Rev. Davis-Loveless thought she could not bring her “authentic self” to ministry, and so she took some time away to find her own niche in the church. She went on to serve as an HIV/AIDS early intervention specialist and health educator for Chicago Cook County Health and Hospital Systems and was a fellow for the Black Theology and Leadership Institute.

“Just as much as I am a minister, I am an activist,” Rev. Davis-Lovelace says.

CollaborationScreenCap.00_00_46_07.Still006-300pxThe third speaker at the “Collaboration” panel was Mr. David Wertheimer, the Director of Community and Civic Engagement at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mr. Wertheimer is a native of New York City and a graduate of Yale University Divinity School where he earned his Master of Divinity degree. He also has a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Connecticut.

Prior to moving to Washington State, Mr. Wertheimer served as a New York City human rights commissioner. He has almost four decades of experience in the non-profit, government, education, and philanthropic sectors focused on problem areas such as family homelessness, early learning, and barriers in education.

His previous roles included serving as former co-chair of the Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Task Force, the past board president of Funders Together to End Homelessness, and working for the King County Department of Community and Human Services. What ties all of his work together is the passion for philanthropy work. “The most important thing we do is speaking truth to power,” Mr. Wertheimer says.

The next Collaboration panel will take place on Monday, January 28 at 12:00 p.m. If you are interested in attending the event, please contact the Contextual Education program at or (206) 296-5330 to request an invitation.