Elon University’s Rebecca Todd Peters, professor of religious studies, and the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty’s (SHECP) governing board chair, has been presented the Walter Wink Scholar-Activist Award from Auburn Seminary, a prestigious honor named for a beloved seminary faculty member.
Peters was presented the award on Monday, Nov. 19, at a reception during the joint meetings of The American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature in Denver.
The late Walter Wink was a member of the faculty at Auburn Seminary for nearly 25 years as well as a renowned author, speaker and activist. Among his best-selling books were “The Powers That Be” and “Jesus and Nonviolence.” He was well-known for his work for peace and nonviolence, and the award is presented annually to someone who builds upon his legacy and shares his vision of a just world.
“Dr. Rebecca Todd Peters embodies the spirit of Walter Wink’s passionate work for justice,” said the Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary. “Dr. Peters’ scholarly leadership on reproductive justice provides faith-based feminist guidance on one of the most important and contentious issues of our times. Her feminism is inspired by her religion and is expressed with the compassion and love too often missing from the abortion debate.”
In her remarks upon receiving the award, Peters remarked, “To be the recipient of such an award exceeds my wildest imagination.” She went on to the dedicate the award, “to all my junior colleagues who struggle against oppressive institutional norms that seek to thwart your work as scholar-activists and to my cloud of witnesses who keep me honest and walk together with me on this journey.”
Peters is the author of “Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice,” published earlier this year by Beacon Press. In the book, her third, Peters writes about the difficult and complicated issues surrounding abortion and other reproductive rights questions in modern society.
“The whole point of reproductive justice is that women should be able to not have children that they don’t want to have, to have the children that they want to have, and raise the children that they do have in a healthy and safe environment,” Peters said. “We have completely misidentified the moral problem at stake. We have a cultural narrative that abortion is the problem. Well, abortion is the solution that women bring to a prior problem and we need to be talking about the problems that then result in women feeling like they need to end their pregnancy.”
Peters began her career at Elon in 2001 as the Distinguished Emerging Scholar of Religious Studies and received the university’s Distinguished Scholar Award in 2012. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Peters has been active denominationally and ecumenically for more than 25 years. She represents the PCUSA as a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.
Earlier this fall, she was selected as a member of the first cohort of public fellows for the Public Religion Research Institute. She is one of eight fellows who will work with PRRI researchers and staff to engage in “data-driven dialogue, thought leadership, commentary and teaching on the interplay of religion, politics and culture,” according to PRRI.
Peters received the Trinity Prize for her first book, “In Search of the Good Life: The Ethics of Globalization,” which was lauded by renowned philosopher and critic Cornel West as “the best treatment of the complex debate on globalization by a religious ethicist now available.”
Peters has edited books on Christianity and social justice from a feminist perspective and published articles on sexuality and post-colonial issues. Peters also has served as chair of the Southeast Commission on the Study of Religion and as president of the American Academy of Religion, Southeast Region.