[General Theological Seminary press release] The General Theological Seminary has announced that the Very Rev. Michael Battle, Ph.D., has been appointed as the Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society. He will also assume the position of Director of The Desmond Tutu Center. As its new Director, Battle holds a unique connection to The Desmond Tutu Center, having lived in residence with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa for two years (1993-1994) and being ordained a priest in South Africa by Archbishop Tutu in 1993. He also presented the 2008 Paddock Lectures in the Tutu Center at General Seminary on the concept of Ubuntu, an African concept central to Archbishop Tutu’s worldview.
Battle served most recently as Interim Dean of Students and Community Life at the Episcopal Divinity School. He has served as Vicar or Rector at: St. Titus Episcopal Church, Durham, North Carolina; Church of Our Saviour, San Gabriel, California; and St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, Raleigh, North Carolina. He also served as the interim rector or as an associate priest with other churches in North Carolina and in Cape Town, South Africa. As part of some of his placements, he worked at churches located in ethnically changing neighborhoods to help them adapt and grow. Battle also has served as Provost and Canon Theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. In 2010, he was given one of the highest Anglican Church distinctions as “Six Preacher,” by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. A distinction that goes back to 16th century England and Thomas Cranmer and is only given to a few who demonstrate great dedication to the Church.
Battle received his undergraduate degree from Duke University, and holds a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and an S.T.M. from Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in Theology and Ethics also from Duke University. His academic experience includes service as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Vice President and Associate Professor of Theology at Virginia Theological Seminary; Associate Professor of Spirituality and Black Church Studies at Duke University’s Divinity School; and Assistant Professor of Spiritual and Moral Theology in the School of Theology at the University of the South. He has published nine books, including Reconciliation: the Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu and the book for The Episcopal Church’s General Convention, Ubuntu: I in You and You in Me.
As part of his many roles in the Church, Battle has served as chaplain to: Archbishop Tutu, Congressman John Lewis, the House of Bishops, and, in 2008, he was chaplain to the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops. He is a featured keynote speaker and has led numerous clergy and lay retreats, including the bishops’ retreat of the Province of the West Indies. In addition, Battle has served as vice president to the Institute for Nonviolence.
Battle has kept close ties with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and has written about his studies and friendship with the archbishop in his books. Battle and his wife, Raquel, were married by Archbishop Tutu, and their two daughters, Sage and Bliss, and son, Zion, were all baptized by him as well.
The Rev. Dr. Robert J. Owens, Professor of Old Testament, says Battle “will bring to General Seminary an impressive combination of theological scholarship, pastoral ministry, international and cross-cultural service in the Anglican communion, as well as his striking success as a teacher in some of the Episcopal Church’s leading seminaries. I think our students will be greatly blessed as they encounter his theological mind, his pastor’s heart, and his hopefulness for the church as a community of justice.”
Battle will begin his new position at General Seminary in fall 2015 and will teach Ethics and will lead the Graduate Anglican Seminar, as well as intensive courses that will be offered, for credit or audit, through The Desmond Tutu Center.