Battle, Michael 1963- (Michael Jesse Battle)

views updated

Battle, Michael 1963- (Michael Jesse Battle)


Born December 12, 1963, in New Orleans, LA; married July 18, 1996; wife's name Raquel; children: Sage, Bliss, Zion. Education: Duke University, B.A., 1986, Ph.D., 1995; Princeton Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1989; Yale University, S.T. M., 1991; Shalem Institute, Washington, DC, Spiritual Direction Certification, 1994. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Weight lifting, marathons, swimming, bicycling, basketball, chess, scrabble, good movies, music (classical, acoustical, contemporary, jazz), comic books, deep sea fishing, scuba diving.


Office—Provost and Canon Theologian, Cathedral Center, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, 840 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026. E-mail—[email protected].


Ordained priest, Anglican Church, 1993. Adjutant to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1993-94; University of the South, Sewanee, TN, assistant professor, 1995-99; Duke University School of Divinity, Durham, NC, assistant professor, 1999-2004; St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, Raleigh, NC, rector, 2001-04; Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, vice president, dean of academic studies, and associate professor, 2005-07; Cathedral Center of St. Paul, Los Angeles, CA, canon theologian, 2007—. Chaplain to the Episcopal House of Bishops; member of Theology Committee, Episcopal Church; spiritual director for CREDO, Wellness Conference of the Episcopal Church; board of directors member, Kanuga Conferences, Inc., Jim Wallis' Organizations (Sojourners and Call of Renewal), and Mpho Tutu's Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage.


Society for the Study of African Religion, Society for the Study of Black Religion, Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, Peace Studies Association.


Doctoral fellow, Fund for Theological Education, 1991-92; Duke University Graduate Award, 1992; research fellow, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 1997.


Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu, foreword by Desmond Tutu, Pilgrim Press (Cleveland, OH), 1997.

The Wisdom of Desmond Tutu, Lion Press (Oxford, England), 1999, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 2000.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers: A Christian Spirituality of Nonviolence, Mercer University Press (Macon, GA), 2004.

(Editor) The Quest for Liberation and Reconciliation: Essays in Honor of J. Deotis Roberts, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 2005.

Practicing Reconciliation in a Violent World, Morehouse (Harrisburg, PA), 2005.

(With Tony Campolo) The Church Enslaved: A Spirituality of Racial Reconciliation, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.

The Black Church in America: African American Christian Spirituality, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 2006.

Contributor to scholarly books.


Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Michael Battle was ordained to the Anglican Episcopal priesthood in 1993 by Desmond M. Tutu, the Anglican archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa. Tutu, born in 1931, was the first black South African archbishop, and he rose to international renown during the 1980s as a staunch opponent of apartheid in his native country. Recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize and the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, Tutu is widely respected not only within religious circles, but generally for his social beliefs in compassion and peaceful human relations. Battle was studying with Tutu at the time of his ordination, part of a two-year residency in South Africa that led to Battle serving as an adjutant under Tutu and forming a lasting friendship with the Episcopal leader. These were turbulent and dramatic years in South Africa, and Battle joined with Tutu in liturgical as well as daily activities, even joining him on walks and games of rugby. He accompanied the Anglican archbishop on pastoral calls and overheard death threats against Tutu made on the telephone. In 1994 he witnessed the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the first president of a free South Africa. Returning to the United States, Battle earned his doctorate at Duke University, where he later taught for a number of years. He also served as vice president, dean of academic studies, and associate professor at the Virginia Theological Seminary, before taking on the role of canon theologian for the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in 2007.

In addition to his academic and spiritual roles, Battle has written numerous works, many of which are informed by the theology of Desmond Tutu. His first work, Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu, is both a meditation on and analysis of Desmond Tutu's theology. Battle draws on not only published sources to elucidate the Archbishop's belief, but also his personal experience of having worked alongside Tutu for two years. Tutu's theology is a blend of Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and liberation theology that, when combined, make up his Ubuntu theology. This takes its name from the African word for community or humanity. As Sharon Minor King noted in the Journal of Religious Thought: "Ubuntu theology identifies the position of humans within communities as collective, instead of as isolated, individuals who are in niches and who are primarily servants to God as worshipers." King further commented: "Apartheid, like so many other forms of imperialism, thrives on the position opposite to ubuntu theology." Battle's narrative includes an initial account of Tutu's development within the context of apartheid South Africa. King went on to observe that "Battle describes the path to reconciliation as one that is inspired by continual worship and adoration of God. Such a position dismantles the needed allegiance of citizens to governments that attempt to compete with God."

Battle also wrote about his mentor in the 1999 title The Wisdom of Desmond Tutu, a compilation of the thoughts and meditations of the South African cleric. Battle features the work of another peaceful agitator in his 2004 title Blessed Are the Peacemakers: A Christian Spirituality of Nonviolence, which examines the connections between the nonviolence inherent in the work of Mahatma Gandhi and in Christian Spirituality.

Working with Tony Campolo, Battle completed The Church Enslaved: A Spirituality of Racial Reconciliation. According to Expository Times writer Kevin Scully, this work attempts "to unravel the history, social constructs and challenges of America's ‘original sin,’ racism." In alternating chapters, this black and white writing team looks at both personal and larger societal issues. Beyond the initial discussion of the problems inherent in racism and its underlying causes, Battle and Campolo seek to explore the issue of race further by using the doctrine of ubuntu in the sense that Archbishop Desmond Tutu employs it in his theology. For Scully, it "is here that the book falters," for he felt the authors become too general in their discussion of African spirituality. Writing in the Trinity Seminary Review, Christine Thompson had a higher opinion of the same work, concluding: "This book offers us an opportunity to discard the ineffective practice of ‘church initiatives and strategies’ of the past and make time and space for reconciliation that comes from deep spiritual struggle and truth-telling."

Battle returns to the sense of community that Desmond Tutu exhibits in The Black Church in America: African American Christian Spirituality, "a broad picture of the Black Church," according to a reviewer in Reference & Research Book News. Battle argues that a strong sense of community is at the very heart of African American Christianity. His book examines the history of the black church in America, its African roots, its beliefs, practices, politics, and moral quandaries. Battle also shows the important role that black churches had in the civil rights movement.



Choice, January 1, 2007, L.H. Mamiya, review of The Black Church in America: African American Christian Spirituality, p. 847.

Christian Century, February 4, 1998, Paul E. Stroble, review of Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu, p. 145.

Expository Times, September, 2006, Kevin Scully, review of The Church Enslaved: A Spirituality of Racial Reconciliation, p. 518.

Interpretation, April, 2000, Michael Battle, "A Theology of Community: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu," p. 173; July 1, 2006, Katie Day, review of The Church Enslaved, p. 364.

Journal of Religious Thought, spring-fall, 1999, Sharon Minor King, review of Reconciliation, p. 127.

Modern Theology, July 1, 1999, John W. de Gruchy, review of Reconciliation, p. 375.

Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2006, review of The Black Church in America.

Sojourners Magazine, August 1, 2005, "Transforming the Church," p. 39.

Theology Today, April 1, 2007, "Practicing Reconciliation in a Violent World," p. 135.

Trinity Seminary Review, summer-fall, 2007, Christine Thompson, review of The Church Enslaved, p. 152.


Michael Battle Home Page, (April 12, 2008).