Mercer, Joyce Ann 1957- (Joyce Mercer)

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Mercer, Joyce Ann 1957- (Joyce Mercer)


Born December 21, 1957; married; children: three. Education: University of Virginia, B.A., 1979 (with distinction); Yale University School of Divinity, M.Div., 1984; University of Connecticut, M.S.W., 1985; McCormick Theological Seminary, D.Min., 1991; Emory University, Ph.D., 1997. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, playing Irish fiddle music, reading mystery novels, beachcombing, camping, listening to blue grass and old-time music, cooking with friends, big dogs.


Office—Virginia Theological Seminary, 3737 Seminary Rd., Alexandria, VA 22304. E-mail—[email protected].


Theologian, social worker, educator, pastor, and writer. Third World Church Leaders Center, Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Korea, Seoul, Korea, volunteer in Mission Program, Presbyterian Church U.S., 1982-83; Fairview Deaconess Hospital Minneapolis, MN, chaplain in Adolescent Chemical Dependency Program, 1985-89; Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), ordained minister, 1985—, Mayflower Congregational Church, U.C.C., Minneapolis, minister for Pastoral Care and New Member Nurture, 1989-91; Emory University, Atlanta, GA, Egleston Children's Hospital, part-time medical social worker, 1991-94, Youth Theology Institute, Candler School of Theology, research coordinator, 1992-95; Teen Age Medical Service and Children's Health Care, Minneapolis, clinical social worker, 1994-96; Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines, Dasmarinas and Manila, faculty member in practical theology and faculty for M. Theol. Program of Southeast Asia Graduate School of Theology, 1997-2000; San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) and The Graduate Theological Union (GTU), San Anselmo and Berkeley, CA, associate professor of practical theology and Christian education and GTU core doctoral faculty member in Interdisciplinary studies, 2000-06; also affiliated faculty member in Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, faculty liaison in the SFTS Internation Feminist D.Min. Program, and faculty director for the David Ng Resource Center in Christian Education; Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, associate professor of pastoral theology, 2006—. Also served as pastor of Mayflower United Church of Christ in Minneapolis. Taught at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis, adjunct faculty member, 1995-97; Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, 1994-97; Luther Seminary, St. Paul, summer faculty member, 2006; and Knox College, Toronto School of Theology, summer intensive course, 2007.


Association of Practical Theology, International Academy of Practical Theology, National Association of Social Workers, American Academy of Religion, Religious Education Association (board member), Religious Education Association, Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education, Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, International Conference on Children's Spirituality.


Recipient of numerous teaching and research grants.


(As Joyce Mercer) Behind the Mask of Adolescent Satanism, Deaconess Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1991.

Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood, foreword by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, Chalice Press (St. Louis, MO), 2005.

(With Dori G. Baker) Lives to Offer: Accompanying Youth on Their Vocational Quests, Pilgrim Press (Cleveland, OH), 2007.

Girl Talk, God Talk: Why Faith Matters to Teenage Girls—and Their Parents, Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 2008.

Contributor to books, including Dictionary of Feminist Theologies edited by Letty M. Russell and J. Shannon Clarkson, Westminster John Knox Press, 1996; Faith of Our Foremothers: Women Changing Religious Education, edited by Barbara Anne Keely, Westminster John Knox Press, 1997; Children's Spirituality: Christian Perspectives, Research, and Applications, Cascade Books, 2004; Nurturing Child and Adolescent Spirituality: Perspectives from the World's Religious on Spirituality in Childhood and Adolescence, Rowman & Littlefield, 2006; Perspectives on Children's Spirituality, edited by Cathy Ota and Mark Chater, Routledge, 2006; and Religious Education in Early Childhood, edited by Jan Grajczonek and Maurice Ryan, Lumino Press, 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Religious Education, Teaching Theology and Religion, Christian Century, Journal of Law and Religion, Alert, Clergy Journal, Journal of Religion and Abuse, Journal of Case Teaching, International Journal of Children's Spirituality, Liturgy, Sewanee Theological Review, Teaching Theology and Religion, International Journal of Children's Spirituality, Family Ministry, and Journal of Adult Theological Education. Editorial board member of the Religious Education Journal; reviewer for Teaching Theology and Religion.


Joyce Ann Mercer is a theologian, social worker, and pastor who has written about a wide range of theological and sociological issues. Many of her writings focus on children and the Christian ministry. In her first book, Behind the Mask of Adolescent Satanism, the author examines what she considers to be the sociological issues concerning the attraction Satanism and the occult hold for some adolescents. According to the author, these adolescents are looking for some form of power and control.

Mercer's 2005 book Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood was called "a groundbreaking text in theology and children's ministries" by Karen- Marie Yust in Interpretation. In her book, Mercer offers an alternative way of thinking about children within the realm of worship as well as the world at large. According to Mercer, children face numerous important issues in a consumer-based world, and she asserts that the church itself has also become too enamored of many consumer-driven issues. As a result, she writes that the church should take a purposeful examination of its approach to children's ministries. "In a consumerist society, the wider culture lifts up a dominant vision of children, namely children as consumers. Christian theology can offer an alternative vision of the meaning of childhood," commented Elizabeth Caldwell in a review of Welcoming Children in the Christian Century. "This vision will provide alternative practices that compose a way of life for children and for adults who accompany them." In another review in Religious Education, Barbara Anne Keely noted: "Mercer proves to be a thoughtful theologian, a gifted educator, and a parent who cares deeply that the church is a place of formation and liberation for not only her children, but for all who enter."

In the first chapter of Welcoming Children, the author examines how to approach theology with young children. As she emphasizes her methods and perspective, Mercer discusses this approach mainly within a feminist viewpoint by addressing issues such as consideration of whether or not the father or mother or some other family member is the primary caregiver. She goes on in chapter two to discuss how children are perceived in the Gospel of Mark. Using selected texts focusing on Jesus' interaction with children, the author discusses the basis for developing a theology of childhood within the context of the Bible.

Chapter three examines children as consumers in America and the issue of ambivalence concerning adults dealing with children properly within a consumer-driven environment. Delving into both the spiritual and sociological ramifications of consumerism—from advertisements and shopping to how products are used and ultimately disposed of—the author writes that slavish consumerism has profound effects on children, who are taught to be good consumers from a young age. The next chapter examines religious ambivalence concerning consumerism. Mercer also discusses educating children in congregations and the idea of practicing liturgy as a form of practicing justice with children. She concludes with a chapter titled "Toward a Feminist Practical Theology of Childhood." In her book, the author explains this type of "theology as a discipline and as a method for doing theological work as praxis or the mutual engagement of theory and practice for the sake of emancipatory action in the world." The author writes that the "praxis" is something that "creatively and constructively develops alternative visions and practices for human activity that work toward justice and the reign of God in particular situations of struggle."

Reviewers generally had high praise for the book. "Welcoming Children is neither a simple nor a comfortable book to read," noted Sharon Warkentin Short in the Christian Education Journal. "It will force thoughtful readers to consider altering church practices in directions that contented church members will resist. What is at stake, however, is nothing less than the spiritual thriving of children in a self-centered and godless culture. It is worth experiencing the unease of reading to contemplate what the author has to say."

Mercer is also the author, with Dori G. Baker, of Lives to Offer: Accompanying Youth on Their Vocational Quests. In their book, the authors offer an alternative to the consumerist, program-driven views of ministry with youths. Instead, Mercer and Baker present a view of youth ministry as a companioned walk with young people in search of vocation both in its public and private dimensions. The authors include numerous adolescent stories of vocation taken from research interviews and encounters with young collaborators, all conducted through the Candler School of Theology's Youth Theological Initiative.

The authors begin by discussing individual adolescent quests for vocation carried out with friends. They go on to write about topics such as nature as a teacher of spirituality and the relationship among parents, vocation, and adolescent girls. They also include a chapter titled "Isaac's Long Walk: Keeping Faith with Guys on the Path to Wholeness." Writing on the Fund for Theological Education Web site, Alex Joyner commented that the authors present "a call to reforming youth ministry around the central theme of vocational discernment," adding: "For these authors, adolescence is a place between the meanings of childhood and adulthood, and vocation involves inner discernment together with a public quest involving caring adult companions." Joyner went on in the same review to offer praise for the author's work. She noted that the interviews with adolescents "add depth and credibility to the book's central claims." Joyner also wrote that the authors "have given youth ministers, adult leaders and pastors a deep well from which to draw."

In her book Girl Talk, God Talk: Why Faith Matters to Teenage Girls—and Their Parents, the author explores issues of faith in adolescent girls and examines how they think about, experience, and express spiritual and religious meaning within their lives. She writes about the role that mothers and fathers should play in shaping adolescent girls' faith, as well as the role of other parenting adults. According to the author, faith can and should play an important role in helping girls deal with the transition from childhood to their teenage years to adulthood.



Mercer, Joyce Ann, Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood, foreword by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, Chalice Press (St. Louis, MO), 2005.


Christian Century, March 7, 2006, Elizabeth Caldwell, review of Welcoming Children, p. 41.

Christian Education Journal, spring, 2007, Sharon Warkentin Short, review of Welcoming Children, p. 156.

Interpretation, October, 2006, Karen-Marie Yust, review of Welcoming Children, p. 488.

Religious Education, spring, 2006, Barbara Anne Keely, review of Welcoming Children, p. 305.

Theology Today, October, 2007, Richard Osmer, review of Welcoming Children, p. 389.


Fund for Theological Education Web site, (May 28, 2008), Alex Joyner, review of Lives to Offer: Accompanying Youth on Their Vocational Quests.

Virginia Theological Seminary Web site, (May 28, 2008), faculty profile of author.

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Mercer, Joyce Ann 1957- (Joyce Mercer)

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