First Neely Visiting Professor in Religion and Public Policy Hired at Arizona State University

In August, Dr. Colleen Wessel-McCoy began teaching at the School of Public Affairs (SPA) in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions as the first Neely Visiting Professor of Religion and Public Policy. The one-year position is funded in part through a grant the Diocese received from the Neely Charitable Foundation.

Wessel-McCoy is a specialist in Christian ethics from the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Her doctoral dissertation on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ministry and activism is the subject of an upcoming book, “Freedom Church of the Poor: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.” She also coordinated the authors and contributed a chapter to “We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign,” a devotional book that will be published in October 2021. The wide range of authors interpret scripture with new insights on poverty and justice.

Her current online class, “Responding to COVID-19: Religion, Policy and Social Change,” is examining the impact of religious and community activism on policy responses, including anti-shutdown rallies, rent strikes and digital organizing. In the spring semester, she will teach “Welfare, Charity, and Religion.” The course will look at welfare policy debates in the U.S. with particular attention to charitable choice, welfare rights organizing, and the New Deal and War on Poverty.

Bishop Jennifer Reddall explained that Wessel-McCoy would provide “another resource” to the clergy of the diocese. “I am so pleased to have an instructor of Colleen’s caliber available to spark conversations in our diocese. We will be working to provide opportunities for her to share her gifts with our clergy and people,” Reddall said.

Since 2018, Wessel-McCoy has been a lecturer in Christian ethics and field education at Union Theological Seminary, where she is also co-coordinator of poverty scholarship and leadership development at The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice. This center is a convener of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and Wessel-McCoy leads its student fellowship program.

In 2019, she became theologian in residence at Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Wessel-McCoy’s PhD and Master of Divinity degrees are from Union Theological Seminary. Her Bachelor of Arts degree is from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.

The Rev. Canon Richard Neely Morrison, former diocesan Canon for Ecumenical and Community Relations, is also the co-founder of the ASU Morrison Institute of Public Policy that is part of the Watts College. In addition, he served as director and president of the Neely Charitable Foundation. He is an attorney who has taught water resources management as an associate faculty member at ASU’s Morrison School for Agribusiness, and agricultural law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law as an adjunct professor.