Dr. Leah Gunning Francis is the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN. A frequent guest lecturer, preacher, and workshop facilitator, she draws on her marketing experience, pastoral leadership and academic training to creatively equip students, clergy and congregations for transformative social action. She has been featured before diverse media audiences, from Keepin’It Real with Al Sharpton to RELEVANT Magazine, and has enjoyed speaking for a range of collegiate, religious and community based audiences.
Dr. Gunning Francis is the author of Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community (Chalice Press, 2015). She lived in St. Louis and served on the Eden Seminary faculty during the Ferguson uprising. For the book, she interviewed more than two dozen clergy and young activists who engaged in the quest for racial justice following the shooting death of Michael Brown, Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson and Faith is a collection of stories of courage and hope. Dr. Gunning Francis gleaned from these stories seeds of possibilities that, if nurtured, could serve us well into a future filled with hope. These are the stories that were rarely imaged on television, yet they are integral to the fight for justice in Ferguson and resonate with the struggle for human dignity around the country.
In 2012, Dr. Gunning Francis was awarded the prestigious Engaged Scholars Fellowship to study issues of risk among middle-class African American young men from the perspectives of mothers. She argues that the negative meta-narrative about young black men puts all of them “at risk,” regardless of socioeconomic class, and utilizes the narrated experiences of black mothers to construct a new narrative about young black males that promotes wholeness and well-being. Her doctoral dissertation, Beyond “Band-Aids” and Bootstraps: Toward a Womanist Vision of Christian Education as Social Transformation, laid the academic foundation for her vocational trajectory that bridges scholarship and activism for the purpose of human flourishing.
Dr. Gunning Francis has served as an adjunct professor for the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and has provided pastoral leadership for congregations in Georgia, Illinois and Ohio. She has received numerous awards to include the Candler School of Theology’s G. Ray Jordan award for excellence in integrating academic study with constructive leadership and service, and the Fund for Theological Education’s Doctoral Fellow Award.
Dr. Gunning Francis earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Hampton University; a Master of Divinity degree from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.
A native of Willingboro, New Jersey, Dr. Gunning Francis is married to Rev. Rodney Francis. They live in Indianapolis with their two elementary school aged sons.