McCormick Theological Seminary is pleased to announce that Lejia (Jia) Johnson has accepted the newly created position as McCormick’s Project Director for Theological Studies at Cook County Department of Corrections.
Two years ago, McCormick President David Crawford announced plans to develop and launch a pilot theological studies certificate program at the Cook County Correctional Center. The program was inspired by work Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics and Dean of Doctor of Ministry and Continuing Education programs, Dr. Jenny McBride, had done in a women’s correctional center in Atlanta, Georgia developed and supported by a consortium comprised of a local divinity school and local seminaries. Under Dr. McBride’s direction and leadership, the first 12 students finished the pilot program in May 2019. Ms. Johnson co-taught the spring session with Dr. McBride and was instrumental in helping coordinate resources and schedules with the staff at Cook County. Based on the enthusiastic response of the students and the staff at Cook County, we are pleased to announce McCormick will continue the program this year.
Ms. Johnson will report to and work in collaboration with Dr. McBride to develop and implement an ongoing program of theological studies at Cook County Department of Corrections. She will serve as a liaison between McCormick administration and faculty, local seminary partners, and the Department of Corrections to identify, develop, and cultivate relationships and resources necessary to build and support theological studies at Cook County Jail.
Ms. Johnson is currently completing the Master of Arts in Public Ministry and Racial Justice program at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She is passionately committed to this work and has devoted herself in recent years to supporting returning citizens through her work at Sunshine Enterprises and through her board service at the Community Renewal Society, the Center for the Church and Black Experience, and Off The Pews: Faith in Action.
“I am deeply grateful to Jia for the wonderful work she has already done and for her willingness to take on the hard work ahead in accepting this new position,” says President David H. Crawford.
He continues, “It is our hope that with Jia’s experience, leadership, and energy this program will not only grow and flourish within the jail, but will become a connector of and to churches, community-based organizations, funding sources, and other seminaries and schools that seek to address the issues of mass incarceration, criminal justice and police reform, and community building.”
Ms. Johnson adds, "Joining the McCormick family to bring theological education to residents at Cook County Department of Corrections connects to my broader vision for healing, liberation and reparations for individuals and communities directly and indirectly impacted by the Prison Industrial Complex. It is with both hopeful joy and prophetic lament that I accept the invitation to join in this co-creating work as Project Director for Theological Studies at CCDC. It is an honor and privilege, that I don’t take lightly. I am looking forward to engaging in collaborative relationships that await us as we imagine theological education at CCDC.”