Rev. Dr. Melissa Browning is a theologian, ethicist, and activist who studies community-based responses to injustice. Melissa teaches seminary students at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University where she is the Assistant Professor of Contextual Ministry. In this role, she teaches courses in practical ministry, community development, and community organizing. Her favorite part of teaching at McAfee is when her classroom and activism converge as her students join her for a protest or vigil (for extra credit, of course!)
For the past 17 years Melissa’s study and fieldwork has been tied to East Africa. Her most recent book, Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania, builds on a year of fieldwork completed in Mwanza, Tanzania where women were asked to re-imagine Christian marriage as a space of safety and health for women. She often takes students on immersion trips to East Africa and works with multiple non-profits in the region.
Melissa is also deeply committed to social issues closer to home. For the past two years, she has been active in death penalty abolitionist work in Georgia and worked as an organizer in the #KellyOnMyMind collective – a public clemency campaign for Kelly Gissendaner. Melissa teaches a restorative justice course at McAfee and is committed to helping students and congregations understand the deeper issues surrounding mass incarceration, the death penalty, and systems of structural violence (such as racism or poverty).
Melissa is an ordained Baptist minister with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and welcomes the opportunity to preach and teach in service to the church. Her current research project uses participatory action fieldwork to examine how churches can be (or neglect to be) catalysts for social change. She and her family worship at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
Melissa is married to Wes Browning, a documentary filmmaker and the owner of Sema Films. They have one amazing 5-year old daughter who can usually be found wearing a tutu and a superhero cape. They also parent a badly-behaving lab puppy who will never grow up to be a therapy dog, despite their best intentions.