The Alumni Executive Committee of The General Theological Seminary is delighted to announce that the Rev. Paula M. Jackson, Class of 1985, is the recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award. Jackson has been the Rector of the multicultural Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador in Cincinnati, Ohio, since 1990. She is married to the Rev. Daniel M. Watson; they have three grown children and two grandchildren. Jackson previously served as Associate Rector of Christ Church Episcopal in Cincinnati, Vicar of St. George Church, Louisville, and Deacon-in-Residence at Calvary Episcopal Church in Louisville. She has been a Deputy to General Convention in 2015, 2012, and 2009, and a first alternate in 2006. In 2015 Jackson vetted, authored, and/or enlisted sponsors for successful Resolutions on Birthright Citizenship and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guatemalan and other refugees for whom return to their original countries puts them at risk. In 2012 she testified on a successful resolution calling for a moratorium on “secure communities” practices and racial profiling in immigration enforcement.
As a “preacher’s kid,” Jackson spent her childhood years mostly in the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas. Her family home was the place in town that welcomed the rare visitors who were people of color or immigrants. This distinction impressed upon her the beauty of human diversity, as well as the urgency and necessity of justice and equity for all people.
These lifelong commitments were engaged years later in seminary, with the opportunity to study various liberation theologies, and to complete a thesis on José Porfirio Miranda of Mexico. The greatest learning, of course, comes from the people among whom one may serve. The Church of Our Saviour began working intentionally at dismantling racism in 1960, and ended its tacit "don't ask/don't tell" practices with LGBT members in the early 1970s. Immigrants began arriving in 1992; soon the parish became known also as La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador.
After the parish took a strong role in the Justice for Janitors campaign, connecting even more with latino workers, the parish became officially bilingual in 2006, and a Parroquia de Santuario in 2007. Its non-profit Transformations CDC is an umbrella for advocacy, education, empowerment, and micro-development opportunities with underserved immigrant families and neighbors.
Jackson has been the recipient of numerous humanitarian awards; most recently the League of United Latin American Citizens Cincinnati Human Rights Award, and is a member of the Board of the Cincinnati Interfaith Worker Justice Center. She is the author of Transformation: A Way to Freedom– Conversations with the Book of Exodus and What Does the Bible Say about Being Gay? – Probably not what you’ve been told!
The Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to Jackson during the next annual Alumni Gathering at General Seminary, at the Memorial Eucharist on May 10, 2016, at which she will also preach.