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A photo of Marlena Graves

Marlena Graves

Assistant Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Marlena Graves graduated with her PhD in American Culture Studies with a competency in American social history from Bowling Green State University. Her dissertation is titled: The New Culture War: Critical Race Theory, Gender Politics, K-12 School Board Meetings, Founding Myths, and the Religious Right.

She received the Presidential Graduate Diversity Award Scholarship at BGSU and graduated with a 4.0. "I am a first-generation college student and the first in my lineage to have graduated from a four-year college and to go all the way through to a PhD program."

Dr. Graves received a Master of Divinity from Northeastern Seminary in 2007. Dr. Graves is part of a team of authors working with The Bible For Normal People to contribute to a children's Bible. God's Stories as Told by God's Children.


Marlena has been on the pastoral staff at several churches, worked at non-profits, been on the residence life staff at a university, and worked for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) – for and with migrant farmworkers in the Midwest and South and the minority community in Toledo, OH. She continues to labor alongside others for justice, for human rights. Since 2015, she has been an adjunct professor at Winebrenner Seminary in the areas of discipleship and spiritual formation. She has written for a wide variety of venues like Christianity Today’s Hermeneutics Blog (now CT Women),, and Our Daily Bread where she was a bylined regularly contributing writer. And also for places like, Think Christian, Faith Street, Relevant, and publications by (in) courage and the Zondervan Women’s Study Bible. Marlena is a former member and board member of the Redbud Writers Guild.

Dr. Graves has presented at Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing (FFW) several times on panels. Additionally, she is a former member and board member of the Redbud Writers Guild and E4J (Evangelicals 4 Justice) and a graduate of the Renovare Spiritual Formation Institute (2010-2012). Currently she is a member of the writers group INK: A Creative Collective. She has been interviewed by Reuters and the New York Magazine about evangelicals and politics and presidential elections. A central area of srudy is She is regularly invited to be a guest on podcasts, is a sought-after speaker for conferences, retreats, Christian camps, and university chapels, and a happy guest preacher at local churches.

Her books include: 

  • A Beautiful Disaster Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness (Brazos Press, 2014)
  • Who is my Neighbor (Our Daily Bread Discovery Series, 2020)
  • The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself (IVP, 2020)
  • 40 Days on Being a Nine (Enneagram Daily Reflections
  • (IVP, 2021)
  • The Gospel of Peace in a Violent World: Christian Nonviolence for Communal Flourishing (IVP Academic, 2022), co-editor and contributor
  • Bearing God: Living A Christ-formed Life in Uncharted Waters
  • (NavPress, 2023)
  • Grace for the Common Life (forthcoming, IVP, with Shawn Graves)

Academic Presentations 

  • “Déjà vu Mississippi’s Closed Society and the New Massive Resistance”Association for Ethnic Studies national conference, Bowling Green State University, November 5, 2021
  • “Mississippi’s Closed Society and the New Massive Resistance” Ashland Center for Nonviolence, Ashland University February 25-26, 2023

Professional Societies

  • American Academy of Religion
  • Political Theology Network
  • The Conference on Faith and History
  • The Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality

Share words of congratulations to Dr. Marlena Graves who graduated with her PhD on April 26, 2024.