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Rev. Dr. Melissa Browning (née Brown), age 43, of Tucker, GA died on Thursday, April 8th, 2021 having battled for several years with cancer. Melissa was the intimate beating heart of her family and beloved in communities sprawled across the world. She is survived by her husband Wes, her daughter Olivia; and her mother Elaine and brother Ryan, both of Lilburn, GA.
Melissa was born in Warner Robins, GA to Elaine and Don Brown. A lifelong, passionate learner, reader, and writer, she graduated from Houston County High School in 1995. She met Wes while earning her Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies with a minor in African Studies from Gardner-Webb University in 1999 and was named Alumna of the Year in 2017. Melissa graduated Magna Cum Laude with her Master of Divinity from Baylor University in 2002, and in 2011, she earned her Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago.
Melissa was a practical theologian in the truest sense, bridging her rigorous academic research and on-the-ground, lived experience. An ordained Baptist minister, Melissa began her ministry as field personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Following her doctoral studies, worked as a professor to inspire, equip, and empower seminary students at Loyola University, McAfee School of Theology, and Columbia Theological Seminary. A passionate defender of justice and equality, Melissa lived out these ideals in her activism for women with HIV in Tanzania, in anti-death penalty work in Georgia, and serving as a consultant, trainer, and on the board of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute.
Her passion for storytelling was evident in her writing and as a driving force in the development and success of Sema Films with Wes. Writing was like breathing for Melissa. As an ethicist, she wrote dozens of scholarly and ecclesial essays, articles, and book chapters as well as her ground-breaking book Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania.
Melissa loved fiercely and laughed often; fury at injustice tempered by empathy was her very core. She was raised to love Jesus in Georgia, learned “I am because we are” (Ubuntu) in Kenya, and spread her infectious joy around the globe. She saw the brutality of the world, battled it fiercely, and trusted in hope; she taught her daughter, Olivia, to do all of the same.
…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8
In lieu of flowers, Melissa’s family has asked for donations to Africa Exchange or Reforming Arts. Please also consider making a blood donation at your local blood bank in honor of Melissa. To make a financial contribution to the above organizations, pay tribute to Melissa, or find out more about memorial service plans, please visit www.melissabrowning.com