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PC(USA) seminary news

A compilation of news from Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and other seminaries

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

A compilation of news submitted to Presbyterian News Service by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminaries including Auburn Theological Seminary, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Columbia Theological Seminary, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, McCormick Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, San Francisco Theological Seminary and Union Presbyterian Seminary; and other pertinent seminary news.

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

  • Philip Browning Helsel called as assistant professor of pastoral care

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary has called the Rev. Dr. Philip Browning Helsel as assistant professor of pastoral care, effective July 1, 2016.

“Phil Helsel is one of the leading pastoral theologians in the nation; he is already widely published and read. He combines cutting-edge scholarly research with deep commitment to the church,” said Austin Seminary Academic Dean David H. Jensen. “His cross-cultural experience in chaplaincy includes experience in the borderlands communities of San Antonio and Yuma, Arizona. Phil has particular interests in class and economic issues as they relate to pastoral care, and he pays close attention to the trauma and mental distress that America’s working class experiences in the current economic climate. The gifts that Phil brings to Austin Seminary will benefit our students and the church for years to come.”

Helsel comes to Austin Seminary from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry in Brighton, Massachusetts, where he has been assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling since 2012. He earned his PhD in pastoral theology and practical theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2012 and holds an MDiv in pastoral care and counseling from Princeton Theological Seminary (2004) and a BA, summa cum laude, in Bible and religion from Anderson University (2000). Helsel is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and was parish associate for pastoral care at Freehold Presbyterian Church in Freehold, New Jersey.

Helsel published his first book, Pastoral Power Beyond Psychology’s Marginalization: Resisting the Discourses of the Psy-Complex (Palgrave Macmillan, New Approaches to Religion & Power Series) in 2015 and has authored numerous journal articles and book chapters. He also serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling. 

“We are pleased to welcome Phil Helsel to our community and look forward to the gifts and areas of interest in pastoral care that he will bring to us,” said Austin Seminary President Theodore J. Wardlaw. “He will make even more exciting the rich texture of interdisciplinary conversation that currently enriches our faculty and student body.”

Columbia Theological Seminary

  • Princeton Seminary names Columbia professor emerita Kathleen O’Connor distinguished alumna

 Princeton Theological Seminary invited Dr. Kathleen M. O’Connor, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emerita of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary to speak at their Alumni Reunion on May 16. In addition to giving The Edwin H. Rian Lecture on the topic “Beginnings to Begin Again,” she received that seminary’s 2016 Distinguished Alumna Award.

In a statement, Princeton Seminary’s President Craig Barnes said, “Kathleen O’Connor has shaped the imagination of countless students and made a significant impact in her field. In her writing and teaching, she brings together creative, critical scholarship with great care for the life of faith. Kathleen teaches us that deep engagement with the biblical text will help us at attend to the present realities in the world and to care faithfully for all of God’s people. Princeton Theological Seminary is proud to honor her as the 2016 Distinguished Alumna.”

President of Columbia Seminary and fellow Princeton alumna Leanne Van Dyk responded, “The approach that Kathleen O’Connor brings to the interpretation of the Old Testament is at once courageous and pastoral. Kathleen is passionate in her presentation of a God who offers hope to even the most shattered communities. I am so grateful and deeply moved by her service to Columbia Theological Seminary and the Church. She is an inspiration to any who wish to actively encounter the living God, even in our fallen world.”

Dr. O’Connor received her Ph.D. in Old Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1984. Additionally, she has received a B.A. from the College of New Rochelle, Educational Certification from Mount Saint Mary College, and an M.A. from Providence College in Biblical Studies. She also spent several years as a Teaching Fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary.

  • India travel seminar announced

The Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary announces a unique experiential learning opportunity combining international travel and the study of multiple forms of Christianity in South India. The India Travel Seminar will take place December 28, 2016 through January 11, 2017. Trip leaders are Martha Moore-Keish, Professor of Theology and Raj Nadella, Assistant Professor of New Testament.

The two-week trip will include visits to Bangalore, Tirupati, Hyderabad, Kochi, and Vellore. For a complete description of the India Travel Seminar, including a link to the registration forms, please read the event brochure here. Application and deposit must be received by June 15, 2016.

For a current listing of upcoming programs offered by the Center for Lifelong Learning, visit

  • Ben Campbell Johnson, professor emeritus, dies at age 84

 Dr. Ben Campbell Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Evangelism at Columbia Theological Seminary and the founding Director of the Spirituality program at The Center for Lifelong Learning passed away Thursday afternoon. A memorial service will be held on Friday, June 17 at 2:00 pm, at Shallowford Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

“May Ben rest in peace in the blessed assurance that he lived his life faithfully serving the Lord he so dearly loved,” said Deborah Flemister Mullen, Executive Vice President and Dean of Faculty in a statement to the seminary community. “Thanks be to God for the life of our brother Ben Johnson!”

Dr. Johnson was born in March of 1932 in Elba, Alabama. He received a B.A. from Asbury College in 1953, a B.D. from Asbury Seminary in 1955, a Th.M. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1957, a D.Min. from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1978, and a Ph.D. from Emory University in 1980.

As an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Dr. Johnson was widely known for his work in church renewal movements and on interfaith relations between diverse faith traditions. This past year, Dr. Johnson focused on reshaping the role of the Institute for Church Renewal for the 21st century local congregation. His efforts continue through the work of ICR in a supporting relationship with The Presbyterian Foundation.

Beginning in 1981, Dr. Johnson served as the Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Columbia Theological Seminary and in 1995 became the Professor of Spirituality. In 2000, when Dr. Johnson retired from Columbia Theological Seminary, he was named Professor Emeritus by the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Johnson was a prolific writer of more than forty books concentrating on evangelism, prayer and spirituality. His most recent work focused on creating interfaith relationships between different faith traditions. He fostered these relations through Interfaith Community Initiatives, where he served as an advisory board member and program director of the immersion experience. He concentrated particularly on Christian and Muslim relations, publishing Beyond 9/11: Christians and Muslims Together: An Invitation to Conversation (2009).

  • Leadership in Ministry Workshops transition

Columbia Theological Seminary formally announced the transition of the Leadership in Ministry workshops (LIM) to its Center for Lifelong Learning. Founded in 1992 by Dr. Lawrence Matthews, this clergy leadership workshop has been helping pastors, congregational leaders, and organizational leaders grow in competence through a theory-based, peer-learning model. Matthews served as coordinator through 2010. Dr. Robert Dibble has served as the coordinator since then, continuing the workshops at three locations. In 2014 a workshop was started at the Center for Lifelong Learning on the campus of Columbia Theological Seminary. Beginning in the spring of 2017 the Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL) at Columbia Theological Seminary will assume coordination of workshops at the Lost River, West Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts; and Portland, Oregon sites. Learn more at

  • New look, new logo for Columbia Theological Seminary

Last fall, the Board of Trustees at Columbia Theological Seminary commissioned an effort to rebrand the seminary leading up to the development of a new website. A full explanation of the process and a first look at the new logo may be seen at

McCormick Theological Seminary

  • Sights and sounds of celebration: McCormick’s 182nd commencement service

On May 7, 2016, McCormick’s Commencement service was held at St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic church celebrating more than 40 graduates who received their certificates and degrees from President Rev. Dr. Frank Yamada; Dr. Theodore Hiebert, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs; and Rev. Dr. David Van Dyke, Trustee.

Bishop Yvette A. Flunder shared her experience with graduates, family, friends and the McCormick community and challenged them to take what they have learned to teach, preach and live the radically inclusive love of Jesus Christ during her commencement address.

“One of the miracles of Pentecost,” said Bishop Flunder, “was building unity. It’s the same miracle the church needs today so that it can move beyond the things that separate us to find the things that bind us together.”

In her words of invitation, inspiration, encouragement, and challenge, Bishop Flunder reminded graduates that calls to ministry today are different and are no longer exclusive to parish ministry. As to what was next for them, she asked the graduates, “What good is your theological education if you’re not able to be effective in the lives of people?” Bishop Flunder went on to say, “you have to understand them enough to interpret what you have heard here in a way that will be a blessing to those that God is sending you to.”

As part of McCormick’s ongoing commitment to the expansion of theological education, the research completed by Doctor of Ministry graduates will be made available to alumni and churches. Their papers address specific challenges in ministry, making them valuable resources for religious leaders.

  • Second Visionary Award honors Dr. William G. Enright

On October 13, 2016, McCormick Theological Seminary will present with great pleasure the second Visionary Award to alumnus and former trustee, Dr. William G. Enright (M.Th.’65). Dr. Enright is Senior Pastor Emeritus of Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis. He is founding Karen Lake Buttrey Director Emeritus of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. Dr. Enright is a director of Lilly Endowment, Inc., the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago and the Foundation of the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis and a Life Trustee of Hanover College. Dr. Enright is a noted author, teacher, speaker, a powerful voice in the church on the importance of conversations about faith and money, and a visionary leader in the work of racial and interfaith reconciliation.

The McCormick Visionary Award honors a distinguished trailblazer who embraces McCormick’s vision and core values, exemplifies inclusivity and innovation, and supports a new and more diverse generation of leadership. The first recipient was Rev. Dr. John M. Buchanan in 2014.

Event co-chairs include the current pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, Lewis Galloway and his wife, Bunny Alexander and members of the congregation Jim and Jackie Morris, Greg and Karen Buttrey, Ed and Laura Harris. For information and tickets, please contact Lisa Dagher (

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

  • Lisa Genova, author of “Still Alice” speaks at Pittsburgh Seminary

Pittsburgh Seminary will host “Understanding Alzheimer’s: A Conversation with Dr. Lisa Genova” Thurs., June 16, 2016, at 7:00 p.m. Neuroscientist Lisa Genova is the New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice, Left Neglected, Love Anthony, and Inside the O’Briens. Still Alice, now an award-winning major motion picture, tells the story of Dr. Alice Howland, a renowned linguistics professor. When words begin to escape her and she starts becoming lost on her daily jogs, Alice must come face to face with a devastating diagnosis: early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Individual tickets for this event are $30 ($25 for groups of 10+) and can be purchased online. This event—including lecture, Q&A, and book signing—is a great opportunity for health care providers, family and friends of those suffering from the disease, and book clubs to join the conversation.

  • Gun violence resource

The prevalence of violence in our nation is overwhelming. As leaders we struggle against the rising tide of pain and fear and admittedly become disillusioned by the increasing occurrence of its many forms. The communities most affected are caught in a seemingly endless and increasing cycle of violence. Violence is not just a public safety issue, but a public health issue as well. Doing our part to address this issue, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has partnered with Allegheny County Health Department, Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network to provide a gun violence resource kit to use in designing sermons, liturgy, and Sunday School lessons for all ages. On Sun., June 19, 2016, we ask you to lift your voices, your influence, and your power to speak against violence and trauma. Download the PDF from the Seminary’s website:

  • Invitation to simplicity

Mark Scandrette, founding director of ReIMAGINE: A Center for Integral Christian Practice, will lead the spiritual formation elective “Invitation to Simplicity” June 26-29, 2016. Most of the world’s religious traditions advocate for a path of simplicity, recognizing a tradeoff between material preoccupation and spiritual enlightenment. Jesus often spoke about the life-giving invitation to simplicity. In the deepest sense, simplicity is an invitation to align time, money, and life energy with what matters most. This event will be a hands-on simplicity “boot camp,” where participants will support each other to take new steps with solidarity and grace.

Princeton Theological Seminary

  • Princeton Seminary class of 2016 commemorates 204 years of graduates

One hundred sixty-three students were awarded 179 degrees at Princeton Theological Seminary’s 204th commencement on May 21. Students received Master of Arts, Master of Arts (Theological Studies), Master of Divinity and Master of Arts, Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees during the ceremony held in the Princeton University Chapel.

In his commencement address, President M. Craig Barnes encouraged the graduates to pursue the mission of their lives. A life in service to God does not come without limits or hardship, he noted, yet these can serve as a call to prayer and a prelude to the surpassing joy of being part of God’s sacred story.

The Class of 2016 comes from 31 states and 8 countries, including Great Britain, France, India, Jamaica, Lebanon, Malaysia, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Snapshot of the Graduating Class of 2016- 60 women
– 103 men
– 1 Master of Arts
– 4 Master of Arts (Theological Studies)
– 16 Master of Divinity and Master of Arts
– 103 Master of Divinity
– 30 Master of Theology
– 9 Doctor of Philosophy

  • Exhibit of “The Many Colors of Christina Seix Academy—Works by 3rd Grade Students,” June 17–August 19

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Erdman Art Gallery is pleased to present The Many Colors of Christina Seix Academy, an exhibition of still life paintings, etchings, sculptures, mosaics, and rock art, created by 3rd grade students of the academy. The exhibition at the gallery, located at 20 Library Place in Princeton, opens Saturday, June 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Located in Trenton, New Jersey, the Christina Seix Academy opened in 2012 as a Pre-K–8 private boarding school serving children from single-parent homes in Trenton and surrounding areas. The academy currently serves 149 students and offers support to families through its adult center, health and wellness center, and artistic, athletic, and academic enrichment programs.

Union Presbyterian Seminary

  • Union Presbyterian Seminary hosted two travel seminars in the month of May: one to the country of Ghana in Africa, facilitated by Karen-Marie Yust, Josiah P. and Anne Wilson Rowe Professor of Christian Education and John Vest, visiting assistant professor of evangelism; and a second seminar to the Middle East including stops in Egypt, Israel, and Jordan, facilitated by Stan Skreslet, F. S. Royster Professor of Christian Missions , Frances Taylor Gench, Herbert Worth and Annie H. Jackson Professor of Biblical Interpretation, and Rodney Sadler, associate professor of Bible.  The trips included students, staff, faculty, and friends from both Richmond and Charlotte campuses.
  • Beverly Roberts Gaventa, the 2016 Sprunt Lecturer, accented the timeliness of Paul’s message in three lectures delivered to several hundred people gathered on Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Richmond campus May 9–11. Gaventa, Distinguished Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Baylor University and former professor at Columbia Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary, is a prolific author and serves this year as president of the Society of Biblical Literature. The lectures can be seen here.   In keeping with Gaventa’s focus on the apostle Paul’s writing, the three-day series also included worship services with sermons on Paul’s letter to the Romans by Union Alumnus Gary W. Charles (D.Min.’80), pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  Also, during the Sprunt Lecture series:  a portrait of the late Professor Samuel K. Roberts was unveiled in a special ceremony in the William Smith Morton Library atrium, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Church History Bill Sweetser (M.Div.‘89; Th.M.‘90; Ph.D.‘00) delivered a talk on his new book “A Copious Foundation,” which chronicles the 200-year history of the seminary.
  • Katie Geneva Cannon, Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Ethics, recently received Union Theological Seminary of New York’s Union Medal at the 178th Commencement. The seminary’s highest award honors persons of faith whose lives reflect the mission of the seminary in the world. Cannon, class of 1983, gave a short charge to the 2016 graduates. Watch her speech here at 1:42:30.

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