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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

The Vernon S. Broyles Jr. Leadership Center on the campus of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

LOUISVILLE – A compilation of news from Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminaries including Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Columbia Theological Seminary, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Johnson C. Smith 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.

Columbia Theological Seminary

“Cloud of Witnesses: The Community of Christ in Hebrew” course open for registration

The Center for Lifelong Learning will again offer the popular, author-led overview to the Horizons Bible Study for the 2017-18 year. Cloud of Witnesses: The Community of Christ in Hebrews is a thematic study of the Letter to the Hebrews and will explore nine major themes, relate those themes to other parts of our faith tradition and connect them with the overarching motif of community.

Led by study guide author the Rev. Dr. Melissa Bane Sevier, the class will take place on the seminary campus July 31-Aug. 1. Sevier, who retired from her pastorate at Versailles Presbyterian Church in Kentucky, now focuses on a ministry of photography and writing.

For weekday event registration, click here. For additional information, contact Sarah Erickson, director of lifelong learning, at 404-687-4526 or

Columbia Seminary announces new grant for community garden, expands partnership with Global Growers Network

Columbia Theological Seminary announced a new partnership with the Global Growers Network this spring. Students from SAGE (Shaping Attention to God’s Earth) will prepare space by expanding the Community Garden Sanctuary for Global Growers to begin planting their own plots. Columbia Seminary hopes to recreate the community garden into a space of intentional partnership and growth with a ceremonial signing of their agreement during an Earth Day Celebration on April 21.

Global Growers supports a network of independently managed farm and garden sites in and around metro Atlanta by providing technical assistance, educational opportunities and leadership development. Each of the six Global Growers plots will be managed by an immigrant or refugee family or individual.

Additionally, Columbia Seminary secured a $5,000 grant that is being used to construct a renewable rainwater capture system for storage of about 1,500 gallons of water near the school’s Community Garden Sanctuary. A new tool shed was built just last year, which will be shared by the Global Growers Network.

“This expands our existing partnership with the Global Growers Network,” said Stan Saunders, professor of New Testament. “Already our students and faculty benefit for their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Many of us have visited other sites managed by them as part of our Explorations class where we think about ministry in alternate contexts.”

Columbia Theological Seminary has two buildings, the Vernon S. Broyles Jr. Leadership Center and the New Residence Hall, which have earned the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification by the United States Green Building Council. Both were designed by the architecture firm of Lord Aeck Sargent.

Dr. Marcia Riggs named Luce Scholar

Dr. Marcia Y. Riggs, J. Erskine Love professor of Christian ethics, is one of six Luce Scholars named by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and The Henry Luce Foundation Inc. as Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology for 2017–18. This will be the final class of Theology Fellows representing a 25-year history of excellence and supported by grants of up to $75,000 each to engage in yearlong theological research projects and present their findings for publication. The 2017–18 Fellows constitute the 24th class of scholars to be appointed since the inception of the program in 1993, bringing the total number of Luce Fellows to 160.

“The Columbia community could not be more excited for Dr. Riggs,” Dr. Christine Roy Yoder, interim vice president of academic affairs and interim dean of faculty at Columbia Seminary, said in a statement. “This prestigious award is a significant recognition of her scholarship and its implications for the wider society — particularly at this highly divisive national moment. We look forward to learning from her and her work yet again.” Dr. Yoder was a Luce Fellow in 2014-2015 for her work on Contours of Desire in Israelite Wisdom Literature.

Columbia Seminary faculty contribute to “American Values, Religious Voices”

Three faculty members from Columbia Theological Seminary will participate in an initiative called “American Values, Religious Voices.” The project has been described as a national nonpartisan campaign that brings together 100 scholars from a diverse range of religious traditions to articulate core American values that have grounded our nation in the past and should guide us forward at this time of transition. For the first 100 days of the new administration, the organizers will send a one-page letter, each written by one of the 100 scholars, to President Trump, Vice President Pence, cabinet secretaries and members of the House and the Senate. The letters offer insight and inspiration drawn from the collective wisdom of our faith communities and their sacred texts.

Columbia Seminary scholars include Dr. William Brown, the William Marcellus McPheeters professor of Old Testament; Dr. Raj Nadella, assistant professor of New Testament; and Dr. Ryan Bonfiglio, lecturer in Old Testament. The full group of 100 scholars come from a range of religious backgrounds: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh. The Christian scholars are Catholic, Evangelical, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Orthodox, Mormon and Quaker. The Jewish authors come from the Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox Jewish communities. The contributors are rabbis, ministers, a Buddhist nun and a Catholic sister, ordained clergy and active laypeople in houses of worship nationwide.

“This political season has been bruising and vicious, and has uncovered deep cultural divisions,” said Dr. Leanne Van Dyk, president of Columbia Theological Seminary. “I am proud of the many constructive ways our faculty, and even our students, are engaging the culture around them in an effort to transform our communities for God’s purposes.”

Immediately following the inauguration, a new letter is being posted each day at All of the previous letters will be archived there as well.

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Louisville Seminary professor J. Bradley Wigger named Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology

Dr. J. Bradley Wigger, the Second Presbyterian Church professor of Christian education at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has been selected as a 2017-18 Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology. The Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology program was established in 1993 to identify leading scholars in theological studies and provide them with the necessary financial support and recognition to facilitate their work. Selected on the basis of the strength of their proposals to conduct creative and innovative theological research, the Fellows will engage in yearlong research in various areas of theological inquiry.

“Dr. Wigger’s research into the religious imagination of children is among the most original and potentially important work being done in religious studies and practical theology today,” said Louisville Seminary President Michael Jinkins. “Louisville Seminary is proud of Dr. Wigger’s extraordinary scholarship, and we are eager to see what he learns in the next chapter of his research. I know it will benefit scholars, church leaders and families throughout society.”

Wigger sees important implications for understanding children’s development, their religious and moral formation and the imagination.

“Children around the world have no trouble reasoning about the minds of invisible beings,” said Wigger, who also recently published a children’s book, Thank You, God. “They do it as naturally as they think about the minds of people.”

McCormick Theological Seminary

McCormick Theological Seminary presents 2016 Herman E. Schaalman Interreligious Leadership Award to Marvis L. Hardy

McCormick Theological Seminary is proud to announce Marvis L. Hardy as the winner of the Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Interreligious Leadership Award. She is a candidate for the master of divinity degree at McCormick. Hardy won the award for her essay on the importance of interfaith leadership in moving us toward the Kingdom of God on earth.

“It was an honor for me to learn that I was a recipient of the 2016 Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Interreligious Leadership Award,” Hardy said. “As a writer, I am always seeking new topics and conversations. I enjoy writing on topics that stretch the boundaries of my own context because I feel it helps me grow and develop as a person. This competition was an opportunity for me to engage in another conversation adding to the discussion on leadership and diversity. I sincerely thank the selection committee.”

This award honors the memory of Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman, who died in January at the age of 100, for his lifelong commitment to interfaith understanding, civil rights and social justice, and for his active engagement with seminary students in all of these areas.

In her essay, Hardy describes the Kingdom of God as a place of Shalom (peace) and calls for an orchestrated move toward the Kingdom of God. She reflects on what the Kingdom of God looks like in her essay, calling it “a place for beloved community where all God’s creations are living and loving together.”

“What is striking is her argument for inclusivity in the Kingdom of God and her insistence on interfaith leadership to bring it about,” said Dr. Sarah Tanzer, professor of New Testament and Early Judaism.

Hardy explores what it means to love one’s neighbor and find one’s way back to a God of pathos. Hardy describes the context for this restorative justice movement in a world in which “love for one another has become almost imperceptible in the violent bloodied waters of racial hatred, privilege and injustice.” She also urges us to be “unapologetically cross-cultural” in seeking peace, harmony and the reconciliation with the community of humanity that will mark the Kingdom of God on earth.

McCormick President Frank M. Yamada accepts position as executive director of ATS

McCormick Theological Seminary President Frank M. Yamada has accepted the position of executive director of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and will begin that role July 1. He has announced that he will resign as president of McCormick effective June 30.

Dr. Yamada came to McCormick in 2008 as associate professor of Hebrew Bible and director of the Center for Asian American Ministries. In 2011 he was elected as McCormick’s 10th president and was the first Asian American to lead a Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary. His tenure has been marked by increasing diversity in McCormick’s student body and creative engagement with the shifting realities of theological education.

“We accepted his resignation reluctantly,” said Board Chair Deborah Block, “and yet we see how Dr. Yamada’s gifts are a fit for the work of ATS.  We’re grateful that McCormick will continue to be blessed by his leadership on a national scale.”

As the accrediting body for graduate schools of theology in the United States and Canada, ATS represents its member schools in promoting “the improvement and enhancement of theological schools to the benefit of communities of faith and the broader public.” Yamada has been a member of the ATS Board since 2014.

“This wonderful seminary has shaped me in profound ways.” Yamada said. “I have appreciated the opportunity to be able to share this work of ministry with all of you. It is rare to find so many staff, faculty and students who are committed passionately around a common mission. Until very recently, I was looking forward to many more years of watching this vision take clearer shape. We have much more good work to do. I only regret that I will not be able to finish this work with you here in Chicago.”

Yamada previously taught Hebrew Bible/Old Testament for nine years at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. A graduate of Southern California College, he earned his master of divinity and doctor of philosophy from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Dr. Jennifer McBride elected first female president of the International Bonhoeffer Society — English Language Section

Dr. Jennifer M. McBride, McCormick’s associate dean of the doctor of ministry programs and continuing education and assistant professor of theology and ethics, has been elected president of the International Bonhoeffer Society — English Language Section (IBS-ELS). She becomes the organization’s first female president since its founding over 40 years ago. McBride has served on the IBS-ELS board of directors since 2008.

She has authored or edited three books on Bonhoeffer and a number of essays. Her books include Radical Discipleship: A Liturgical Politics of the Gospel, The Church for the World: A Theology of Public Witness, and the co-edited volume Bonhoeffer and King: Their Legacies and Import for Christian Social Thought.

The IBS-ELS, comprised of scholars and religious leaders from the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, was formed to encourage critical scholarship based on the theology, life, legacy and influence of the German pastor, theologian and Nazi resistor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Since its inception, it has focused on close historical and textual analysis of Bonhoeffer’s works and recently completed a 16-volume translation and critical edition project called Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English Edition.

Always exploring ways to unite theological reflection with public engagement, McBride is the second Bonhoeffer scholar to join the McCormick faculty since 2012, when Dr. Reggie Williams, author of Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus, accepted his appointment as assistant professor of Christian ethics.

According to Williams, “This is a momentous occasion for the society that is committed to the continuance of Bonhoeffer’s legacy. Dr. McBride represents that legacy in the hands of the next generation of scholarship. With Dr. McBride at the helm of the society, McCormick Theological Seminary is poised to be an important place for Bonhoeffer scholarship in the U.S.”

Princeton Theological Seminary

Sexism in the black church is subject of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lecture

Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman, assistant professor of theology and African-American religion at Yale Divinity School, will speak about sexism in the black church at Princeton Theological Seminary’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture on April 24 at 7 p.m. in Miller Chapel. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Turman is the co-chair of the Women of Color Scholarship, Teaching and Activism group of the American Academy of Religion, and co-convener of the African/African American Working and Interest Group of the Society of Christian Ethics. She is the author of Toward a Womanist Ethic of Incarnation: Black Bodies, the Black Church, and the Council of Chalcedon, in addition to several articles and book chapters.

For more information, visit

Twelve Princeton area churches selected to participate in young adult initiative project

Twelve area churches will each receive a $20,000 grant to launch a young adult initiative as part of The Zoe Project based at Princeton Theological Seminary. The goal of the three-year project is to help the congregations understand more fully the needs of young adults in their 20s, build relationships with them, and nourish and support their spiritual and theological formation.

Princeton Theological Seminary is one of 12 seminaries, colleges and universities identified as “innovation hubs” for the Young Adult Initiative, a $19.4 million national initiative of Lilly Endowment Inc. aimed at developing congregations’ capacities to learn from young adults and work with them in ministry.

“Religious leaders are searching for new ways to engage young adults and enrich the spiritual lives of this emerging generation. It is among their highest priorities,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “A significant part of this work will focus on helping congregational leaders understand young adulthood today and the changing contexts that shape what young adults value and expect.”

For more information, visit

Princeton Theological Seminary receives gift to establish the Reverend John H. Maltby Field Education Fund

Princeton Theological Seminary has received a gift to establish the Reverend John H. Maltby Field Education Fund. The gift, from a former congregant of Maltby’s congregation, honors the Reverend’s selfless ministry. The fund will support one or more students serving a small community ministry.

Maltby, a 1962 graduate of Princeton Seminary, served Miller Memorial Presbyterian Church in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, for more than five decades. Beloved by many for giving to anyone in need, regardless of church affiliation, he served many local community service organizations from the First Aid Squad to Troop 10 of the Boy Scouts of America. He also served as a substitute teacher and as a chaplain to police, fire and first-aid units.

San Francisco Theological Seminary

SFTS issues statement against Trump’s immigration executive order

San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) opposes the Trump administration’s executive order of January 27, targeting refugees and particularly singling out refugees from certain predominantly Muslim countries. In the executive order of President Trump the nation has been presented with a false choice between physical safety and safeguarding its cultural values and faith traditions. For over 200 years, in an intentional if imperfect way, the nation has endeavored to do both.

For nearly 150 years, SFTS has trained religious leaders to uphold the mission and message of Jesus, whose own family was forced to flee the violence of a tyrant. Therefore, in the Christian tradition of compassion, we stand with those who today are fleeing for their lives and seeking to find sanctuary on our nation’s soil.

The administration’s action targets some of the most vulnerable people in the world — refugees fleeing violence and war. As protesters and advocates are pointing out, the order likely exceeds the president’s constitutional authority and contravenes the American constitutional commitment to equal protection of the law and religious nondiscrimination.

SFTS opposes the inhumanity of these actions because Jesus’ call to compassion compels people of faith to speak out and defend the vulnerable: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9) Scripture calls again and again for compassion as well as for the protection of refugees and “strangers in the land.”


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