Left: Virginia Theological Seminary chapel after the October fire. (photo by Curtis Prather)  Right: Virginia Theological Seminary chapel as depicted in an 1881 architect's drawing.

Seminary chapel burns

A historic chapel at Virginia Theological Seminary was ravaged by fire on October 22, 2010. No lives were lost on the seminary's campus in Alexandria, Virginia, nor were nearby buildings damaged, but the roof of Immanuel Chapel was entirely destroyed. Falling timbers also set ablaze most of the interior.

Because the fire occurred in a house of worship, the National Response Team of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), along with local ATF special agents, worked with the city fire department to investigate the cause. On October 28, dean-president Ian Markham reported the investigators' findings: The fire started in the chapel's sacristy, caused by accidental "human agency." The persons involved took "steps that any responsible person would have taken" but were unable to put out the fire. The 129-year-old wood and brick structure had no fire alarm or sprinkler system.

In November, the seminary's board of trustees passed resolutions authorizing a building committee and a capital campaign to raise funds for a new chapel.

Founded in 1823, the seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church.

New leadership at the Fund for Theological Education

 Peg Birk

The board of trustees of the Fund for Theological Education (FTE) has appointed Peg Birk as interim president. She succeeds Dr. Trace Haythorn, president since 2008, who departed to become executive director of the Frazer Center, an Atlanta social service agency for people with disabilities.

A former attorney, Birk is a graduate of the University of Houston and the William Mitchell College of Law. She is the founder and president of Interim Solutions, a consulting firm that assists organizations during times of leadership transition. She has also served as executive director of the George Family Foundation, interim president of the McKnight Foundation, co-executive director of the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, senior vice president and general counsel for Federated Insurance Companies, city attorney for the City of St. Paul, Minnesota, and general counsel for AIG's U.S. insurance business. She is a member of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis.

Established in 1954 to encourage and enable talented people to enter Christian ministry, the Fund for Theological Education is based in Atlanta. It provides more than $1.5 million in scholarships annually in fellowships and support to students from all denominations.

Changes at the top

William B. Palardy

■ Father William B. Palardy has been appointed rector-president of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. He succeeds Peter J. Uglietto, rector-president since 2005, who was named an auxiliary bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Bishop Uglietto was ordained to the episcopate in September.

Father Palardy, academic dean and professor of theology at the seminary since 2005, is a graduate of Harvard University, St. John's Seminary (Brighton, Massachusetts), and the Catholic University of America. Ordained a priest in 1985, Palardy served on the faculty of St. John's Seminary from 1992 until 2005.

Blessed John XXIII National Seminary was established in 1964 to prepare second-career seminarians — men between the ages of 30 and 60 — for ordination in the Catholic church.

 James H. Furr 

■ The Rev. James H. Furr has been named fourth president of Houston Graduate School of Theology, succeeding the Rev. Keith A. Jenkins, who has assumed the role of vice president and dean of the faculty of the school, which is located in Houston, Texas.

Furr was previously a professor at Houston Baptist University, where he taught practical theology, ethics, and spiritual formation. He has also served as a consultant and trainer for the Union Baptist Association in Houston.

He is a graduate of Texas Tech University, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Rhonda S. Furr, professor of musicology and organ at Houston Baptist University, have four children.

 Trish Fulton

Founded in 1983, Houston Graduate School of Theology is a nondenominational evangelical institution that enrolls students from more than 30 denominations.

■ The board of Huron University College in London, Ontario, has appointed Dr. Trish Fulton as acting principal for the period October 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011. She succeeds Dr. Ramona Lumpkin, who departed to become president and vice chancellor of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

A graduate of the University of British Columbia and the University of Western Ontario, Fulton is an economist who has taught at Huron since 1977. She was Huron's dean of arts and social science from 1999 to 2009 and was acting principal from 1995 to 1996.

Founded in 1863 by Anglican clergy, Huron is the oldest affiliated college of the University of Western Ontario. Today the college is provides a range of undergraduate programs in arts and social sciences as well as graduate programs in theology.

Kenneth V. Daniel

■ The trustees of Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, have appointed the Rev. Kenneth V. Daniel as interim president. He succeeds the Rev. Riess Potterveld, president since 2002, who was named president of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.

Daniel was most recently executive director of Ingleside at Rock Creek, a Presbyterian retirement community in Washington, D.C. An ordained United Church of Christ minister, Daniel also had been vice president of operations at Phoebe Ministries, a church-related nonprofit organization that provides health care, housing and support services for seniors in eastern and central Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, Moravian Theological Seminary, and Marywood University.

He and his wife, the Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel, senior pastor of Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ in Frederick, Maryland, have two sons.

 Elmer Towns

Lancaster Theological Seminary was founded in 1825 by members of the German Reformed Church in the United States. It is currently one of seven seminaries in full relationship with the United Church of Christ.

■ A co-founder of Liberty University, the Rev. Elmer Towns, has been named dean of one of the university's graduate schools, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

He replaces Ergun Caner, whose contract as seminary dean was not renewed following an investigation into claims Caner made about his upbringing and background as a Muslim. (See In Trust, Autumn 2010, page 21.) Caner will continue to teach at the seminary.

In 1971, Towns and the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. founded Lynchburg Baptist College, which was later renamed Liberty University. Towns also served as dean of the seminary from 1979 to 1992.

A graduate of Northwestern College (Minnesota), Southern Methodist University, Dallas Theological Seminary, Garrett Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary, Towns will continue as dean of Liberty University's undergraduate school of religion.

Towns and his wife, Ruth, who also teaches at Liberty University, have three adult children.

 Riess Potterveld

■ The board of trustees of Pacific School of Religion has named the Rev. Riess Potterveld president for a three-year term. He replaces the Rev. William McKinney, president since 1996, who retired on June 30, 2010.

Between 1993 and 2002, Potterveld served in several administrative roles at Pacific School of Religion, including vice president and acting dean. From 2002 until 2010, he was president of Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

A graduate of Trinity College (Connecticut), Yale Divinity School, and Claremont Graduate University, Potterveld served as senior minister of the United Church of Christ congregation in Northridge, California, from 1974 until 1992.

Potterveld and his wife, Tara, a sculptor and sign language interpreter, have four grown sons.

Pacific School of Religion was founded in 1866 by Congregational ministers as California Theological Seminary. It is now a multidenominational seminary of the United Church of Christ with historic ties to the United Methodist Church and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Located in Berkeley, California, the school is part of the Graduate Theological Union.

 Alexander Atty

 Father Alexander Atty has been named dean of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. He succeeds Father Michael Dahulich, dean since 2002, who was elected bishop of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey in the Orthodox Church in America.

A member of the seminary's board of trustees at the time he was appointed dean, Father Atty is an archpriest of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. From 1980 until 2010, he was pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

He is a graduate of Philadelphia University, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Olga, have two children.

Father Atty has been given permission to remain attached to the Antiochian Archdiocese while serving as dean of St. Tikhon's Seminary, which was founded in 1938 and is an institution of the Orthodox Church in America.

 Laird J. Stuart

■ The board of San Francisco Theological Seminary has named Dr. Laird J. Stuart as interim president, succeeding Dr. Philip W. Butin, president since 2002. Butin and his wife, the Rev. Jan Butin, moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, in March 2010 to become co-pastors of the First United Presbyterian Church there.

Stuart served on the seminary's board of trustees from 1997 to 2006, the final two years as chair. At the time he was named interim president, he had been pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco since 1993.

A graduate of Amherst College and Princeton Theological Seminary, Stuart has pastored Presbyterian churches in Connecticut, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and California. Founded in 1871, San Francisco Theological Seminary is an institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a member of the Graduate Theological Union.


The Autumn 2010 issue of In Trust announced that the contract of the Rev. John Mellis, provost and vice chancellor at Queen's College Faculty of Theology in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, had not been renewed.

We should have explained that on the advice of the provost, the Queen's College Corporation proceeded with a visioning process to determine the school's future, and all full-time contracts, including that of the provost, were terminated. When an administrator was sought to facilitate the planning process, Dr. Mellis did not seek the position, and Canon Boyd Morgan was appointed administrator pro tempore.

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