Two schools close 

The board of trustees of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in Virginia announced that the school would cease operations as of January 31, 2019. The original announcement from the school indicated that the school would close at the end of the academic year, but the seminary instead ceased offering courses in January.

Students scheduled to graduate in May were directed to complete their degrees by registering at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, or online at Eden Seminary. Faculty and most staff concluded their employment on January 31, while some staff remained to wrap up business operations.

The seminary also announced a campaign to raise funds for severance for full-time faculty and staff. Three donors had committed $160,000 in matching gifts.

A service of closure was held in the seminary chapel on January 29.

The Archdiocese of Chicago has announced plans to close its undergraduate seminary, St. Joseph College Seminary of Loyola University Chicago. The seminary will close in June.

St. Joseph College Seminary currently has an enrollment of 20 students. Current students who wish to continue their studies will transfer to St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

According to a statement from the archdiocese, the closure is due in part because of the trend towards men choosing to enter seminary after completing their undergraduate studies, which has decreased the need for undergraduate seminaries.

Franciscan School of Theology relocates

The Franciscan School of Theology has announced plans to relocate to the campus of the University of San Diego.

The school of theology is currently located at Mission San Luis Rey, one of California’s original Spanish missions, in the city of Oceanside. It will relocate first to temporary facilities adjacent to the St. Francis Center for Priestly Formation, which is on the campus of the University of San Diego, before moving to a permanent home elsewhere on campus. Since 2013, Franciscan School of Theology has had an affiliation agreement with the university that allows students to cross-register for select courses.

According to the schools’ joint press release, the move to the university campus will give students more convenient access to cross-registered courses and provide new opportunities for collaboration.

Revision of accrediting standards

The greatest clarity with the most flexibility

The task force on the redevelopment of the standards of accreditation of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) has scheduled nearly 50 focus group sessions involving almost 500 participants from ATS schools. So far this year, about a third of those groups have met. In addition, the task force has appointed a dozen subcommittees that are working on key issues ranging from diversity and degree programs to faculty and formation. One of those groups, addressing the issue of governance, includes four trustees and four administrators from ATS schools, along with Amy Kardash, president of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools, and me. 

The working group on governance has focused on a variety of issues, including the definition of effective governance, the meaning of shared governance, and key principles and practices of good governance.  Given the increasing diversity and complexity of theological schools, one of the governance group members said that the new standards should seek “the greatest clarity with the most flexibility.” That resonates well with the task force’s overall goal of “elegant simplicity” for the new standards.

For more information on the ATS redevelopment process, visit To ask questions or to offer suggestions, comments, or concerns, send a message to

By Tom Tanner, director of accreditation at the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.


The Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Echols, the former dean of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and former president of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, died on December 22, 2018. He was 67.

Echols was the first African American scholar to serve as both a dean and president in any seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Prior to his retirement, he was also director of theological education and networks, part of the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA.

Echols is survived by his wife, Donna Skinner Echols, his two daughters, and a granddaughter. A full obituary is online at

Changes at the top

Jaime E. Robledo

Sulpician Father Jaime E. Robledo has been appointed rector of Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. He succeeds Father Jeff Pehl, rector since 2011, who has been named pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Selma, Texas.

Ordained in 1990, Father Robledo is a priest of the Diocese of Buga, Colombia. After ordination he served as pastor of several parishes in his home diocese, led the Institute for the New Evangelization of Culture, and was founding vice rector of Twelve Apostles Seminary. He then moved to the United States where he served on the faculty of Assumption Seminary for five years, after which he served for six years at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, as spiritual director, formation advisor, and chair of the moral and spiritual theology department.

Father Robledo is a graduate of St. Peter’s Seminary in the Colombian city of Cali, and of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He is a doctoral candidate at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.

Founded in 1641 in Paris, the Society of St. Sulpice is a community of diocesan priests whose mission is the formation of diocesan priests. In 2017, the Sulpicians and Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio signed an agreement giving the Sulpicians responsibility for the administration and staffing of Assumption Seminary effective July 1, 2018. Father Robledo became a member of the Sulpicians in 2011.

Roger S. Nam

 In 2018, Dr. Roger S. Nam was appointed dean of Portland Seminary at George Fox University in Portland, Oregon. Nam succeeded Dr. Charles C. Conniry, who departed after 10 years in the role and now serves as vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Western Seminary.

Nam has served on the faculty of Portland Seminary since 2008. Previously he was a financial analyst and served as pastor of Choong Hyun Presbyterian Church in Seoul, South Korea. In addition to his role as dean, Nam currently serves as professor of Biblical studies and as a principal of Theologia, the George Fox University Summer Theology Institute.

He is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles; General Assembly Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Seoul; and Fuller Theological Seminary. Nam and his wife, Samantha, have two sons.

Stephen E. Salocks

 The Rev. Stephen E. Salocks has been named interim rector of Saint John’s Seminary in Boston. He succeeds Monsignor James P. Moroney, who served as rector for six years until late last year, when Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, appointed him interim rector of St. Paul Cathedral in Worcester. Monsignor Moroney had been on leave while allegations of improper conduct at the seminary were being investigated. However, no accusations of wrongdoing were made against Moroney himself.

Father Salocks, who has been serving as interim rector since last August, is a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston. He is a full-time faculty member at the seminary, where he has served for more than 30 years, including as dean of students from 1992 to 1997 and as dean of the faculty from 1997 to 2012. Previously Father Salocks was a parochial vicar at St. Michael’s Parish in Hudson, Massachusetts.

A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Saint John’s Seminary, and Pontifical Biblical Institute, Father Salocks was ordained in 1980.

Joseph C. Taphorn

 Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul–Minneapolis has named Father Joseph C. Taphorn as rector of Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minnesota. The seminary’s board of trustees has approved the appointment. Father Taphorn succeeds Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan, who served as rector from 2005 until his retirement in 2018. Monsignor Callaghan will continue to serve the seminary as rector emeritus, focusing on advancement and community relations.

Father Taphorn has served in various roles in the Archdiocese of Omaha, most recently as founding pastor and director of the St. John Paul II Newman Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In addition, Father Taphorn served on the board of the Nebraska Catholic Conference and was an officer of Catholic Mutual Group.

Ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1997, Father Taphorn is a graduate of Benedictine College, the Pontifical College Josephinum, and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He began his service as rector on January 1, 2019.

Maylanne Maybee

 The board of governors of the United Theological College in Montréal has appointed Deacon Maylanne Maybee as interim principal for a three-year term. She succeeds the Rev. Dr. Philip Joudrey, principal since 1999, who retired in 2018.

Prior to her appointment, Maybee retired from her role as principal of the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg, where she served from 2011 to 2017. Previously she served the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada as coordinator of ecojustice networks, mission, and justice education.

Maybee is a graduate of the Trinity College at the University of Toronto and of the University of Oxford. She has served as an Anglican deacon for more than 30 years.

Valerie Rempel

 Dr. Valerie Rempel has been named interim vice president of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California. She succeeds Dr. Terry Brensinger, president since 2013, who has stepped down from his administrative role but will continue serving the seminary as professor of pastoral education.

A member of the seminary faculty since 1996, Rempel has served as academic dean since 2014. She also holds the J. B. Toews chair in history and theology.

Rempel is a graduate of Tabor College, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, and Vanderbilt University. She is a licensed minister in the Pacific District of the Mennonite Brethren Churches.

Her appointment comes as Fresno Pacific University has announced changes to the seminary’s structure. The separated roles of president and dean of the seminary have been folded into one position—vice president of the seminary. 

Gregory Howard

 The Rev. Dr. Gregory Howard has been named interim dean of Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology of Virginia Union University. He succeeds Dr. Corey D.B. Walker, who stepped down from the role in late 2018 after serving for slightly more than one year. Walker is currently a visiting professor at the University of Richmond and is also Freedom Forum Institute Senior Fellow for Religious Freedom at the Religious Freedom Center in Washington, D.C.

Howard is senior pastor of First Baptist Church East End in Newport News, Virginia. He is also president of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia and serves Virginia Union as an instructor in religious studies. He was previously pastor of Union Branch Baptist Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, and Jerusalem Baptist Church in Sparta, Virginia, and was on the board of trustees of Virginia Union University.

He is a graduate of Bluefield College, Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology, and the Aquinas Institute of Theology. Howard and his wife, Kimberly, have four children.

Peter T. Vogt

 Dr. Peter T. Vogt has been appointed dean of Bethel Seminary, a graduate division of Bethel University in Arden Hills, Minnesota. He succeeds Dr. David K. Clark, who retired after serving as vice president and dean from 2012 to 2017. Clark remains on the faculty as professor of theology.

At the time of his appointment, Vogt was senior pastor at LifePoint Church in Maplewood, Minnesota. Prior to that, he served on the faculty at Bethel Seminary from 2001 until 2014. He was also previously an officer in the U.S. Navy, and he currently serves as a consultant advisor to the London School of Theology.

Vogt is a graduate of American University, Bethel Seminary, and the University of Gloucestershire. He and his wife, Cami, have five children.


 The Rev. Dr. Nancy Claire Pittman has been named president of Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has served as interim president of the seminary since July 2018.

 Dr. F. David Bronkema has been appointed dean of Palmer Theological Seminary in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has served as interim dean since 2016; during his time as interim dean, Bronkema facilitated the move of the seminary to the campus of Eastern University. 

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