Houston Graduate School of Theology
Becky Towne was named president of the Houston Graduate School of Theology in Texas in July. She continues her teaching role as professor of Christian spirituality and advisor to all current students as the school transitions as a legacy partner with Kairos University, a global network that includes five schools and over 30 partner organizations around the world.
Dr. Towne previously served as director of the doctor of ministry program, associate dean and academic dean at HGST. She succeeds Dr. James Firr, who served as president since 2010. He was awarded emeritus status at his retirement.
Dr. Towne earned her doctor of ministry degree from Houston Graduate School of Theology in 2005 and began work at HGST full-time in 2008 after 31 years of pastoral ministry in Texas, Iowa, and Colorado. She received her undergraduate degree from Barclay College, and a master of arts in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.
The Board of Directors of Auburn Seminary in New York, New York, announced in October the appointment of the Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson as its eleventh president.
She succeeds the Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, who served Auburn for 28 years, the last 12 as president.
Dr. Jordan-Simpson previously served as the executive director of Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR USA), the U.S. branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and as executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund – New York.
She also was the founding executive director of Girls Incorporated of New York City and executive vice president of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.
Ordained by the Concord Baptist Church of Christ, a historic freedom faith congregation in Brooklyn, New York, Jordan-Simpson is a graduate of Fisk University; Union Theological Seminary, where she earned a master of divinity degree; and Drew Theological Seminary (doctor of ministry).
She is the president of the Board of American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York and serves on the Board of Directors of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.
Moravian Theological Seminary
Heather Vacek became dean and vice president of Moravian Theological Seminary at Moravian University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 1.
She succeeds Rev. Dr. Frank Crouch, who retired after 20 years in the role, and Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood, interim dean and vice president, who served for one year.
Dr. Vacek previously served at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary as an associate professor of church history. For the past six years, she has also served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty.
She worked for more than a decade in corporate engineering and marketing when she experienced her call to ministry and earned a master of divinity (2006) and a doctorate in theology (2012) from Duke Divinity School. She was ordained by the Southern Province of the Moravian Church in July 2012.
Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Rev. Stephen P. Burr was named rector and president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary of Detroit, Michigan, effective July 1, 2021. His appointment was announced by the Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit.
Father Burr succeeds Msgr. Todd Lajiness, who led the seminary since 2012 and who will accept a new role leading one of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s newly created “families of parishes.”
Ordained to the priesthood in 2002, Father Burr has served for the past 12 years in various seminary leadership roles, including as a theology instructor, formation adviser to seminarians, director of undergraduate seminarians, director of undergraduate pastoral formation and, since 2017, as vice rector and dean of seminarian formation.
Before his tenure at Sacred Heart, Father Burr served in several parish assignments in Michigan, where he also served as chaplain to Brother Rice and Marian high schools in Bloomfield Hills.
Moody Theological Seminary
Moody Bible Institute Provost Dr. Dwight Perry in June announced the appointment of Winfred Neely, Ph.D., as vice president and dean of the institute’s Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago.
In his new role, Dr. Neely will oversee the seminary’s development of curriculum and programs, as well as faculty recruitment and development on its two campuses in Chicago and Plymouth, Michigan.
Dr. Neely previously served as chair of the Division of Applied Theology and Church Ministries, as well as program head and professor of biblical preaching.
He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Trinity College, a master of arts from Wheaton College Graduate School, a doctor of ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
Oblate School of Theology
Scott Woodward has finished a year as president of Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, after starting his role in September 2020. He was formally installed in October and became the first lay leader of the school, which is operated by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Appointed by the school’s Board of Trustees and approved by the Provincial Council of the Missionary Oblates, Dr. Woodward succeeds Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI, who has returned to the faculty.
In 1998, Dr. Woodward earned a doctor of ministry from the institution he now serves. He holds a master’s from St. Mary’s University, also in San Antonio, and earned his bachelor’s degree from Seattle University.
He assumed the office in September 2020 and continues to serve as a member of the faculty in the Department of Pastoral Theology. He began his career at Oblate School in 1991 as director of lay ministry and served as program director for the master of arts in pastoral ministry as well as vice president for academic affairs and dean from 2009 until his most recent appointment as president of the school.
Seth J. Nelson
Erskine Theological Seminary
Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, South Carolina, appointed the Rev. Dr. Seth J. Nelson as dean of the seminary and associate professor of pastoral theology and educational leadership, effective July 1. Nelson previously had has served as the executive director of the seminary’s Greenville extension site, and, since January, as the assistant dean of the seminary.
Dr. Nelson earned the bachelor’s in pastoral studies from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, a master of divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and a Ph.D. in educational studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) with more than 10 years of pastoral ministry experience.
Nelson succeed Dr. R.J. Gore, who retired as dean and was appointed dean emeritus recognizing two decades of service to the seminary. He also will continue in his full-time teaching role as professor of systematic theology.
The Very Rev. Dr. Michael W. DeLashmutt was named acting dean and president of General Seminary in New York, New York, in May 2021. He also serves as the vice president and dean for academic affairs and associate professor of sacred theology, a position he has held at General since 2016.
A fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK), Dr. DeLashmutt’s early research explored patterns of ministry formation in the Church of England, with a particular interest in alternative pathways for ordination training for bi-vocational and non-stipendiary clergy.
Since 2010 he has served in senior leadership roles in theological colleges and seminaries in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, including Trinity Lutheran College as vice president and dean for academic affairs. Dr. DeLashmutt was ordained an Episcopal Church priest in 2020, and serves as priest associate at St. Peter’s Chelsea in New York.
San Francisco Theological Seminary
A historian of Christianity with three decades of experience in theological education has been named assistant provost and interim dean of the San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS). Christopher Ocker, Ph.D., known particularly for his work on the medieval background to the Reformation, has been a member of the faculty at SFTS since 1991. He has served as associate director of the GTU’s Center for Hermeneutical Studies, co-director of its Center for the Study of Religion and Culture, and chair of its Department for Cultural and Historical Studies. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
He succeeds Rev. Jana Childers, who returns to teaching at SFTS, a part of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, California, since 1992.
Kimberlee A. Johnson
Palmer Theological Seminary
Kimberlee A. Johnson accepted the appointment to serve as interim dean of the Palmer Theological Seminary in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, and began her duties in August 2020.
An educator, administrator, passionate preacher, social justice advocate, and clergy leader whose love for God and humanity have fueled a lifetime of service in academic, church, and community settings, she has served in higher education since first joining the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary staff more than 20 years ago. In 1997 she joined Eastern University as its first coordinator of Service Learning and Campus Ministries (and Missions).
Dr. Johnson is the first woman to be ordained at the historic Tasker Street Missionary Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, part of the American Baptist Churches USA, where she went on to serve in several leadership capacities, including lead minister during the pastor’s prolonged leave of absence and as director of Christian education.
St. Patrick’s Seminary
The Rev. Mark Doherty was named president-rector of St. Patrick’s Seminary in February 2021 by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Archdiocese of San Francisco on and was appointed to a five-year term by the Board of Trustees.
Father Doherty is a graduate of St. Patrick’s Seminary, located in Menlo Park, California, and entered the novitiate of California Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). A decade later, he departed from the Society and resumed his studies for the priesthood at St. Patrick’s; he was ordained in 2014. Father Doherty served as a parochial vicar in San Francisco for two years before earning his License in Sacred Theology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland in 2018, where he also assumed several pastoral charges. He returned to St. Patrick’s in 2020 to serve as Director of Liturgy before his recent appointment.
Father Doherty, who previously served as interim, succeeds Rev. Daniel B. Donohoo, who served as president-pector for two years.