Two seminaries in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have branched out to find new leaders, with one appointing a Catholic nun as dean and the other naming a prominent evangelical as president.
When Sister Elizabeth Liebert takes over as dean of San Francisco Theological Seminary on June 30, she will become the first Catholic nun to lead a PCUSA seminary, according to the school. Liebert has taught at SFTS for 22 years, and was the first Roman Catholic to receive tenure at the 138-year-old seminary.
“We are particularly pleased to be attaining a historic ecumenical milestone,” said SFTS President Phil Butin. “Dr. Liebert’s deanship is a sterling example of SFTS’s thoroughgoing commitment to ecumenical theological education.”
“Behind me is my whole religious community,” said Liebert, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. “I know they all stand behind me. They function as my family. We’re always talking and praying.”
Across the country, in Decatur, Ga., Columbia Theological Seminary appointed the Rev. Stephen Hayner as president beginning on July 1.
Hayner, who has taught at Columbia since 2003, has been an ordained minister in the PCUSA for 36 years.
From 1988 to 2001, Hayner was president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a prominent evangelical campus ministry. “I’m always leery of getting labeled,” he told The Presbyterian Outlook. “When I was appointed as president of InterVarsity, the word on the street was, `What has I-V done, putting a mainline Presbyterian in charge?”‘
Hayner has lent his name to a number of causes, including a letter to former President George W. Bush in 2007 from 30 evangelical leaders pushing for a two-state solution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel.
“The opportunities in a rapidly changing world are great,” Hayner said of his new appointment, “and the challenges will include holding strongly to our foundation in biblical faith, while identifying and joining God’s new work relentlessly and creatively.”
The PCUSA, which has 2.1 million members, has 10 seminaries in the U.S. and special arrangements with seminaries in New York and Puerto Rico.
By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service
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