July 27, 2006
Presbyterian Leader Endows Chair Honoring Renowned Whitworth Bible Scholar
An Oklahoma businessman and philanthropist has pledged in excess of $1 million to complete funding for an endowed chair in theology at Whitworth that recognizes and supports the school's strong legacy of biblical scholarship and teaching.
The chair will be named in honor of F. Dale Bruner, who retired in 1997 after 22 years as one of Whitworth's most influential and popular theology professors. And, with consultation and the unanimous recommendation of the Whitworth Department of Theology and Philosophy, Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Le Roy has appointed as the chair's first occupant James Edwards, a nationally recognized theologian who carries on Bruner's legacy as a teacher and scholar at Whitworth.
William J. Welch, a longtime elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and his wife, Peggy Layman Welch, an active deacon in the church, announced the pledge for the Bruner-Welch Endowed Chair in Theology at the Whitworth Institute of Ministry, July 10-14, where Bruner and Edwards were featured lecturers. An additional $150,000 has been given or pledged for the chair by other donors.
Bill and Peggy Welch have also established the Welch Family Foundation Special Collection of Reformed and Renewal Theology of North America and Europe at the University of Tulsa to archive the papers of important Christian reformed theologians, including Bruner; noted Bible translator Eugene Peterson; Campus Crusade for Christ founder William R. Bright; Bryant Kirkland, pastor emeritus of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City; Marva Dawn, Teaching Fellow in Spiritual Theology at Regent College; and Andrew Purves, the Hugh Thomson Kerr Chair in Pastoral Theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
Welch says he has long respected Bruner's writing and teaching, and he wanted to support the Whitworth theology faculty's continuing efforts to equip pastors, congregations and scholars to bring about renewal in the Presbyterian Church.
"I'm thrilled to be able to honor my longtime friends Dale Bruner and Jim Edwards, who are making such significant contributions to theological scholarship and Christian life," Welch says. "Peggy and I are delighted to wholeheartedly endorse and support Whitworth College, its leadership, its faculty, and its students."
Bruner joined the Whitworth faculty in 1975 and quickly became known for his winsome yet passionate approach to teaching the biblical narrative. His classes drew students from departments across campus and were routinely filled to capacity. Bruner's influence stretched far beyond the Whitworth campus through his highly regarded commentary on Matthew's gospel, and through his speaking and teaching at churches and conferences around the country.
Whitworth's Department of Theology and Philosophy has seen tremendous growth during and after Bruner's tenure. Over the past decade, the number of theology degrees granted has quadrupled and the number of credits taught by the department has increased 70 percent. For several years, Whitworth has been one of the top feeder schools to both Princeton Theological Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary. The Bruner-Welch Endowed Chair in Theology will enable the department to preserve and strengthen its commitment to teaching and mentoring students while also providing resources to support theological scholarship, travel and service to the church.
"This endowed chair represents a strong commitment by Bill and Peggy Welch and other donors to support Whitworth's mission," Le Roy says. "Jim Edwards is ideally qualified to be the first occupant of the Bruner-Welch Chair, which connects his well-known strengths in research, writing and teaching to issues facing our campus, the community and the church. I expect that the work Jim will be able to do in this role will further strengthen the theology department and Whitworth's profile nationally."
Edwards, a 1967 Whitworth graduate and ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), holds a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary and an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has also studied theology at the University of Zürich, in Switzerland, at the University of Tübingen, in Germany, and at Tyndale House, in Cambridge, England. After serving nearly 20 years as a professor at Jamestown College, Edwards joined Whitworth's faculty in 1997 and currently serves as chair of the department of theology and philosophy.
A contributing editor to Christianity Today magazine, Edwards has published numerous articles and books for scholarly and popular audiences. His latest book, Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Eerdmans 2005), was named the top book of the year on apologetics and evangelism by Christianity Today. Edwards' other recent publications include The Divine Intruder (NavPress, 2000); a commentary on Hebrews in The Renovare Study Bible (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005); a commentary on Romans in New Interpreter's Study Bible (Abingdon, 2003); and a commentary on The Gospel of Mark, PNTC (Eerdmans, 2002).
"It is an immense privilege for me to be named the first occupant of the Bruner-Welch Chair of Theology and to stand in the legacy of Dale Bruner and Bill Welch," Edwards says. "By allowing me and its future occupants to teach half time and to devote half time to research and writing, the endowment reaffirms Whitworth's commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching and excellence in theological scholarship. The Welch endowment of the Bruner legacy is a tangible affirmation of the mission of Whitworth College and its extension beyond to the broader church."
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,500 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.
Michael Le Roy, vice president for academic affairs, (509) 777-3203 or email@example.com.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, (509) 777-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.