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Whitworth Theology Department

Annual Newsletter 2018

Undergraduate Theology Program

A Message from Department Chair Keith Beebe

Dear friends of the Whitworth Theology Department,

I write this over Commencement Weekend, when on Saturday we hosted a breakfast reception for our 23 theology graduates, joining with their families to celebrate their achievements and contributions to our department life. As we do each year, we honored a select number of students for special recognition, this year presenting Carter Hudson and Kylie Guenther with Outstanding Theology Senior Awards, Anna Waltar with the Zondervan Theology Award, and Carter Hudson with the Zondervan Outstanding Greek Language Award. And for the third straight year, Sophie Ridgeway was recognized for her skill in biblical languages, this time receiving the Zondervan Outstanding Hebrew Language Award. This was a particularly strong class of theology graduates, with 15 graduating cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude, and with Anna Waltar receiving the President's Cup (for a 4.0 GPA) and Kylie Guenther receiving the Distinguished Collegiate Achievement Award.

Faculty Highlights

Also for a third straight year, a colleague from our department delivered the sermon at the Sunday morning baccalaureate service. This time it was Associate Professor Jonathan Moo, who also received a Most Influential Professor Award from the Whitworth senior class. In his powerful message based upon Revelation 5 and titled, "How to Rule the World," Jonathan encouraged graduates to "see reality" – that is, to recognize that we are all part of an unfolding cosmic drama much bigger than ourselves and are dearly loved by God; to "imagine the Kingdom" – the fullness of which lies in the future, but is manifest in part in the present; and to "trust Christ" – following the Lamb that was slain through a life of self-giving love and sacrificial service to others. It was a moving and timely message!

This year we are happy to announce that Visiting Assistant Professor Josh Leim will be joining the regular faculty in a permanent tenure-track position, for which we are all rejoicing! Besides teaching New Testament and hermeneutics, Josh assumed leadership of the Core 150 course after I retired from that position last spring, and is doing a stellar job. We were also delighted to learn that Josh received the 2018 Integration of Faith and Learning Award from Whitworth's Weyerhaeuser Center for Faith and Learning, a fitting confirmation of the continuing impact he is making on the lives of our students!

We also celebrate the news that Associate Professor Will Kynes has been granted tenure, and has also been selected to be the new director of the George Whitworth Honors Program. Will represented our department very well as a respondent on the April 16 panel discussion "How Free Should Free Speech Be?" – the last of three installments of the 2017-18 President's Colloquy on Civil Discourse. All of this is recognition of the leadership he is providing across the campus community.

Two of our theology faculty members, Will Kynes and Karin Heller, each wrote and received $10,000 Teaching the Bible Grants from the Presbyterian Church (USA), which will fund the development of new courses and materials. According to the grant selection committee, "This was the best group of proposals we have seen in several years, and the readers were impressed with Whitworth's submissions. So much so, in fact, that readers were split on selecting Dr. Heller's and Dr. Kynes' proposals with the highest priority for award." Therefore, they both received the award!Karin (receiving the 2017 award) will write a textbook for her new course, Bible Themes and Women, and Will (receiving the 2018 award) will use the funding to develop a new course, Defiant Faith: Biblical Responses to Suffering.

As if this wasn't enough, our expert grant writers Karin and Will also received Whitworth's inaugural Hugh Johnston Interdisciplinary Research Grant for 2018! Karin – in collaboration with two music department faculty – has received $20,800 for their project, "Women's Voices = Human Voices." Will received $5,860 for his project titled "Wrestle On, Jacob: Defiant Faith of Hebrew Bible in Spirituals, Slave Narratives, and Sermons at the Smithsonian."

There is other exciting faculty news that I could share, as well – including several faculty publications, numerous conference speaking engagements, Assistant Professor Haley Goranson Jacob's recent marriage to Alan, and more – but I will encourage you to read about these developments and accomplishments in more detail in the personal faculty profiles that follow.

Special Programs

Although we did not sponsor any campuswide lectures in the fall, we made up for it by hosting four special speakers in the spring! In early March, we were pleased to bring to campus Kimlyn Bender, professor of Christian theology at Truett Seminary (Baylor), who delivered the annual Bruner-Welch Lecture. His presentation, "Real Faith in a Virtual World: Christian Discipleship in a Digital Age," was both timely and challenging. Two weeks later, Christine Yoder, professor of Old Testament language, literature and exegesis at Columbia Theological Seminary, delivered one of our Staley Distinguished Christian Scholar Lectures, an insightful and engaging examination of "Wisdom Personified as a Woman: An Odyssey Across Texts and Testaments." Our other Staley Lecture this spring featured Robert Heimburger, associate chaplain to graduate students with the Oxford Pastorate (UK). His lecture, "God and the Illegal Alien: United States Immigration Law and a Theology of Politics," was yet another timely and relevant address. Finally, we welcomed David Eastman, associate professor of religion at Ohio Wesleyan University, whose lecture tackled the question, "Why are Abraham's Children Still Fighting?" by tracing the historic relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Altogether, we enjoyed quite the array of diverse and thought-provoking topics this spring!

Speaking of diverse topics, our department's monthly Overflow theological discussion events covered immigration, mental health, a theology of sports, theology and gender, biblical justice and the worldwide refugee crisis. We are grateful for the guidance that Josh Leim and Will Kynes give to the student team that selects the topics, invites special speakers, plans and promotes the meetings, and leads the discussions.

A New Home!

And finally… The floor has been poured and the walls are going up on our new departmental home, the Beeksma Family Theology Center! Construction is on schedule, and we are packing our books and belongings into boxes for the migration. We anticipate moving into our new office complex adjacent to the chapel in late August, just before classes begin. You are invited to join us for our grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. (during Homecoming & Family Weekend).

We are excited about our ascension from "The Catacombs" in lower Westminster to the center of campus and to be working alongside our colleagues in campus ministries and the Office of Church Engagement. We are especially grateful to Barney and Joyce Beeksma and their extended family whose generosity is making this possible, and we are committed to fulfilling Barney's earnest call that we "Keep Christ at the center"!

I hope you will stop by and pay us a visit in our new departmental home. In the meantime, may you and your loved ones have a blessed year!

Keeping Christ at the center,


A Message from Director of the Graduate Studies in Theology program Jeremy Wynne

As I write, I'm still riding the excitement of Commencement Weekend. Last Saturday, we celebrated 11 of our graduate students as they moved on to the next season of life and work. It was especially good to see the outpouring of joy from so many friends and families. For us as faculty, this support system is often hidden from view, yet we know from our students' stories how much time, attention and energy their loved ones have invested in these last couple of years. So there's joy, relief and a lot of gratitude behind these smiles: 

A highlight of the ceremony was Leslie McAuley's excellent reading of Luke 12:48, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." (Note to self: Next time around make sure that our theology graduatereceives the longer of the two Bible passages to read! Note to others: If you were there, you know what I mean.)

Jeremy WynneEach of these graduates returns to old work and new work, in a range of contexts. They're teachers and chaplains, pastors working with homeless youth, writers and lay leaders. I could go on. One of our grads, Daniel Christensen, is looking ahead to a doctoral program and an eventual university post teaching history. During his time at Whitworth, Daniel has excelled in language work. This spring, not only did he present a master's thesis on the topic of Paul's Roman citizenship – which was completed under the supervision of Visiting Assistant Professor Josh Leim – but he also was accepted to deliver a paper on the same topic at the regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. 

A master's thesis is just one example of the opportunities we're investing in on behalf of our students. Next year we will also welcome a new chaplain internship opportunity at St. Luke's Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as two new elective courses – one by Rob Fairbanks on "The Holy Spirit and the Mission of God," and a biblical studies elective byAssistant Professor Haley Jacob on "The Messiah."

Speaking of change, if you've been following certain news feeds, you've seen how the landscape of graduate theological education is morphing right before our eyes. Long-established campuses are closing; seminaries are increasingly turning to online offerings; and M.Div. programs, historically regarded as the go-to degree for ordination, are being severely pared down, while M.A. degrees are growing. At Whitworth, we're seeking to stay ahead of this curve. In many ways, our program was created by visionaries who, 11 years ago, already felt the change in prevailing winds and responded. Our desire more than ever is to offer our students excellent academic preparation, through an accessible schedule, and in the context of authentic Christian community. It was a joy this year to welcome 18 new students into our program, some of whom are driving from as far away as Missoula and the Tri-Cities.

I'll end with an invitation. In the weeks and months to come, as we grow and change, and as you pursue a life of ministry, we would love to hear from you. Visit us in the new Beeksma Theology Center (which I trust you've heard a great deal about!). Our move to the new building is going to have a tremendous impact – uniting our various programs and ministries, forming a focal point on campus, and establishing more functional space for meetings and even seminars. For this, and so much more, we're immensely gratefully. Until then, a blessing: "It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed" (Deuteronomy 31:8).


Faculty Updates