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Whitworth Theology Department Annual Newsletter 2023

  • Undergraduate Theology Program

    Haley JacobA message from Department Chair, Haley Jacob

    Dear friends of the Whitworth Theology Department,

    Our students have packed their bags and are off on their summer adventures. Some will return in September; a handful have said their final "goodbyes" to the Pinecone Curtain. We've had a delightful year with each of them. My colleagues and I remark frequently on the gift that it is to watch God work in the lives of each of our students.

    There are a number of things to report from this academic year. One of the more impactful and lasting elements of the year are the changes we made to the theology curriculum. Increasingly, we hear students say they are interested in studying theology but that they "don't know what they would do with it." That is, if they're not interested in pursuing full-time ministry, they feel they need to study a major that will "get them a job," despite their desire to study theology. We lament the pervasiveness of this thinking amongst our students. Finding it easier to adjust within the department rather than fight against culture, we made the decision to revise our theology curriculum to make it more accessible and flexible as a double major. This revised program will allow nearly every student at Whitworth, despite their career goals and primary major, to also double major in theology. Our greatest hope is that those students who feel such social or parental pressure will also find the freedom to pursue their love for theology. Wouldn't it be a beautiful thing if every Christian student who graduates from Whitworth is able to enter the workforce with skills to think theologically, pursue biblical justice and wrestle with the woes of the world through a Kingdom-centered lens? That is our hope!

    Department Events and Highlights

    One of our goals for the year was to incorporate more social events into our department. We want each of our majors to feel like this theology department is their academic home while at Whitworth, and that we cherish our time with them even outside of the classroom. And Jesus cared about fun, so we ought to also.

    • Kick-Off Kickball: We kicked off the year with a competitive game of kickball at Holmberg Park, followed by pizza at Jeremy's Wynne's house. If you want to see fierce competition, come watch Josh Leim and Jonathan Moo play kickball! 

    • Department Backpack Trip: At the end of September we had our first-ever department backpack trip. It was an all-ladies event this year. Three students, Samantha and Haley all made their way to Upper Priest Lake, in northern Idaho. The weather, setting, and company was all idyllic. The three students swam in the freezing cold waters, while Samantha and Haley sat by the fire drinking hot chocolate. We're still not sure who had the better idea of fun!

    • S'More Theology Bonfire: In mid-October we hosted our yearly bonfire at Pirate's Cove for majors, minors, and friends who might be interested in studying theology. It was another great success!  
    • 2nd Annual Gingerbread House Competition: In early December the department hosted its 2nd annual Gingerbread House Competition. We had five teams of students and faculty each creating a magnificent structure of bread and sugar. The houses were each named: The Holy Sepulchre (Most Theologically Sound), the Cathedral of St. Jose Maria Escriva, The Patron Saint of Diabetes (Most Heretical), the Beeksmansion (Most Structurally Sound), Two Advents of Christ (Least Structurally Sound), and Beauty Amidst Decay (Destined for Purgatory). This year's overall Grand Prize winner was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built by Abbey Rodriguez, Jude Ruestschle and Haley Jacob.

    • Games Night: We welcomed students back to campus in February with several rounds of "Big Bowl of Fun" and other embarrassing games! A lasting memory for everyone was when Keith Beebe beat Haley Jacob in a race to roll a sweet potato over a line with their noses! There was never a time before that moment when there was so much laughter in the Beeksma lounge. 

    • Dinner and a Concert: In March students and faculty ate traditional Brazilian food at Feast World Kitchen, before crossing the street to listen to the Whitworth Symphony and Choir concert at First Presbyterian Church. It was a lovely evening out together!
    • Dinner with Seniors: The year was concluded by an evening reflecting with seniors on their time at Whitworth. We are so grateful for the four years we've had with each of them.

    Student Achievements

    • Senior Cienna Dumaoal was chosen as the recipient of the Outstanding Theology Senior Award, which recognizes her consistent record of academic excellence.
    • Senior Dawson Gilbert is the department's recipient of the annual Zondervan Theology Award, which recognizes both his academic excellence and his leadership in various endeavors on campus.
    • The recipient of our Zondervan Greek Language Award is Drew Craddock.
    • The recipient of our Zondervan Hebrew Language Award is Sabine Uhler.
    • Our 2023 Writing Award was given to Sabine Uhler for her paper, "Following Jesus" in Adam Neder's course, "Who is Jesus Christ?" in fall 2022. Sabine will receive a $500 scholarship for the 2023-2024 academic year.

    Graduating Seniors

    Five students are graduating with theology degrees this year.

    • Cienna Dumaoal is from Redmond, Wash. Her favorite memories are 1) taking Christian Theology with Adam Neder via Zoom her sophomore year, 2) Tall Timber Jan Term with Jonathan Moo, which was "regenerative" and 3) the Fall 2022 Kick Off Kick Ball theology student and faculty game, after which her housemates enviously commented: "Nobody hangs out like the theology department does!" After her summer pastoral internship at Covenant Methodist Church, Cienna will head to New Haven, Conn. in the fall to begin her master's work at Yale Divinity School.
    • Micah Cunningham is from La Jolla, Calif. His favorite memories are his trips to Greece with Jonathan Moo in January 2021 and to Israel & Palestine with Haley Jacob in January 2023 and the great friendships developed on both trips. Micah will return to California after graduation and see what the Lord has for him, possibly doing some non-profit work. Seminary may be in his future in a couple of years.
    • Kyleia Rhodes is from Graham, Wash. Her favorite memories are 1) Adam Neder's classes – Three Outsiders and Christian Theology – which cemented her love for Kierkegaard, and 2) conversations with Jonathan Moo, Josh Leim and Jeremy Wynne during her four years here.  Kyleia will head to Duke Divinity School in the fall to earn her M.Div. She plans to pursue chaplaincy work in the future.
    • Dawson Gilbert is from Colbert, Wash. His favorite memories are two classes that "rocked his world" in fall 2020: Genesis in the Letters of Paul taught by Haley Jacob and Redemption of Creation taught by Jonathan Moo. After getting married this summer, Dawson will pursue an M.Div. at Duke Divinity School starting this fall.
    • Carsyn Williams graduated in December 2022 and is currently working at a Montessori School in Spokane. Her favorite two memories of her time at Whitworth are 1) Jan Term at Tall Timber with Jonathan Moo, where students had no outside communications for the month and drew closer to one another, and 2) Watching the Fred Rogers movie in Adam Neder's Theology & Film class. Carsyn will return home to the Seattle area after graduation to wait and see what doors are opened to her regarding her next steps.

    One Pine Day Completion!

    With the funds raised on One Pine Day 2022, we were able to completely revamp the entire courtyard area into a functional and beautiful space. Last summer, the wall was removed. Last fall, the furniture was purchased. This spring, the fireplace was upgraded. Over the course of the year, more and more students, staff, and faculty gravitated toward what is now a comfortable area for individuals and groups to meet, study, or just relax. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this project!

    Our Gratitude

    It is impossible to communicate our gratitude to each of you. As our majors increase (praise the Lord!), particularly those from Washington, we are grateful for the ongoing generous support from the Welch Family Foundation that helps replace Washington State Grant monies lost when students declare as theology majors. Because of this gift, our students feel encouraged to study theology without losing financial aid. We are also grateful for the endowed funds and other gifts that allowed 11 theology majors to receive an additional $43,300 of merit and need-based departmental scholarships this year alone.

    We are increasingly grateful to all of you who have donated to this department, whether in one time or monthly gifts. These fun, community-building events that help us to mark the passing of the year are possible only because you have chosen to invest in this department and in these students. They ate pizza and Brazilian food and made Gingerbread Houses and roasted s'mores because of your generous gifts. Additionally, we as faculty are extremely grateful. Your donations are used to help faculty cover conference participation costs, afford research materials, or buy a coffee or lunch for a mentee; large and small opportunities that would not be possible otherwise. On behalf of all of us, thank you.

    Faculty Highlights

    At the end of this year we are celebrating and lamenting two major faculty changes to our department. The first is the retirement of Keith Beebe, after 23 years of full-time service to Whitworth. During those 23 years he has served as the director of the Core 150 program for 14 years and served as chair of the theology department for nine years. If you do the math, that's the majority of his Whitworth career in some form of leadership. Throughout those years, he has served as a teacher, a scholar, and a mentor, but perhaps what we'll miss most is his collegiality. Keith loves people, and Keith loves to shepherd people. He has done just that with each of us in the department, and we will miss his presence dearly. We wish him well in all that God has planned for his retirement!

    The second major faculty change that we ourselves are still processing is the departure of our own Adam Neder. You can read about Adam's coming changes in the Faculty Highlights below. Let me take the opportunity here to say how beloved Adam is in this department and how much he will be missed. He has championed deep thinking, robust reflection, and an embodied commitment to Christ, among his peers and in the classroom. He has supported and encouraged his colleagues, challenged Whitworth to maintain its Christian mission, and mentored countless students in their journey of faith in Jesus Christ. We wish our friend well, and we trust that God will use him in unimaginable ways in his journey ahead.

    On behalf of the entire theology department, thank you for all the ways in which you have invested in us as faculty and in the students whom we are called to teach and mentor. So much of what we do is because of you. May the Lord bless you and your loved ones. May He refresh your soul this summer, and bring you His peace. Please keep this department and our world-changing students in your prayers.

    Keeping Christ at the center,


  • Graduate Studies in Theology

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

    We have much to celebrate this year. Among the program highlights, I am pleased to announce that Kylan Kracher was selected to receive the Robert M. Duryee Endowed Scholarship for 2022. The award recognizes Kylan for his academic accomplishments as well as his commitment to ministry. In addition, Drew Craddock presented his master's thesis on May 11. The work was entitled "Scheming: The Consulting Criminal of the Vices." I love how these presentations attract faculty, staff, graduate students and undergrads around a single important topic. Drew did a fantastic job! And note: you can check out the final product online. As with all our theses, his will soon be available through the library catalogue.

    As for the classroom, it was a joy that I got to teach my course Theology in the Public Square during Jan Term. We had great conversations, as we tried to work out theologically-grounded solutions to problems shared across American culture. It was invigorating for me to be in the classroom with a tremendous group of 10 students! On a related note, I owe a special shout-out to our talented grad student Sarah Sugano, who led us in rich worship. This year we also offered a new elective called Interpreting Scripture. It was taught by MattBell. Matt teaches at Whitworth - get this - in the computer science department, but he earned his doctorate at prestigious Durham University in the area of historical theology. What a résumé! Needless to say, our students report that it's been an academically challenging year. As therapy, many of them will be taking a tour this summer through the writings of C.S. Lewis. Their guide this time around is Forrest Buckner. I expect it should be a lifegiving class for all. And last but not least, I am proud to say that we have added seven new graduates to our alumni community. Reach out to them with your kudos - Darrell Wayenberg, Jesse Hicks, Drew Craddock, Sarah Sugano, Marni Nazareno, Peggy Crooks and Alyssa Stockdill. They are such phenomenal students. We will miss them dearly and wish them the very best.

    One final thing. We're making some significant changes around here. It's become evident over the last couple of years (and very clear to us over the last few months) that cultural changes inside and outside the church have made traditional ways of delivering education very difficult. This is true even for our program, which has a fairly innovative structure. As a result, we'll be putting our graduate degrees on the back burner for a while. This will give us the opportunity, starting in fall of 2024, to try something new. This new initiative will continue to be relational and richly informed. (That's what we're committed to in this department!) But it will also be offered to participants in much smaller units. We're going to focus sharply on contemporary challenges and needs in the life of faith. We're going to reach out to the broad church in Spokane. And this new program won't be credit-bearing. Obviously, this is new territory for us. But it's also deeply promising. Most importantly, we trust it's the work God has called us to in this next season. Stay tuned for more details next winter.

  • Faculty Updates

    Keith Beebe (2001-2023), Professor of Theology

    After 26 years of teaching theology at Whitworth (three years as an adjunct and 23 full-time), I am retiring this spring. During this time, I served as chair of Core 150 for 14 years, and theology department chair for nine. I had the pleasure of leading students on eleven study programs throughout England and Scotland (and once in Ireland), and assisting in another two programs through the Holy Land and Germany—amounting to a total of 52 weeks. I've been able to develop and teach a wide variety of Bible and church history courses, from Jesus and the Kingdom of God to Angels, Demons, Heaven and Hell, and from Race and the American Church to The History of Christian Renewal Movements. It has been a great ride, and I am grateful to God for allowing me to serve Christ and His Church in this way.

    My plans for the future include:

    • Continuing to work on my book project, tentatively titled, Revival at Cambuslang: George Whitefield, William McCulloch, and the Scottish Evangelical Awakening of 1742.
    • A possible return to congregational leadership through interim pastoral ministry.
    • A possible move to Monte Vista Grove, a Presbyterian retirement community in Pasadena, Calif.

    I am so grateful for being able to work alongside such great colleagues and students the past decades, and I am eager to see where God leads me in this new chapter of life. Grace and blessings to you all.

    Karin Heller (2003-present), Professor of Theology

    Dear friends,

    Three highlights from my academic year:

    1. At the invitation of Gregor Thuswaldner, our Provost, I wrote an article for the Routledge Handbook of Christianity and Culture. It is entitled Christianity, Sexuality and Gender.

    2. This spring term stirred much discussion on campus about a long overdue change of Whitworth's current hiring policy which excludes so far people from the LGBTQ+ community. Students from my classes were key for making significant progress in this difficult conversation and Cienna Dumaoal took a groundbreaking lead on it. This fall she leaves for Yale Divinity School to study queer liberation theology and trauma informed pastoring. Feel free to watch YouTube: Whitworth University students call for changes to school's hiring policies.

    3. For this summer I received an invitation to be one of four keynote speakers at a Conference titled Being Spiritual While Doing Research. It is organized by a network for Research and Higher Education in Europe near Cologne/Germany. My topic will be Religious Anthropology, Myth and Graphic Novel: Being Under Invitation for a Spiritual Quest.

    I'm always happy to receive feedback from you! Thank you for sending your message to:

    Adam Neder (2004-2023), Professor of Theology, Bruner-Welch Chair in Theology

    Well, this one's not easy to write . . .

    After 19 years at Whitworth, I've accepted an offer to become professor of theology and… super-long title alert… associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences for the School of Theology and Christian Ministry at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

    Janet and I spent the first year of our marriage in Nashville and now, 28 years later, we are headed back. Both of us are from Chattanooga, Tenn., which is a couple hours away, and our mothers and brothers still live there. Janet and I are glad to be close to them again, and we're excited about our Nashville adventure, but we will miss Whitworth and our friends here in Spokane so much.

    How do I sum up nearly two decades of life at the university I love? How do I sign-off from the place where, until a month and half ago, I never seriously considered leaving? How do I even begin to express my gratitude for the community that has given me so immeasurably more than I could have hoped or imagined?

    I have no idea.

    So let me just thank you for everything and ask you to please keep in touch.

    And let these be my final public words as a Whitworth professor:

    "May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."


    Jonathan MooJonathan Moo (2010- present) Professor of Theology, Edward Lindaman Endowed Chair

    We have faced challenges this year at Whitworth, and yet God's grace has been evident in the growth, transformed lives and day-to-day joys and struggles of working and learning together in this beautiful, diverse community. Emerging from two years of pandemic disruptions, my students this year were amongst the brightest and most engaged I've taught. Highlights included my Environmental Ethics seminar-style class in the autumn and another marvelous January in the Cascade Mountains studying Ecology and the Bible at Tall Timber Ranch. I used the extra time afforded by the Lindaman Chair to continue writing on creation care and on the Book of Revelation and to give talks, lectures and short courses around the country and as far abroad as England and New Zealand. I also gave more of my time to working with two non-profits and am especially excited about all that's happening at A Rocha USA, a Christian conservation organization (which some of you might want to consider joining!). As my tenure as Lindaman Chair draws to a close, I admit to sadness about the increased constraints on my time and foreclosing of opportunities that I know is coming, as well as some regret about the ways in which COVID upended my plans for the Chair. But most of all I am reminded to give thanks for the many good things God has provided in these years and to trust Christ for the future.

    Jeremy Wynne (2010-present) Associate Professor of Theology, Director of the Graduate Studies in Theology Program

    What stands out this year? An early September "kick-ball kick-off" and BBQ with our undergraduates. It was a rare treat in January to teach my graduate course in public theology. Among my writing projects, I learned most from my exploration of the theology of jealousy. And now off to summer - full of family, writing and weddings! Peace to you. God is good every day.



    Haley JacobHaley Jacob (2015-present) Associate Professor of Theology, Theology Department Chair

    My two highlights for this year were my two trips to the Holy Land! Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to Israel-Palestine with the Whitworth Core 650 trip. What a fabulous introduction to the Holy Land from the likes of Tad Wisenor and Jim Edwards! Then, for three weeks in January, Forrest Buckner and I led 16 students through the hills of Galilee and Samaria (Northern West Bank), the ancient streets of Jerusalem, and the wilderness of Judea and beyond (Southern West Bank). Students wrestled with the blending of the ancient and modern worldviews of politics and religion on an almost hourly basis. It was truly a life-changing experience for each of them. I look forward to returning in January 2025! Please keep our Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ in your prayers.

    Josh Leim (2015-present) Associate Professor of Theology, Chair of Core 150

    First, in the fall of '22 I taught a new course—Faith, Fear, and Fragility —integrating my background in clinical counseling and Christian theology. The course was an absolute delight, mainly because the students were remarkably invested and thoughtful. Second, in January, I taught at the Board of Trustees retreat in San Diego. I focused on Jesus's identity as the "Son and the Servant" in Matthew and the implications for who we are as individuals and an institution. Finally, in the spring of '23 I had my first sabbatical in which I focused on new research in Matthew's Gospel as well as revamping Core 150.


    Samantha Miller (2020-present) Assistant Professor of Theology

    In November I got to present two papers in Denver—one at the Evangelical Theological Society and one at the American Academy of Religion—and as a bonus while there got to hike a beautiful snowy day with Jonathan. I'm also acting as historical theologian for the Office of Church Engagement's Resilient Churches initiative, which is a great way to serve the church from my expertise. The real highlight of the year, though, was teaching my new Jan Term, Backpacking with the Saints, which took students backpacking through a canyon in Arizona and a stay at a monastery to learn why Christians often go to the wilderness to encounter God and grow in faith.


    Roger Mohrlang (1978-2016), Professor Emeritus of Theology

    30,000 copies of the Kamwə Bible — 2,200+ pages each — have now been printed in Korea and are due to arrive in Nigeria on June 10. There will be a huge celebration when this lifelong work is dedicated.

    Two months ago, Dottie, with her stokes, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma; she is currently undergoing chemotherapy. We still take slow daily walks together, thanking God for all his good gifts.

    I have finished a short memoir, My Life: A Story of God's Grace, which will soon be available on Amazon, if you'd like to read it.
    At the encouragement of our children, we hope soon to move into assisted living at Rockwood at Whitworth.

    I leave you with the words of  C T Studd, pioneer missionary to the Congo: "Only one life will soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last."

    The Lord bless you, dear friends!

    Professor Of Theology & Senior Fellow, Office Of Church Engagement, Jerry SittserJerry Sittser (1989-2020), Professor Emeritus of Theology
    (2015-present) Senior Fellow in the Office of Church Engagement

    Dear Friends of Whitworth:

    What a year for the "Senior Sittsers," as we are affectionately called by our family. We have two recent arrivals: Westin and Lily, which brings the number of grandchildren to 11. But who's counting? We see them often.

    We lost friends this year, which summoned us into active caregiving. Pat's counseling practice is full, to say the least. No surprises there. I still work as a senior fellow at Whitworth, and also speak, write, read, mentor pastors and enjoy hobbies. I'm hoping my Dominant Faith: How the Church Used—and Abused—Power during the Age of Christendom, and What We Can learn from It sees the light of day. I have a long way to go. But I am making progress.

    We are grateful for you all.

    Jerry Sittser

    James Edwards (1997-2015), Professor Emeritus of Theology

    Dear Friends,

    I have now completed writing on chapters 12-50 of my Genesis commentary (Eerdmans), leaving only (!) chapters 1-11 and the Introduction to complete. I am grateful to report that my biography on Ernst Lohmeyer appeared in German translation and my Romans commentary in Korean. In June I led a Core 650 tour of Israel with 40 wonderful Whitworth alums and board members, and in October I flew to Indonesia to address a missionary conference on the significance of the Reformation for modern missions. A particular sorrow was the death of my only sibling, Diana, two years my elder, last November. Her death renews my gratitude for time and strength to pursue God's call in my life.

    James R. Edwards