Thursday, July 19, 2007

The new dean is immanently qualified*

The new dean of Virginia Theological Seminary, Dr. Ian Markham, is the unanimous choice of the board of trustees to succeed lead the seminary into the future. Dr. Markham holds a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from the University of Exeter, an M. Litt. in Philosophy and Ethics from the University of Cambridge, and a Bachelor of Divinity in Theology from the University of London.

He has been Dean of Hartford Seminary and Professor of Theology and Ethics since August of 2001. He also served as Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Hartford Seminary from 2001 to 2005, and directed the seminary’s accreditation self-study process from 2002 to 2003. Prior to serving as Dean of Hartford Seminary he was Foundation Dean and Liverpool Professor of Theology and Public Life at Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, England, from 1998 to 2001, where he served as a member of the senior management team and strategic planning committee; Liverpool Professor of Theology and Public Life at Liverpool Hope University from 1996 to December 1998; and Lecturer and sub Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Exeter in England from 1989 to August of 1996.

There is no doubt that he is immanently qualified to be the dean of a school of theology. There is just one little problem. This is not just a school of theology, but a seminary--a school to train priests. And Dr. Markham is not a priest. But he was recently ordained a deacon, and will have been a deacon for almost three months by the time school starts. He is on tract to be ordained to the priesthood, probably before the school year is out. (Something tells me he doesn't need to study too hard for his ordination exams.)

Although I am certainly not one to downplay the importance of strong academic theological education, but we also have to remember that VTS is not about training people to give lectures and write papers. Its mission is to train ministers of the gospel, mostly future priests of the church. For that, it seems to me that experience in the priesthood (preferably at least some in the parish) is a more valuable asset for the dean of a seminary, who needs to be a pastor and mentor to the seminarians.


LutherPunk said...

The school of theology where I received my M.Div., as well as the seminary where I started my STM, both have deans that are not ordained. I have to admit that I struggle with that fact. Of course, by airing that sentiment, I was accused of clericalism and elitism. Yet, I stand by my concerns. Can a layperson (or an ordained person with NO ACTUAL parish experience) truly lead an institution that trains clergy? I have my doubts.

Adam said...

This is an outrage. Welcome to the UCC, formerly known as TEC, formerly known as ECUSA, formerly part of the Catholic Church. It's almost worse than when they had a priestess running around pretending to be the Dean.

Fr Timothy Matkin said...


It's true, you could say that at least Martha Horne has some ministerial experience to impart.

Anonymous said...

"No, I'm not a priest, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night..."

Jon said...

Hmm, what's the actual job description for the dean of a seminary? I can't see it being "train priests," since thats more like a team effort between the various professors.