On Nov. 8, 2022, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary installed five faculty members to endowed chairs in a service at Hicks Chapel. The faculty honored were the Rev. Dr. Leanna K. Fuller (Joan Marshall Chair in Pastoral Care), Dr. Scott J. Hagley (W. Don McClure Chair in World Mission and Evangelism), the Rev. Dr. Angela Dienhart Hancock (Howard C. Scharfe Chair in Homiletics), the Rev. Dr. L. Roger Owens (Hugh Thomson Kerr Chair of Pastoral Theology), and the Rev. Dr. R. Drew Smith (Henry L. Hillman Chair in Urban Ministry).
Continuing a Tradition of Excellence
The “Fab Five”, as the group of installed faculty were called throughout the evening, represent a tradition of academic excellence at PTS through their teaching, research, publication, and service to the Church.
“The seating in chairs is an act rooted in the ancient belief that wisdom is found by those who sit and teach in the public square, or sit as one would imagine a parent on a porch or in the center of a living room in an old recliner, where at the feet of that chair wisdom is being conveyed,” remarked the Rev. Dr. Asa Lee, president of PTS and professor of theological formation for ministry. He continued:
“In this seating we also keep our commitments as an institution, first to our faculty to continue to promote excellent scholarship, academic rigor, research for the life and future of the church. We keep our commitment to the names of the saints—those who have given of themselves and of their treasure, to ensure in perpetuity that commitments of faith and discipline be provided from this place of wisdom to the life of the Church. But we also keep our commitment to the Church, and maintain our relationship with our Mother Church, the body of Christ writ large, to continue to resource it with excellence and academic research.”
“A Very Good Day”
Preaching at the service was the Rev. Dr. Frank Yamada, executive director of The Association of Theological Schools and the Commission on Accrediting. “This is a very good day for PTS, for theological education, and for the life of the Church,” he said. “Not only is it rare to have an installation of five professors into chairs, but to do this in the area of Christian ministries is also a unique and special gift both to the Church and the academy.”
Dr. Yamada encouraged those in attendance, both in person and online, to see the celebration as “an act of faithful resistance to see the holy in the profane; to see a very good day in the middle of very troubled times.” He repeatedly referenced Psalm 118:24—“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”—as a reminder to have eyes and ears for what God is doing in the Church and world rather than giving in to dominant attitudes of fear.
Literal Chairs Gifted
The installation service was the culmination of a year-long celebration which included separate lectures given by each installed faculty member between March and October. As part of the celebration, for the first time in recent memory Pittsburgh Theological Seminary gifted each newly installed faculty member a literal chair, provoking playful jealousy from Faculty Marshal and Robert C. Holland Professor of Old Testament the Rev. Dr. Jerome Creach before he gave a charge to the new chair holders.
“On behalf of your faculty colleagues, I congratulate each of you on your appointment to an endowed chair. Your appointment is a recognition of the significant contribution that each of you has made and of the joyful anticipation of the contributions you will make to your field,” said Dr. Creach.
Representing the PTS Board of Directors was the Rev. John Shaver ’98, who congratulated the honorees and expressed gratitude for the donors who established these five endowed faculty chairs. Also participating were Board Chair James Gockley; James Henry Snowden Professor of Systematic Theology the Rev. Dr. John Burgess; Student Association President Noah Morgan; and Director of the Center for Adaptive and Innovative Ministry the Rev. Karen Rohrer.
Formed by the Church to Stand (and Sit!) Within
Near the end of the service, Dr. Hancock spoke on behalf of the five faculty being installed. She said:
“It is the Church that led us here. To be more precise, it is God who led us here by means of the churches who have loved us. Once upon a time we were each baptized and blessed in the context of a Christian community. Once upon a time we each came to faith and grew in faith through the witness of Christian communities. Ever since then we have been formed and reformed by the communities who have called us to worship and joined us in ministry and service . . . So we commit and recommit ourselves to the Church today, not as those standing far off, but as those who stand within.”
The entire community of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary—faculty, staff, students, alumnae/i, Board members, donors, and friends—celebrates with these “fab five” scholars and gives God glory for their dedicated contributions to the Seminary, the Church, and beyond.