The Rev. Dr. Heather Hartung Vacek joined the faculty at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2012 and in 2016 became vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty / associate professor of church history. Her research focuses on the historical relationship between Christian belief and practice in the American context, particularly as it relates to suffering. Her book, Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness (Baylor University Press, 2015), explores Protestant reactions to mental illnesses from the colonial era through the 21st century. Her research interests also include American religious history, practical theology, and theologies of disability and suffering. After working for a decade in corporate positions, Vacek earned an M.Div. and Th.D. from Duke University, Duke Divinity School. Previously, she earned her bachelor’s in industrial engineering and bachelor’s in economics from Northwestern University; masters in engineering and MBA from Northwestern University, J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Vacek is ordained in the Moravian Church in America. Her ministry experience includes service at Raleigh Moravian Church in Raleigh, N.C., and at John Umstead Hospital in Butner, N.C. Vacek serves as a trustee and vice chair of the Board at Moravian Theological Seminary. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the American Historical Association, the American Society of Church History, The Conference on Faith and History, and the Moravian Historical Society.
The Rev. Dr. Heather Hartung Vacek became assistant professor of church history in 2012 and now also serves as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty / associate professor of church history. Prior to launching her pursuits in theological education, she gained expertise in industrial engineering and economics. Ultimately earning a master’s in engineering and an MBA (from J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management), she then worked for a decade in corporate positions before attending to a sense of call and refocusing her professional interests.
Dr. Vacek’s work in church history and theology stems from her desire to “discover, document, and share the historical shape of Christian thought and practice in order to enable reflection about faithful Christian practice for the present and the future.” Her research focuses on the historical relationship between Christian belief and practice in the American context, and her book, Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness, explores Protestant reactions to mental illnesses from the colonial era through the 21st century. Through her research and teaching, she seeks to equip future clergy with insight about the past that can deepen faithful response in the present and future and particularly with robust theologies of suffering that help shape Christian communities amid distress.
Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness, Studies In Religion, Theology, and Disability (Baylor University Press, 2015)
“Isolating Central Arguments with Tweet-Length Summaries,” Teaching Theology and Religion 19/4 (Oct. 2016)
“Deism,” “Richard Allen,” “Angelina Grimke,” and “Cotton Mather,” in Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016)
“‘Opening Heart and Hand to Them in Need’: An Account of Mental Illness, Stigma, and the Church,” The Hinge: A Journal of Christian Thought for the Moravian Church
Review of A Time of Sifting: Mystical Marriage and the Crisis of Moravian Piety in the Eighteenth Century, The Moravian (Nov. 2015)