DECATUR, GA ― Columbia Theological Seminary has opened its Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program to part-time students and has developed an evening and weekend class schedule that will allow completion of the degree in five years. Classes will meet on Monday and Tuesday evenings during the fall and spring terms and on Friday evenings and Saturdays in the January term. 

“One of our objectives has been to broaden access to the M.Div. program,” says Columbia’s president, Laura Mendenhall. “We know that it’s not always feasible for someone to quit a job and become a full-time graduate student. So this new schedule removes a barrier for those who are working and not able to attend classes during weekdays.” 

According to D. Cameron Murchison, executive vice president and dean of the faculty, evening and weekend sections of courses will also be open to full-time students. “Our students will have more options to customize a schedule that meets individual needs.” Murchison also points out another benefit: “Adding sections of courses allows us to keep class sizes small, which is one of the hallmarks of Columbia’s style of doing theological education.”  

More information about Columbia’s M.Div. program and application materials are available at the seminary’s Web site or by contacting Monica Wedlock, director of recruiting and admissions by email or by phone at (404) 687-4516.

PRINCETON, NJ ― Alvin Plantinga, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, has been named winner of Princeton Theological Seminary’s 2009 Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life. He will receive the award when he delivers the Seminary’s Kuyper Lecture ― “Religion and Science: Where the Conflict Really Lies” ― on April 16.

Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) was probably the greatest and most controversial figure in the Calvinist renaissance that took place at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century in the Netherlands. In 1872 he founded a Christian newspaper, De Standard, and was elected a member of Parliament in 1874. He was instrumental in the organization of the Anti-Revolutionary Party, a Christian political party, and helped in 1880 to found the Vrije Universiteit (the Free University of Amsterdam), where he regularly served as a professor of theology. His work profoundly affected the development of Reformed theology in the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, South Africa and Korea.

Plantinga has taught philosophy at Notre Dame for twenty-six years; prior to that he taught at Calvin College for 19 years. His books include God and Other Minds, The Nature of Necessity, God, Freedom, and Evil, Does God Have a Nature?, Warrant: The Current Debate, Warrant and Proper Function, and Warranted Christian Belief.

CHICAGO ― In his newly published book, God in Postliberal Perspective: Between Realism and Non-Realism, the Rev. Robert A. Cathey, professor of theology at McCormick Theological Seminary, takes up anew one of the perennial questions for contemporary Christian theology: What does it mean for persons and communities self-identifying as “Christian” to have such diverse and often divergent understandings of “God?”

Cathey approaches the issue by examining various voices in the debate between realist and non-realist understandings of the divine in postliberal thought, engaging the work of Don Cupitt, David Burrell, William Placher and other major theologians and philosophers of religion. In the book’s concluding chapter, Cathey offers a “middle way” in the “postliberal empirical realism” of the late Bernard Meland, an ecumenical Presbyterian theologian and former student at McCormick in the mid-1920s.

An ordained minister in the PC(USA), Cathey joined the McCormick faculty in 1998 and was named full professor of theology in 2008. An active participant and advocate for interfaith dialogue ― particularly in Chicago-area Jewish-Christian relations ― he taught at Monmouth College, Davidson College and William Patterson College before coming to McCormick.

SAN ANSELMO, CA ― Best-selling author Ronald C. White Jr. will return to San Francisco Theological Seminary May 7-8 for lectures on the public and private faith of Abraham Lincoln.

White, former professor of American religious history at the seminary is SFTS, is considered one of the foremost authorities on the 16th president of the United States. His most recent book — A. Lincoln: A Biography — was published earlier this year and is firmly ensconced on the New York Times best-sellers list.  

White’s lectures ― entitled “Abraham Lincoln’s Journey of Faith” will take place on consecutive evenings starting at 7:30 p.m. and are open to the public. May 7 topic will be “Lincoln’s Public Faith: The Second Inaugural Address.” The focus of his May 8 lecture will be “Lincoln’s Private Faith: A Meditation on the Divine Will.”

White is also the author of Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural and The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words, both of which occupied numerous best-seller lists.

White earned his Ph.D. at Princeton University and has taught at UCLA, San Francisco Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Whitworth University and Colorado College. He is currently a Fellow at the Huntington Library and visiting history professor at UCLA.

AUSTIN, TX ― Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary has been awarded a $20,000 grant by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion to enhance diversity in its work of theological education.

The grant will help fund a project to make the seminary’s students, faculty and administrators aware of racial/ethnic differences; understand sources, dynamics, and outcomes of racial/ethnic identity and racism; attain skills to resist racial/ethnic biases; to learn to live and work in solidarity with those who are different; and acquire skills to mobilize congregations for this work. 

David F. White, associate professor of Christian education, says, “Austin Seminary, like much of the United States, exists at the intersection of multiple ethnic cultures where congregations must navigate in light of Christian faith. We believe the promise of welcome and inclusion of earliest Christianity has not yet been realized.  If the walls of separation are to come down, there is work to be done in theological education concerning how we train students who will provide leadership in churches and communities. We are pleased to be among organizations participating in the advancement of this important work.” 

Beginning this fall, Austin Seminary plans to inaugurate its diversity in theological education program, which will include faculty discussions, campus workshops and roundtable discussions, and consultations in course development.

PITTSBURGH ― Pittsburgh Theological Seminary will honor four distinguished alums and welcome nearly 200 returning grads to Alumnae/i Days, April 29-May 1. Highlights of the event include presentations by distinguished alums, reunions for the 50-year, 25-year, 10-year, and 5-year classes, tours of the city, a book signing with faculty, and three special lectures.

Alums receiving awards this year include the Rev. William (Bill) Anderson ’50 (Missions); the Rev. Dr. James E. Davison ’69 (Academia); the Rev. St. Paul Epps ’42 (Specialized Ministry); and the Rev. Dr. Myles W. MacDonald ’55 (Pastoral Ministry).

RICHMOND, VA ― Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education has announced the winners of its 2009 Congregation Awards. The awards honor congregations for innovative service in Christian education, outreach and social concern. Each award provides a $1,000 grant to support congregations in service to their communities.

The 2009 winners are:

  • Katherine Hawes Award for Effective Youth Ministry: Linwood United Church in Kansas City, MO.  
  • W. T. “Tolly” Thompson Award for Excellence in Christian Education: Simonsdale Presbyterian Church in Portsmouth, VA and Covenant Presbyterian Church in Albany, GA.
  • Elinor Curry Award for Outreach and Social Concern: Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, in Orlando, FL.
  • James Goodpasture Award for Ministry with Special Populations: Ginter Park Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA.

LOUISVILLE ― Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary has appointed The Rev. Dianne Reistroffer as acting director of field education, effective June 1, 2009.

Reistroffer offered to take the position following the LPTS trustees’ decision to suspend the search for a new director this past February in response to the economic downturn. Reistroffer will take responsibility for the program at the end of the academic year, when current the director, The Rev. Garnett Foster, retires.

Reistroffer has served on the seminary faculty since 1998. In addition to serving as professor of ministry, she also is director of Methodist studies and officer of institutional research and effectiveness at the Seminary.