Led into Caldwell Chapel by scores of academic, church and institutional leaders, the Rev. Michael Jinkins was inaugurated and installed today (April 15) as the ninth president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (LPTS). He will also serve as professor of theology.

Jinkins began his presidency Sept. 1, 2010. He came to LPTS from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, where he taught pastoral theology and served as seminary dean.  He has been a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 29 years.

Jinkins was presented as president by LPTS Trustee Conrad C. Sharps, chair of the presidential search committee, and as a faculty member by LPTS Dean David C. Hester. The inaugural oath was administered by Pamela G. Kidd, chair of the LPTS board of trustees.

In his 45-minute inaugural address, Jinkins told the full house that “the church that I am experiencing today is healthier and stronger than the church I was born into in 1953.” Outlining the importance of theological education, he called the church to “stand up and be counted for a thinking faith.”

He continued: “We are living in an exceptional historical moment,” which he called an “axial” moment ― “a point around which our intellectual, moral and spiritual history turns and a forward leap takes place, but not without struggle, uncertainty and ambiguity.”

Education alone will not solve our problems, heal every evil, cure every disease, Jinkins said, “but it can teach us that you don’t have to be stupid to follow Jesus … theological education informs and forms people for ministry, but what it does best is transform persons for public ministry.”

At its heart, Jinkins said, “Christianity is a learned faith and calls all of us to continual learning, all God’s people. Transformation of the community,” he said, “must be led by those who have been through the crucible of their own transformation.”

It’s not the education process that transforms,” Jinkins insisted. “That’s just one part of the alchemy. Transformation is by God, who, though we were far off, came beside us and took us home. The critical study of this message ― spoken many ways to many contexts ― is the call of theological education.”

This critical engagement happens every day in seminaries, Jinkins said, “and is the magic of theological education. There is something magical in the chemistry of a classroom when a teacher in love with his or her subject encounters students who are ready to fall in love with the message

Every teacher and every student can relate their stories of transformation, Jinkins said, “in which they were ushered into a deeper encounter with the world around us, and experienced humility toward all and reverence toward God.

“Seminaries are not terminals, they are launching pads.”

The Rev. Craig Dykstra, senior vice-president of Religion for the Lilly Endowment and a former LPTS Christian education professor Craig Dykstra called Jinkins election as president “a splendid match.”

God’s call to persons and communities, Dykstra said in his “charge to the president,” is “to receive the gift of life and respond to it gratefully and to make it our calling and vocation.

The goal of theological education, he continued, “is to educate and form pastors and leaders in the ways of knowing, perceiving and acting in ways that individuals and communities of faith live it (communion with God) in their situations.”  

In his “charge to the community,” Professor of Old Testament Emeritus Eugene March compared theological education to trying to charge a car battery. “Unless you know how to hook up the cables right, all you get is sparks and smoke,” he said. “But if you hook them up correctly you get a reliable source of energy and power.”

Then, quoting Paul in Philippians 4, he said: “Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable ― if there is any excellence, think about these things.”