Phelan to Relinquish Seminary Leadership Role

Post a Comment » Written on September 9th, 2009     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (September 9, 2009) – Dr. John (Jay) Phelan, president and dean of North Park Theological Seminary, will step down from that office at the conclusion of the current academic year, it was announced today.

Following completion of his seminary leadership responsibilities in early summer next year, Phelan will assume a faculty position as senior professor of theological studies.

“It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) and North Park University as seminary president and dean,” said Phelan. He says he is especially proud of the character and accomplishments of the seminary faculty. “I have had the joy of working with amazing administrative and staff colleagues in both the seminary and the wider university. Their deep commitment to God and to the Gospel has challenged and encouraged me every day.”

Phelan twoPhelan’s leadership has been critical to a revitalization of the seminary, notes North Park University President David Parkyn, who commended Phelan’s dedication to fostering strong scholarship among faculty. While in office, Phelan appointed 10 full-time faculty members, an academic dean, and a dean of students.

“He has led with vision and with care, focusing on developing a faculty of active scholars and effective teachers dedicated to educating future generations of pastoral leaders,” Parkyn said.

From 1981-1986, Phelan served as university dean of students and assistant professor of New Testament.  He then served as pastor of two Covenant churches in Florida and Kansas before returning to Chicago in 1994 as executive director of Covenant Publications (now Covenant Communications). He assumed his current role in 1996.

Under Phelan’s leadership, seminary enrollment increased from 119 students in 1996 to 279 this semester, due in part to the implementation of the Presidential Scholars Program, and more recently, a partnership with a full-tuition scholarship program offered by the Kern Foundation. Additional students have been enrolled through SemConnect, the seminary’s distance learning program.

Phelan also helped establish several new programs, including the Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, the Center for Spiritual Direction, the Faith and Health Initiative, the Center for Justice Ministries (now part of the university’s Collaboratory for Urban and Intercultural Learning), and the Center for World Christian Studies. During his tenure, two Lilly Endowment grants were obtained to fund seminary programs: the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grant (shared with the Evangelical Covenant Church) that funded development of the Center for Spiritual Direction, and the Making Connections Initiative grant that provided the means for the seminary to collaborate widely with local Covenant churches and affiliated ministries.

“Jay’s tenure is marked by many things,” said ECC President Gary Walter. “But most importantly he has been about the mission of God. His framing intent and motivation has been to develop leaders of character and competence who care about God’s whole mission to the whole world.”

Parkyn has invited Walter to share an active role in the search for new leadership of the seminary, which represents a joint interest for the ECC and North Park.

“Consideration of seminary and church needs will go hand-in-hand,” said Parkyn. “New leadership must assure continued active support and vision for educating students in both heart and mind. These students will serve the church for generations to come.”

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