Veteran Presbyterian pastor installed today as seminary’s eighth president
Today, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary inaugurated and installed the Rev. Dr. Dean K. Thompson as its eighth president.
In his inaugural address, “Servants of Christ and Stewards of God’s Mysteries,” (1 Cor. 4:1) Thompson spoke of the importance of linking one’s leadership vocation with the vocation of the community.
“Surely, when the Spirit of Jesus Christ matches and links a pastor’s vocational identity with a congregation’s vocational identity, creative ministry often takes place. Indeed, it often happens all over the place. And by the grace of God, it can happen here in this place, this community of the Word [Louisville Seminary], as we reaffirm our sacred callings and vocational identities,” he said.
In outlining the vocational identity of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Thompson said that the Seminary is inseparably related to the church, “linked by deep covenants with Presbyterian and Reformed theological education as our base, and also with the General Assembly’s national headquarters here in Louisville.” He also characterized the institution’s vocational identity through its ecumenical theological education and cooperation with many sister churches, particularly in the African American Methodist traditions, “our crucial engagements with God’s people in other world religions,” and in the innumerable times the institution has “spoken out bravely against the scourges of American society such as poverty, racism, war, and sexism,” particularly under the leadership of its courageous students and faculty.
Thompson said that as president of Louisville Seminary the major purpose of his ministry is to “help create conditions that will enable our dedicated professors to fulfill their own sacred callings…. I long to do everything I possibly can to value our excellent faculty members, to lift them up to God and the church, and to support their indispensable teaching, research, publications and pastoral ministry as Doctors of the Church, and as faithful stewards of the mysteries of God.”
Another vocation identity of Louisville Seminary is evident in the fact that the school produces a high percentage of pastors, both men and women, who remain in the ministry throughout their entire careers. “They are what I like to call long-distance athletes,” said Thompson. He attributed such longevity to Louisville Seminary’s ability to form and shape men and women for ministry “deep down inside their souls.”
The service of inauguration, which was held on the campus in the Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel, featured the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), who was present to certify the denomination’s approval of the presidential candidate. Also present to witness the historic occasion were more than 69 ecclesiastical and academic delegates, representing congregations and faith communities from Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and academic institutions such as nine seminaries of the Presbyterian Church (USA); the Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary of Seoul, Korea; Hampden-Sydney College of Virginia, American’s oldest college founded in 1776; and several colleges and theological schools in Kentucky, including Centre College, where Louisville Seminary began in 1853.
Dr. John W. Kuykendall, president emeritus of Davidson College in North Carolina, and recently interim president of Louisville Seminary, charged Thompson to lead the Seminary in the fashion of Noah, in “bearing things needful for the world and preparing pioneers for the future.” Louisville Seminary Professor Scott Williamson delivered a charge to the community, challenging all present not to become complacent and “too well adjusted,” and therefore, end up “sleeping through a great revolution” that may be happening at this moment in time.
In assuming the responsibilities of president, Thompson will serve an institution that has become a leader in the integration of practical experience with academic and theological study through its pioneering field education program. Additionally, the marriage and family therapy program offered at the Seminary is one of only two accredited, seminary-based programs in the nation. Eighteen faculty members, with credentials from some of the world’s leading theological institutions and universities, provide instruction and training for ministries that address society’s needs today.
The Seminary values diverse perspectives as essential to faithfully reflecting the image of God at work in the world. In the past 25 years, the Seminary has strengthened its commitment to become a multicultural community by establishing official covenants with the United Methodist, African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, and Christian Methodist Episcopal Churches, that recognize the institution for the training of their ministers. Sixteen percent of a student body of nearly 200, represents various minority racial/ethnic groups, and the students represent 22 different denominations or faith traditions.
For more than three decades, Dean K. Thompson, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) served as a pastor to congregations in Montgomery, West Virginia; Austin, Texas; and Pasadena, California. Most recently he was the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Charleston, West Virginia, a 1600-member congregation he served for nine years. Thompson has led each church with a commitment to cultural diversity, community outreach, and the work of justice, a vision that he shared through his actions during the initial months of his presidential leadership at the Louisville Seminary.
Thompson earned all his post-baccalaureate degrees at Union Theological Seminary, including a Ph.D in American religion. He served as an instructor and on the Boards of Trustees at three Presbyterian Church (USA) seminaries, and he has also served on the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Committee on Theological Education (COTE).
He has published more than 30 articles and reviews and presented lectures, seminars, and addresses on subjects such as leadership, history, theology, ministry and theological education, mission and ecumenism, worship and preaching, and justice and mercy. He is co-author of Go Therefore: 150 Years of Presbyterians in Global Mission
(Presbyterian Publishing House, 1987) and Virginia Presbyterians in American Life: Hanover Presbytery (1755-1980)
, and co-editor of "Essays on the History of the Household of Faith," a collection of writings in honor of James Hutchinson Smylie in Affirmation
Dean K. Thompson is married to Rebecca McDaniel Thompson, a gifted musician and conductor, who specializes in choral work with children and youth. They were joined at today’s service by many family members including their two grown children, son Nathan who is married to Sarah Robbins, and daughter Genevieve Apelian who is married to Chahe Apelian, and one grandchild, Aren Apelian.
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