The inauguration and installation of The Rev. Dr. Michael Jinkins as the ninth president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary was celebrated over two days, April 14-15, 2011, commencing with an opening worship service and offering educational experiences on the theme, “Transformed through the Renewing of Our Minds” (Rom. 12:1-8).
The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston, Senior Pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, was the guest preacher. His sermon, “The Devil’s Advocate,” explored the need for contemporary Devil’s Advocates to help renew our minds toward transformation.
“D.A.s – not District Attorneys! – bring fresh perspectives and challenging questions for the sake of the truth,” said Johnston, a close friend of Dr. Jinkins’ and former professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
He said the health of the church depends on all of us being Devil’s Advocates with each other, adding that Louisville Seminary must also become the Devil’s Advocate for the church and that Louisville Seminary should allow the church to be its challenger.
The role of Devil’s Advocate is one of love and compassion, he explained. “Any community that follows Jesus Christ has to be grounded in humility and love….To engage in this kind of fierce love with each other and in community we are on the side of angels,” Johnston said. (See also, Transformed with the help of a Devil’s Advocate.)
Following a lunch for inauguration guests and the Seminary community, four Louisville Seminary professors, Susan Garrett, Lewis Brogdon, Amy Plantinga Pauw, and Debra Mumford, led consecutive workshops that continued the Romans theme within the contexts of biblical exegesis, a global theological perspective, and preaching.
New Testament professors Garrett and Brogdon led participants in dissecting Romans 12:1-2. Garrett focused on the key phrase, “Do not be conformed to this age,” outlining how often we are deceived by the world’s false promises, “around which we organize and structure our lives away from the promises and wisdom of God,” Garrett said. Brogdon focused on how the Holy Spirit can work in “the renewing of our minds,” emphasizing that such renewal ought to lead to “renewed life in community.”
Continuing with the same text, Pauw, Professor of Doctrinal Theology, focused on God’s “good and perfect will,” which, she said must be considered with “an awareness and appreciation of the Spirit’s gifts within the global body of Christ.” Inspired by the words of LPTS Distinguished Alumna Nyambura Njoroge (MAR ’85), Pauw stressed that to discern God’s will for the church in our time we must cultivate a “global theological mind” and the willingness to expand our theological understanding of what God is doing in the world beyond our familiar contexts.
In small-group conversation, Master of Divinity student Aritha Berroa said she has had first-hand experience feeling unaccepted as a Christian because of her cultural Christian upbringing. Growing up in Belize, South America, Berroa was raised in the Garifuna culture where the Christian practices she learned as a child were not accepted by Christian Westerners in the United States.
“Our highly spiritual practices and our emphasis on ancestry were judged as inappropriate, non-Christian,” she said. “I learned to keep my Garifuna ways of worship private.”
She said coming to Louisville Seminary and Dr. Pauw’s workshop are helping to free her from the stigma of being different as a Christian. “For a long time, I thought being a Christian in the U.S. meant giving up my Garifuna roots. At LPTS I am learning the importance of asking questions, seeking to understand those who are different, and moving away from judgment without knowledge.”
Preaching professor Debra Mumford concluded the trio of workshops by taking on the topic of transformation through preaching.
Dean of Students Kilen Gray (MDiv ’02) summed up her “engaging and humorous” presentation, saying “Dr. Mumford ignited our imagination to envision how transformative our preaching can be when it engages, challenges, and informs the current social context of the congregation. Preaching must be informed by a thinking faith from a preacher with a critically engaged mind.”
On Friday, April 15, festivities continued with a panel discussion on theological education by three seminary presidents – Katharine Henderson (Auburn Theological Seminary, New York City); Cynthia Campbell (McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago); and Paul Roberts (Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, Atlanta) – moderated by Daniel Aleshire, Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools. The panel discussed ways in which the transformation of theological education can influence a transforming Church.
“We must develop partnership between the seminary and the church about reading the signs of the times in the world that is upon us, with its religious and racial ethnic pluralism,” said President Henderson, in a Presbyterian News Service story about the event. Noting that a growing percentage of the world’s population is under 30 and that 44 percent of American Christians change religious affiliation at least once during their lifetime, Henderson added that seminaries and churches “must be mutually engaged in a vigorous conversation about how to read the signs of change in a rapidly changing time.” (See Agents of transformation by Jerry Van Marter.)
Just prior to the official inauguration service, a time of fellowship was offered, and guests visited a variety of exhibits by Seminary and Louisville-based programs and organizations before proceeding to the Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel, where more than 100 academic, church, and institutional leaders who served as delegates, opened the service with a grand procession.
Visit the Inauguration Photo Gallery by Jonathan Roberts and Michael Whitman.