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Michael Jinkins inaugurated as ninth president of Louisville Seminary

by Louisville Seminary | Apr 19, 2011

by Jerry Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service, and Michelle Melton, Louisville Seminary

The Rev. Dr. Michael Jinkins was inaugurated and installed as the ninth president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (LPTS), Friday, April 15, in the Seminary’s Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel. Nearly 300 guests were present, including more than 100 academic, church, and institutional leaders who served as delegates, participating in a grand processional at the beginning of the inauguration service.

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

Jinkins was presented as President by LPTS Trustee the Rev. Dr. Conrad C. Sharps (MDiv ’85), Chair of the Presidential Search Committee, and as Professor of Theology by the Seminary Dean, the Rev. Dr. David C. Hester. The inaugural oath was administered by Dr. Pamela G. Kidd, Chair of the LPTS Board of Trustees, saying, “This day is a holy and historic occasion for Louisville Seminary.”

In his inaugural address, “Transforming the Mind in the Service of God: A Case for Theological Education” (Rom. 12:1-8), 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 Holy One to whom we bear witness through the message of the gospel, is what transforms us. 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. Dr. Craig Dykstra, Senior Vice President of Religion for Lilly Endowment Inc. and a former LPTS Christian education professor, 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 so that individuals and communities of faith live it (communion with God) in their situations.”

In his “charge to the community,” A.B. Rhodes Professor Emeritus of Old Testament W. 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 are 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, March said: “Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable ― if there is any excellence, think about these things.”

The Presidential Inauguration celebration commenced Thursday, April 14, with an opening worship service on the transformation theme (Rom. 12:1-8) and continued through Friday with educational events and community gatherings.

Inaugural Address (pdf), Inaugural Address (video)

Inauguration Images by Jonathan Roberts and Michael Whitman.

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