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Seminary President Stepping Down

North Park Theological Seminary President and Dean Jay Phelan

Dr. Jay Phelan will serve the remainder of the academic year before joining the Seminary faculty

CHICAGO (September 9, 2009) ­– President and Dean of North Park Theological Seminary Dr. John (Jay) Phelan recently announced his decision to step down from office. Phelan will remain in leadership at the Seminary through the end of the academic year, and then plans to join the faculty as Senior Professor of Theological Studies during the summer of 2010.

“It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) and North Park University as Seminary President and Dean,” said Phelan, who 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’s leadership has been critical to a revitalization of the Seminary, notes North Park University President David Parkyn, commending his dedication to fostering strong scholarship among faculty. While in office, Phelan appointed 10 new 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.

Phelan was first at North Park from 1981–1986 as 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), and in 1996 he assumed his current role.

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, the 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 Covenant Church) funded development of the Center for Spiritual Direction, and the Making Connections Initiative Grant provided means for the Seminary to collaborate widely with the church. 

“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.”