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Sarah Allen joins faculty to direct DMin and SPM programs
Randal Whittington

The Reverend Dr. Sarah Allen (MDiv’07, DMin’ 19) has joined the Austin Seminary faculty as Director of the Doctor of Ministry (DMin‚ and Supervised Practice of Ministry (SPM) programs. The Austin Seminary Board voted to call her on November 2 and she began work on January 1, 2022, following the retirement of The Reverend Dr. Paul Hooker.

Allen earned her Master of Divinity degree from Austin Seminary in 2007 and the Doctor of Ministry degree in 2019. A summa cum laude graduate of Austin College (religion and Spanish), she has served First Presbyterian Church, Austin, for the past fourteen years as Pastor for Children, Youth, and Families.

“In interviews that the advisory committee conducted with candidates over the summer, Rev. Allen emerged as the obvious choice for this important faculty position,” says Academic Dean David Jensen. “She brings to the position a keen intellect, a warm pastoral heart, extensive ministry experience at the local and presbytery levels, and creative leadership for the future of the church.”

Allen also brings a wealth of experience in teaching—both in churches and at the Seminary as an adjunct professor. Reflecting on this transition in her ministry, Reverend Allen noted: “I am excited to return to the Austin Seminary community once again, this time as a member of the faculty. I look forward to the partnerships with students, pastors, and congregations; both the Supervised Practice of Ministry as well as the Doctor of Ministry programs at Austin Seminary have been significant in my own ministry and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to direct these important programs and equip others for service in Christ's church.”

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Professor Ángel J. Gallardo called to teach church history
Randal Whittington

The Austin Seminary Board of Trustees has called Dr. Ángel J. Gallardo to be Assistant Professor of Church History, effective July 1, 2022.

The Austin Seminary Board of Trustees has called Dr. Ángel J. Gallardo to be Assistant Professor of Church History, effective July 1, 2022.

“We are thrilled that Ángel will be joining the Austin Seminary community,” says Austin Seminary President Ted Wardlaw. “He is an accomplished scholar, lecturer, and colleague, and he will inspire our students with respect to the love of church history. It will be a pleasure to welcome the Gallardo family.”

Dr. Gallardo is currently the Associate Director of the Intern Program and serves on the faculty of Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He earned the PhD from SMU in 2018; the subject of his dissertation was “Mapping the Nature of Empire: The Legacy of Theological Geography in the Early Iberian Atlantic.” He holds a BA in theological studies at Eastern University and an MDiv from the Duke University Divinity School; he later served on the Duke Divinity Board of Visitors. He is an active lay member of the United Methodist Church.

In addition to Perkins, he has had teaching experience at Lexington Theological Seminary, House of Hispanic Studies at Duke, CEPAS a non-profit educational center for at-risk youth in Brazil, and Seminario Metodista, Huancayo in Perú.

Dr. Gallardo is looking forward to beginning his teaching at Austin Seminary. “I am excited to invite seminarians to explore, and be shaped by, the complex and enthralling legacy of the global Christian movement,” he says. “I also look forward to developing courses that examine the origins of race and religion in the Americas. Ultimately, I hope my students can learn to reimagine themselves, their congregations, and their contexts in light of God’s broader story of redemption by critically engaging the history of Christian thought.”

Ángel Gallardo is deeply involved in academic conversations, currently co-chairing of the Latina/o Religion, Culture, and Society program unit of the American Academy of Religion & Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL). He participated in the roundtable “Making Sense of /from the 2020 U.S. Election” at the AAR/SBL conference in 2020, and he served as an officer of La Comunidad, the Association of U.S. Latino/a Scholars or Religion and Theology (2015-19). He presented a paper at the Latinx Studies Now: DC 2018+, Latina/o Studies Association 3rd Biennial Conference Panel: “Toward a Nepantla Poetics: Exploring Decolonial Options in Latinx Theology.” He also holds membership in the Hispanic Theological Initiative at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Dr. Gallardo and his wife, Kendrea Tannis, are parents to two young children, and they will make their home in Austin following the conclusion of the spring 2022 term.

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Margaret Aymer to become Academic Dean at Austin Seminary
Randal Whittington

On November 2, 2021, The Board of Trustees of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary extended the call to The Reverend Dr. Margaret Aymer, The First Presbyterian Church, Shreveport, D. Thomason Professor of New Testament Studies, to become the institution’s ninth academic dean in its 119-year history.

On November 2, 2021, The Board of Trustees of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary extended the call to The Reverend Dr. Margaret Aymer, The First Presbyterian Church, Shreveport, D. Thomason Professor of New Testament Studies, to become the institution’s ninth academic dean in its 119-year history. When she takes office on July 1, Aymer will succeed Dr. David Jensen who has served as dean since 2014. Jensen previously announced his plans to return to full-time teaching at the end of the 2021-22 academic year. Margaret Aymer is the first woman and the first person of color to be a dean of Austin Seminary.

“I am so delighted that Dr. Margaret Aymer will move into the Dean’s Office as David Jensen steps down,” said Seminary President Ted Wardlaw. “At the end of eight years of excellent service, he relishes the opportunity to give his full-time attention to teaching Reformed theology. Margaret will be a splendid dean and academic leader at Austin Seminary, and we are blessed to be moving from strength to strength.” 

Margaret Aymer joined the faculty in 2015. Raised in the Caribbean and the east coast of the United States, she earned a BA from Harvard University and the MDiv and PhD from Union Theological Seminary (New York). She was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters from Hood Theological Seminary in 2013. Academically, she follows in the footsteps of her late father, Dr. Albert Aymer, a minister from Antigua who served as associate dean at Theological School of Drew University and as academic dean and later president of Hood Theological Seminary.

Active in the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion, Aymer has spoken as a guest lecturer at numerous academic and church conferences across the United States, including the 2013 MidWinter Lectures at Austin Seminary. She is editor of the journal Horizons in Biblical Literature, and she wrote Confessing the Beatitudes, the 2011 Horizons Bible Study (the annual Bible study resource for Presbyterian women), for which she won the Award of Excellence by the Associated Church Press. She has published four books: James: Diaspora Rhetorics of a Friend of God (Sheffield Publishing, 2014), Fortress Commentary on the Bible (with Gale A. Yee, Fortress Press, 2014); First Pure, then Peaceable: Frederick Douglass Reads James (T&T Clark, 2008), and Islanders, Islands and the Bible: Ruminations (Semeia Studies, 2015; with Jione Havea).

Prior to coming to Austin Seminary, Dr. Aymer taught at Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia (2004-2015). She has served on the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations since 2010, moderating those who write the Bible Exegesis Ordination Examination for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She was a member of the Committee on Preparation of Ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from 2010-2011, training sessions (governing bodies) of local congregations on the ordination process and their responsibilities therein. Aymer was also a member of the General Assembly Task Force on Civil Unions and Marriage (2009-2010), and she served as a steering committee member for the Committee on Theological Education Consultation on Racism from 2004-2008.

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President Wardlaw announces plans to retire in 2022
Randal Whittington

President Theodore J. Wardlaw, the ninth president of Austin Seminary, has announced plans to retire in 2022. He plans to stay in office until his successor is named, possibly by June 30 but no later than the end of the 2022 calendar year.

President Theodore J. Wardlaw, the ninth president of Austin Seminary, has announced plans to retire in 2022. He plans to stay in office until his successor is named, possibly by June 30 but no later than the end of the 2022 calendar year. In his remarks to the Board of Trustees on November 2, he said, “The twenty years during which my family and I have been a part of this campus have been the most stimulating, challenging, doxological years we have known … A lot of this work across years has endeavored to make Austin Seminary a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, welcoming, and, yes, 'winsome' place for all. And, by the way, over these years I have come to love that word 'winsome,' which … is part of our official mission statement. … [I]t describes much about the spirit of this seminary. Students, faculty, staff, and, I dare say, presidents have been attracted to this place by its winsome appearance and character.”

Ted Wardlaw began his tenure at Austin Seminary following the Seminary’s Centennial Celebration in the fall of 2002; he was inaugurated in the spring of 2003. He has led unprecedented fund-raising efforts that have raised nearly $100 million and increased the Seminary’s endowment by 60%. Funding, including the largest single campaign in the Seminary’s history and the largest non-bequest gift, has financed important Austin Seminary initiatives such as transforming the campus with two new, four-story apartment buildings for students and an expanded and renovated library to be dedicated in January as the Mary B. and Robert J. Wright Learning and Information Center; eight new endowed faculty chairs, including one in sacred music; eleven “full-ride” student fellowships, including two for international students; and the perpetual endowment of the College of Pastoral Leaders. Wardlaw has presided over the selection of a large majority of the present-day faculty, including Margaret Aymer, Gregory Cuéllar, Bridgett Green, Carolyn Helsel, Phil Helsel, Paul Hooker, Bobbi Kaye Jones, Jennifer Lord, Song-Mi Suzie Park, Asante Todd, Eric Wall, David White, Melissa Wiginton, and Andrew Zirschky. Nearly half of living graduates were students during his presidency.

During his time as president, academic programs expanded to include three new degree programs, The Master of Arts in Youth Ministry, The Master of Arts in Religion, and the Master of Arts in Ministry Practice; a dual degree with the University of Texas Steve Hicks School of Social Work; and three primarily online certificate programs. The Office of Education Beyond the Walls was established and has grown to serve 700-1000 Christian leaders and learners each year. Most recently, De Puertas Abiertos fellowships have been established to provide 100% tuition grants to students of color. Reflecting his deep commitment to pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church, Wardlaw imagined into being the Austin Seminary Post-Graduate Residency program designed to offer two graduating Presbyterian students each year the unique opportunity to continue formation in thriving congregational settings for the first two years of ministry. Elements of all these initiatives have focused on the institution’s commitment to a diverse community, and all have positioned the Seminary to embrace some of the challenges facing theological education in the 21st century.

Among the challenges faced during his time of leadership, the financial crisis of 2008 saw the Seminary’s endowment plummet by 30% and required painful fiscal and personnel decisions. Over the ensuing years, Wardlaw rebuilt the staff and steered the recovery of the Seminary’s financial resources to a robust endowment of $161 million.

Contemplating his presidency, Wardlaw continued in his remarks to the board, “What does it take to have a long and essentially happy tenure when a president accepts a call to serve a seminary? It may take whatever attributes a given president brings to the table. But in the greatest measure, I think, it takes more than what one person can ever bring. It takes a certain winsomeness, for sure, and also, I think, it takes at least the following things: a healthy, forward-looking community marked by spiritual nurture, a sacramental presence that reminds us that it’s not just us down here, an ethic of generosity and generous academic conversation, love for knowledge, love for the church, and a good healthy dosage of humility. These are among the marks of this place, and whatever nurture I’ve brought to it, I’ve received so much more.”

A graduate of Presbyterian College, Union Presbyterian Seminary, and Yale University Divinity School, where he earned a Master of Sacred Theology in American Church History (Magna Cum Laude), he was pastor of Central Presbyterian Church (Atlanta, Georgia), Setauket Presbyterian Church (Long Island, New York), Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church (Sherman, Texas), and Germantown Presbyterian Church, (Tennessee). He has served on the Board of Trustees of Montreat Conference Center. He has been editor-at-large of The Presbyterian Outlook and still writes occasional “Benedictory” columns for that publication. He also writes regularly for The Christian Century and The Journal for Preachers. Following his retirement, Wardlaw and his wife, Kay Bryant, expect to share their time between Montreat and Austin for the foreseeable future.

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Two new grant projects to explore migrant experience in Texas
Randal Whittington

Education Beyond the Walls and Professor Gregory Cuéllar given grants for ongoing projects

The Institute for Diversity and Civic Life’s 2021 Migration Narratives Project include two Austin Seminary grantees. Education Beyond the Walls received a collaborative grant of $19,700, shared with Austin Region Justice for our Neighbors, and Professor Gregory Cuéllar, associate professor of Old Testament, received an individual grant of $5,000 for his “Arte de Lágrimas: Refugee Artwork Project.” Both initiatives seek to celebrate the humanity of migrants and foster reflection on immigration policy and practices.

Education Beyond the Walls at Austin Seminary will collaborate with Justice for our Neighbors to expand on the “Undocumented Stories” project, which began in 2017 with the objective of giving voice to members of the immigrant community in Texas. “The center of our project is education through the voices of our Latinx immigrant brothers and sisters to disrupt the conventional narrative about immigration and the immigrant experience,” says Mónica Tornoé, director of Latinx learning and of the Undocumented Stories project.

“Often in non-profit circles, client storytelling is seen as a tool for fundraising, a compelling way to connect with donors and show positive outcomes while asking for more funds,” Tornoe continued. “Too often, the hero of the story is the non-profit which stepped into a person’s life at just the right time to do something good and resolve the problem. We want to challenge that narrative by centering the immigrant as the actor in their own story.” Funds from the grant will support publication of a book—which can be used in whole or in part alongside video clips of the storytellers—and resources for community and church education programs.

 

In August 2014, Professor Cuéllar and a small team of faith-based volunteers initiated the Arte de Lágrimas: Refugee Artwork Project. According to Cuéllar, “The stories of the ‘Other’ that this project aims to bring into public view are those of asylum-seeking children and youth from Central America’s Northern Triangle. As part of the broad humanitarian response to the influx of asylum-seekers at the Texas-Mexico border from 2014 to 2017, we saw art-making as a friendly activity for asylum-seeking children and youth to do while they waited for their buses at bus stations in McAllen, Brownsville, and San Antonio, Texas. In contrast to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s inhumane response to their arrival (many placed in animal-like cages and freezing detention cells), we felt the need to act by offering at the very least a neighborly welcome to the newly arriving asylum-seekers at the Texas-Mexico border. Hence, informing our project is less focused on the academic study of migration than on a faith-based ethics of care for refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers.”

This grant will allow the digitization and archiving of original artwork by asylum-seekers (2014–2017, 2019), thereby ensuring future access to the stories they tell about migration and religion in the Texas-Mexico border region. This grant will also fund the production of a virtual storytelling art exhibit, using a selection of the digitized art pieces (see https://www.artedelagrimas.org/).

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