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Regent College Announces Endowed Chair in Theology and the Arts

March 22, 2013
"Endowed chairs are first and foremost testimonies to a previous generation; they help future generations to have a corporate memory." - Rod Wilson

Regent College is pleased to announce the establishment of the Eugene and Jan Peterson Chair in Theology and the Arts. 

Dr. Iwan Russell-Jones became the first incumbent of the chair on January 26, 2013.

The Eugene and Jan Peterson Chair in Theology and the Arts is named after Professor Emeritus Eugene Peterson and his wife Jan. Regent College raised $3 million to create this fully funded chair.

In announcing the new chair, President Rod Wilson explains: "I believe endowed chairs are first and foremost testimonies to a previous generation; they help future generations to have a corporate memory. Because Eugene and Jan Peterson continue to leave an enduring legacy, it is both a privilege and an honour for us to build their names into the fabric of Regent’s future as well as an encouraging link for the individuals who will build upon their legacy."

Professor Emeritus Eugene Peterson was the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College from 1993 to 1998. In addition to being a poet, author, and scholar, Dr. Peterson is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He founded Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Maryland, where he was the pastor for twenty-nine years. Dr. Peterson has written numerous books including The Pastor: A Memoir, The Jesus Way, Practice Resurrection, Leap Over a Wall, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Working the Angles, and Reversed Thunder. He is perhaps best known for his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message.

As Dr. Peterson has long sought to re-imagine pastoral theology through the world of the arts, both he and Jan believe that a chair in the arts best reflects their passions and interests. "In filling this chair with someone with expertise in both arts and theology," adds Dr. Wilson, "we will continue a long tradition at Regent College where the arts are not seen strictly as entertainment or idiosyncracy but as one of the areas where God is working in powerful ways in this culture."

That tradition of valuing the arts as an integral part of theological education and spiritual formation is expressed in many different ways at Regent College. The arts are integrated into the curriculum through courses that focus on the arts, through assignments within other courses that allow for artistic expression, and through the Integrated Project in the Arts and Theology as one of the degree-completion options available to students.

Beyond the curriculum, Regent College encourages the programming of concerts, film screenings, and other special events throughout the year, as well as consciously integrating the arts into chapel services. The Lookout Gallery’s exhibition programming allows both the secular and Christian public to see the integration of theology with the visual arts. Many students who have completed Regent degrees continue to develop as artists and as culturally aware Christians and church leaders.

The appointment of Dr. Iwan Russell-Jones to the chair is very fitting. Dr. Russell-Jones is an award-winning filmmaker, theologian, and writer. He is currently Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Head of the Theology and the Arts Program at Regent College. As well as holding a DPhil in theology from Oxford University, Dr. Russell-Jones has over twenty-five years of experience as a producer and director for BBC, in both television and radio. He produced documentaries that include The Crucified King (BBC1 2003) and American Prophet (BBC2 2008), which explore the religious dimensions of Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership of the civil rights movement, and Who Do You Say I Am? (BBC1 2007), which features poet Michael Symmons Roberts reflecting on the contemporary meaning of the life of Christ. In addition, Dr. Russell-Jones has had the privilege of working with South African activist and Christian cleric Dr. Desmond Tutu; Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury; and leading Christian apologists and authors Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge. Fundamentally, he is committed to exploring the interaction between faith, media, and the contemporary culture.

"It is unique for a graduate school of theology to include filmmaking, radio/TV producing and directing, and media and culture studies in its curriculum. It is even more rare to find all of these talents and experiences combined in one person," concludes Dr. Wilson.

Dr. Iwan Russell-Jones will be officially installed as the new chair on Saturday, October 26, 2013. Eugene and Jan Peterson will be attendance. More details will follow.

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