Ruthann Knechel Johansen to retire as seminary president


Church of the Brethren Newsline
April 3, 2012

Ruthann Knechel Johansen
Photo by: courtesy of Bethany Seminary

Ruthann Knechel Johansen, president of Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., has announced her retirement, effective July 1, 2013. The announcement came in conjunction with the semi-annual meeting of the Bethany Seminary board of trustees.

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Johansen began her tenure as the ninth president of Bethany Seminary on July 1, 2007, having most recently held the position of professor of literature and interdisciplinary studies and of a faculty fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

During her time at Bethany, she helped lead the development of a new mission and vision statement and a five-year strategic plan. Beginning with her inaugural celebration, she established the Presidential Forum as the premier public event at Bethany, offering the seminary’s space and resources for denominational and ecumenical exploration, learning, and discourse on important issues of faith and ethics. Her presidency also saw the hiring of a new academic dean, three new faculty members, and a new director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.

In a statement to the seminary community Johansen said, “Since July 2007, together the board and faculty have analyzed the challenges facing the Christian church, the Church of the Brethren, and most theological schools; re-examined the core testimonies of the Anabaptist-Pietist traditions and the Church of the Brethren for their relevance for theological education and the needs of the world in this time; and developed a bold mission and vision that is both faithful to the gospel and a prophetic call from Bethany to the church and the world.... I am grateful for the opportunity to work with wonderful colleagues, both as board members and employees, in higher education and in serving God, the church, and the world. I call us to continue to be faithful, as I will attempt to be during this last period, and as I expect the search committee and the board will be as well.”

Carol Scheppard, chair of the board of trustees, reflected on Johansen’s presidency: “As president Johansen transitions to the projects awaiting her in retirement, she leaves a rich legacy with Bethany. From the core foundations of the vision and mission statements and the comprehensive strategic plan, to the focused, energized, and convicted operations of the seminary community, Bethany is strong. We look forward with hope and confidence to Ruthann’s leadership in the year ahead and to the growth and nurturing of the seeds she has planted under our next president.”

Bethany trustee Rhonda Pittman Gingrich will serve as chair of the Presidential Search Committee, with Ted Flory, former member and chair of the board, serving as vice chair. The additional members of the committee are trustees David McFadden, John D. Miller, and Nathan Polzin; at-large representative Judy Mills Reimer; faculty representative Tara Hornbacker; and student representative Dylan Haro.

-- Jenny Williams is director of communications and alumni/ae relations at Bethany Seminary.

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