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On Sunday, September 19, 2021, members of the CTS trustees, faculty, staff, and student body, along with community members and interfaith leaders, gathered for the official installation ceremony of David M. Mellott, PhD, as the seminary’s seventh president. The theme for the installation was “How to Love a City,” which Mellott holds central to his vision for the future of CTS. Joining members of the CTS community were academic delegates and ecclesial representatives from around the country.

The CTS worship team and special guests provided music for the event, and the winner of a statewide poetry contest held in partnership with the Indiana Writers Center, Jenny Froehle, read her poem, “How to Love a City” to those gathered. Read more about Froehle and her poem here.

Offering the address for the occasion was Rev. Dr. Willie James Jennings, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School. Jennings celebrated Mellott’s installation and offered a forceful critique of the history of racism and exclusion in theological institutions before challenging the school to live into an ever more just and inclusive future.

After being given a charge for his leadership, Mellott closed the ceremony with reflections on his own journey in theological education and a message about the seminary’s future:

Our country is experiencing a series of crises. The coronavirus pandemic is really just but one of those crises. We also continue to experience the impact of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, nationalism, anti-Semitism, economic oppression, and environmental devastation. Each of these issues has contributed to the erosion of public trust and our life in common… Unfortunately, in the name of the Gospel, Christianity and the followers of Jesus too often appear in ways that contribute to the oppression. Furthermore, there are theological narratives about and within Christianity that fuel this dynamic. To put it bluntly, Christian theology and practice can be just as much death-wielding as it can be liberative and life-affirming. The choice is up to us.

Christian Theological Seminary just approved a new strategic plan that commits us to serving the public through serving the church. This core strategy flows directly out of the values of CTS. Values of the God-given human dignity of every person. Embracing diversity. Advancing scholarship and formation. Healing and wholeness for all creation…

Loving the city means learning how to love the people in our community and our life in common… Loving the city requires us to think about how we could employ our multiple resources and lives toward our life in common… I’m talking about the extent to which we bring our theological, pastoral, spiritual, and financial resources to the issues in the communities into which our students are being sent. This is not an easy task, because it will force us to consider carefully the stories we have been teaching and preaching about the world and about Christianity itself. It will require us to join with those of other faiths and backgrounds who share this commitment to our common life.