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    Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
    130 Essex Street
    South Hamilton, MA 01982
    (978) 468-7111
    Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F

Presidential Search



Background  ::  Top

On October 12, 2017, Dr. Dennis P. Hollinger, the sixth president of Gordon-Conwell, announced his retirement effective June 30, 2019. This advanced notice allowed for an orderly search for his successor.


History  ::  Top

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is a multidenominational, evangelical Protestant graduate school serving more than 1,800 students on four campuses in South Hamilton and Boston, Massachusetts; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Jacksonville, Florida. Students come from over 90 denominations and 50 nations.* Over 10,000 alumni have graduated from Gordon-Conwell.

The seminary ranks sixth largest of the over 270 seminaries in the United States and Canada accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Gordon-Conwell offers multiple degree programs at the master’s and doctoral levels and has gained an international reputation for its leading faculty in the areas of Biblical Studies, Practical Theology and Christian Thought. It is known for its classical education and rigorous academic standards that include biblical language requirements in many of the degree programs. In recent years this emphasis has been complemented by a growing commitment to spiritual and pastoral formation.

The rich heritage of Gordon-Conwell goes back to the late 1800s. It arose from the merger of two East Coast urban schools that shared a vision for providing educational access to the flood of immigrants unable to attend elite universities of the day. Both schools were founded by prominent ministers. In 1889 Rev. Russell Conwell birthed what became Conwell School of Theology at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in 1889 Rev. A.J. Gordon established the Boston Missionary Training School (later Gordon Divinity School) in Boston, Massachusetts. Opening their doors to men and women of all races and ethnicities, each introduced ministerial education specifically for people living in the city.

In 1969 the two schools merged through the efforts of philanthropist J. Howard Pew, local pastor Dr. Harold J. Ockenga and evangelist Rev. Billy Graham. Their vision was to “establish within a strong evangelical framework, an independent, interdenominational seminary.” The united schools became known as Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Dr. Ockenga, long-time pastor of Boston’s historic Park Street Church, became the institution’s first president, serving until 1979. During Dr. Ockenga’s tenure, the innovative Boston Campus (Center for Urban Ministerial Education or CUME) was established to provide urban ministerial training for pastors and church leaders in Boston and throughout the U.S. The unique program of this campus has served as a model for similar programs in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon; and in international cities such as Quito, Ecuador; and Lagos, Nigeria. In its 42nd year, the Boston Campus served 245 students during Fall 2017. It frequently offers classes in English, Spanish, French Creole and Portuguese.

In 1981 Dr. Robert. E. Cooley was inaugurated as the second president. Under his leadership Gordon-Conwell strengthened its on-campus program, expanded seminary housing and completed the campus learning complex, including the chapel and a 41,000 square foot academic center. In 1992 Gordon-Conwell established the Charlotte, North Carolina, campus. A distinctive of the Charlotte campus is its non-traditional, non-residential format built on an adult education model. This campus emphasizes a "contextualized education" and partners with local churches in preparing students for ministry. Enrollment during Spring 2018 exceeded 450 students.

Under President Walter C. Kaiser Jr., a prolific Old Testament scholar, the seminary completed a $54 million Capital Campaign that funded new professors and greatly expanded scholarships for students. New centers during this era included the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building, the J. Christy Wilson Jr. Center for World Missions, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity and the Center for Preaching. During Dr. Kaiser’s tenure, the Jacksonville, Florida, campus was founded in 2006 at the request of a local group of alumni pastors and church leaders in Jacksonville. They wished to bring Gordon-Conwell’s commitment to educational innovation, academic rigor and theological faithfulness to students already engaged in full-time ministry or the marketplace. This campus currently enrolls around 100 students.

In 2008, Dr. Dennis P. Hollinger, distinguished scholar and professor of Christian ethics, became the sixth president of Gordon-Conwell. He has recruited a diverse faculty with ministry experience and strong academic credentials, has overseen a successful Comprehensive Campaign of $69.7 million, revitalized the Hamilton campus, and has seen a major addition to the Charlotte campus. Under his leadership, the seminary established a Hispanic Ministries Program, which serves nearly 200 students, and developed several new academic programs, including new low-residence models. In 2016 the seminary secured the maximum 10-year renewal of accreditation with both ATS and NEASC.** As seminary education nationally faces the challenges of lower enrollments, increased costs, and a challenging cultural environment, he has encouraged online learning and programs of low residence requirement, and the Partnership Program to provide tuition-free education.

On October 12, 2017, Dr. Hollinger announced his retirement effective June 30, 2019, in order to provide for an orderly transition.

Gordon-Conwell’s budget for the 2017-2018 academic year is $22 million. The annual Education Fund has grown incrementally for each of the past 10 years with $3.58 million raised in the most recent fiscal year.

* Nations represented among the student body during the Fall 2017 semester: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peoples Republic Of China, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom, Venezuela.

** The seminary is accredited by both the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).


Vision Statement  ::  Top

"To advance Christ's Kingdom in every sphere of life by equipping Church leaders to think theologically, engage globally and live biblically."


Statement of Faith  ::  Top


  1. The sixty-six canonical books of the Bible as originally written were inspired of God, hence free from error. They constitute the only infallible guide in faith and practice.
  2. There is one God, the Creator and Preserver of all things, infinite in being and perfection. He exists eternally in three Persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are of one substance and equal in power and glory.
  3. Man, created in the image of God, through disobedience fell from his sinless state at the suggestion of Satan. This fall plunged man into a state of sin and spiritual death and brought upon the entire race the sentence of eternal death. From this condition man can be saved only by the grace of God, through faith, on the basis of the work of Christ, and by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
  4. The eternally pre-existent Son became incarnate without human father, by being born of the virgin Mary. Thus in the Lord Jesus Christ divine and human natures were united in one Person, both natures being whole, perfect and distinct. To effect salvation, he lived a sinless life and died on the cross as the sinner's substitute, shedding his blood for the remission of sins. On the third day he rose from the dead in the body which had been laid in the tomb. He ascended to the right hand of the Father, where he performs the ministry of intercession. He shall come again, personally and visibly, to complete his saving work and to consummate the eternal plan of God.
  5. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Triune God. He applies to man the work of Christ. By justification and adoption man is given a right standing before God; by regeneration, sanctification and glorification man's nature is renewed.
  6. The believer, having turned to God in penitent faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is accountable to God for living a life separated from sin and characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. It is his responsibility to contribute by word and deed to the universal spread of the gospel.
  7. At the end of the age the bodies of the dead shall be raised. The righteous shall enter into full possession of eternal bliss in the presence of God, and the wicked shall be condemned to eternal death.


Mission and Purpose  ::  Top

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is an educational institution serving the Lord and his Church. Its mission is to prepare men and women for ministry at home and abroad. The seminary undertakes this task as a training partner with the Church, so that what is learned on campus may be complemented by the spiritual nurture and the exercise of ministry available through the Church.

Gordon-Conwell's mission arises out of God's redemptive work in this world effected in Jesus Christ, understood through the biblical Word and mediated by the Holy Spirit. As a theological seminary, it provides learning, resources and training through which men and women may acquire knowledge, gain skills and develop attitudes needed in Christ's ministry. Its mission, accordingly, is to serve the Church in the following ways:

Article 1: To encourage students to become knowledgeable of God's inerrant Word, competent in its interpretation, proclamation and application in the contemporary world. Because the teaching of God's Word is indispensable to the well-being and vitality of God's people, the seminary has a fundamental responsibility to encourage in its students a love for Scripture. The seminary is to teach exegetical skills by which they will be able to apply Scripture effectively.

Article 2: To maintain academic excellence in the highest tradition of Christian scholarship in the teaching of the biblical, historical and theological disciplines. Theological education, which is properly done within and for the Church, ought to function with rigor and academic integrity. The seminary, therefore, must provide an environment within which teaching and learning can best occur and encourage high levels of scholarly competence and research in its faculty.

Article 3: To train and encourage students, in cooperation with the Church, to become skilled in ministry. The Church and the seminary share the goal of seeing knowledge, skills and attitudes integrated in the person who ministers. Both in traditional degree programs and in continuing education, a combination of careful training and supervised experience in ministry are educational practices essential to achieving that goal.

Article 4: To work with the churches towards the maturing of students so that their experiential knowledge of God in Christ is evidenced in their character, outlook, conduct, relationships and involvement in society. Academic learning divorced from a life of biblical spirituality neither honors God nor serves his people. Such spirituality is to be expressed cognitively, relationally and socially. It is to be translated into action, God's people embodying his compassion, declaring his justice and articulating his truth in society.

Article 5: To provide leadership and educational resources for shaping an effective evangelical presence in the Church and society. Gordon-Conwell's academic and institutional resources are to be put into the service of the Christian community to provide careful research on and informed understanding of critical issues, as well as in exercising leadership in learned societies, in movements of renewal and reform and in a variety of off-campus ministries in order to develop a more informed understanding of what the lordship of Christ means in our contemporary world.

Article 6: To develop in students a vision for God's redemptive work throughout the world and to formulate the strategies that will lead to effective missions, evangelism and discipleship. The central mission of the Triune God is the creation of a fellowship of men and women who are mature in Christ and who will love and serve him forever. This mission is realized evangelistically through the proclamation of the biblical gospel by those who embody the message they proclaim and who seek to make disciples from all peoples.


Presidential Search Process  ::  Top

The selection of the president is a primary responsibility of the board of trustees. The search committee is consequently a subcommittee of the board of trustees. Its members were nominated by the Governance Committee, advised by the chairman of the board and approved by the board at its meeting in February 2018. The committee comprises trustees and faculty, as we are committed to shared governance. The attempt has been made to keep a small committee of 10, yet be inclusive of all campuses. The process will be transparent, but the details and candidate names will, of necessity, be confidential.


Presidential Search Committee  ::  Top

William C. Wood

Chair of the Search Committee and of the Governance Committee
Peter G. James Vice-Chair of Search Committee, alumnus, pastor, trustee, member of Governance Committee

John A. Huffman

Chair of the Board of Trustees, pastor

Claude R. Alexander, Jr.

Chair-elect of the Board of Trustees, Charlotte-based pastor/bishop, alumnus

Stan D. Gaede

Trustee, Hamilton-based, Chair of Academic and Student Affairs Committee

R. Bruce Bradley

Trustee, Chair of Finance and Advancement Committee
Shirley A. Redd Trustee, Immediate Past Trustee Board Secretary, member of the Governance Committee, Boston Board of Advisors

Donald Fairbairn

Academic Dean of Charlotte and Interim Dean of Jacksonville

Donna Petter

Faculty, Hamilton, alumna


Activity  ::  Top

  • An online survey was taken of trustees, faculty, students and staff of desired characteristics that helped to shape the documents that follow.
  • Documentation of prior presidential searches was reviewed.
  • A presidential job description was developed.
  • Desired presidential characteristics were outlined.
  • Search firms are being evaluated to staff the process for the search committee.
  • Funding for the search was approved by the board in February.
  • By teleconference on March 19, the next steps were discussed and approved by the search committee.
  • The committee committed to fervent prayer for guidance.
  • The members of the search committee are seeking names of candidates by contacts, and numerous persons have been recommended.
  • The next committee teleconference will be held April 23 and will be primarily devoted to concerted prayer for the search, for all those who will advise the search and for our Lord to lead clearly and expeditiously to the person that he has chosen to be our next president.
  • Wednesday, May 9, the search committee will conduct interviews with the president, vice presidents, deans, and representatives of senior, mid-level and junior faculty.
  • Any faculty member wishing to submit information to the search committee is invited to write to the committee with suggestions, preferably before May 7, 2018.
  • A one-hour town hall meeting with any faculty not specifically interviewed who wish to comment to the committee will be held Wednesday, May 9, 2018, in the afternoon.
  • Thursday morning, May 10, prior to the board meeting the search committee will meet to move along the process and prepare a report to the board of trustees.
  • General Advertisements developed and placed in Christianity Today and on the CCCU website.
  • Presidential search firm selected.
  • Identify candidates through initial screening.
  • Refine candidate assessment process.
  • Narrow applicants to top candidates.
  • Conduct phone/off-site interviews with semi-finalists.
  • Identify finalists for in-person, on-campus interviews with the search committee.
  • Convene Board of Trustees to meet and to elect next president.
  • New president is announced to campus/public.


Presidential Position Description  ::  Top


The president of Gordon-Conwell is the spiritual, administrative and academic leader of the seminary. He or she is a mature Christian who consistently walks with God. The president holds a graduate degree, preferably an earned terminal degree in an appropriate discipline for seminary leadership. He or she has a reputation in the evangelical community as a leader and scholar, preferably with leadership experience in both the local church and in an academic institution. The president is committed to Gordon-Conwell’s goal of ecclesial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the seminary.


The president is the seminary’s chief ambassador to the Church at large, representing Gordon-Conwell to local churches, denominational bodies, other seminaries, Christian colleges and parachurch organizations.

The president is the seminary’s chief representative to the world, representing Gordon-Conwell to such bodies as academic institutions, accrediting agencies, the media and governmental agencies.

The president models those attributes that the seminary desires its employees and students emulate.

Under the authority of the board of trustees, the president directs and manages the policies and objectives of the seminary—to advance the gospel domestically and throughout the world through theological education. In doing so, the president works effectively with, and builds community among, the board of trustees, the other administrators and the faculty.

The president fully informs the board of trustees about those educational and administrative matters that are appropriate and necessary for the board to meet its governance responsibilities.

The president receives and thoughtfully considers the recommendations of the seminary’s advisory boards at the Boston, Charlotte, Hamilton and Jacksonville campuses.

The president, with his or her cabinet and leadership team, sets priorities to meet a standard of excellence within all aspects of the seminary, working to

  • understand the changing business model of seminary education and propose appropriate changes within GCTS;
  • develop programs and strategies that attract students;
  • maintain a balanced operational budget;
  • preserve the seminary’s assets, including the maintenance of the seminary’s plant and properties;
  • generate resources for capital, deferred maintenance, and endowment projects.

The president leads the cultivation of friends of the seminary who will financially support its academic programs, facilities and endowment.

The president is a member of the board of trustees (by virtue of the office as president) and an ex officio member of the board’s committees (except the Audit and Executive Compensation and Institutional Benefits committees), without a vote. He or she recommends to the board candidates for the positions of vice presidents, deans, distinguished professorships, faculty chairs, ranked faculty and members of the campus boards of advisors.

The president has the power, on behalf of the board of trustees, to perform all acts and to execute all documents to make effective the actions of the board.

The president is the chief executive officer of the seminary, responsible for upholding the standards of accreditation.

The president effectively organizes and directs the faculty and staff. He or she is a member of the faculty with a vote and chairs faculty meetings. He or she advocates for all employees with the board of trustees and its committees.


President Characteristics  ::  Top

The next president of Gordon-Conwell will:

  • Exude deep and genuine spirituality and character focused on love for Christ, the Scriptures and the Church.
  • Exhibit an active prayer life.
  • Embrace unreservedly, adhere to and communicate effectively the Gordon-Conwell Vision Statement, Statement of Faith and Mission Statement.
  • Demonstrate biblical and theological sophistication to guide the seminary in remaining faithful to its classically orthodox theological commitments.
  • Model strong visionary leadership with a nuanced understanding of current and future trends in contemporary culture and their implications for theological education.
  • Demonstrate a track record of energetic, dynamic and able administration with strong and effective leadership skills.
  • Possess academic credentials including an earned doctorate, with prior exposure to academic administration, financial and enrollment management, classroom teaching and faculty ethos, ideally in a theological setting.
  • Advocate for seminary commitment to the local and global Church in the full measure of its geographic, gender, racial and ethnic diversity.
  • Model seasoned cultural competencies with a demonstrated history of effective firsthand experience working with groups that reflect the global diversity of the Kingdom of Christ.
  • Value the contributions of both male and female students, faculty and staff, and support the training of both women and men for ministry.
  • Create a collaborative spirit and close working relationship with his or her cabinet and leadership team.
  • Cultivate generative relationships and partnerships among all the seminary’s varied constituencies including trustees, boards of advisors, faculty, administration, staff, students, alumni, donors, local communities in which each campus is embedded, and the global Church.
  • Advocate for classical theological education and academic excellence in the faculty, curriculum and students.
  • Demonstrate business acumen with experience and insight into the changing business model of higher education or other relevant organization, including strategic planning, enrollment strategies, budget planning and monitoring, revenue-generating programs, and alternative delivery models.
  • Execute a sustainable business model that offers an excellent education.
  • Document a proven track record of identifying and cultivating foundation grant and individual donor-funded resources.
  • Appreciate the seminary’s history and identity and respect the ethos at each of its four campuses.
  • Teach up to two courses per year on the various campuses, if appropriate.
  • Accept regular invitations as a valued scholar, speaker and preacher.
  • Possess sufficient energy and inclination to spend time on each of the four campuses, as well as to travel for cultivating donor and partner relationships across the United States and around the world.
  • Relocate personal and family residence to the South Hamilton area.
  • Join a local congregation and become a regular participant, as time permits.


Presidential Key Requirements  ::  Top

  • Scholarship—Our product
    Recognized commitment to theological education & academic excellence; recognized in evangelical community for writing and speaking.
  • Churchperson—Our primary constituent
    Loves and is committed to the Church and has experience in leading a local church and has credibility with church leaders.
  • Character—Our values
    Committed to Christ and exhibits spiritual depth and maturity with character, integrity, pastoral gifts and fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5). Exhibits characteristics of elder/overseer (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1; 1 Pet. 5).
  • Leadership—Our needs
    Visionary, leader, manager, team builder, servant leader.
  • Fundraising— Our operational base
    Committed to cultivating and developing new donor relationships.


Nominations and Comments  ::  Top

The search committee welcomes feedback from the campus and the community. Please share your thoughts and comments here:





Presidential Search Updates  ::  Top

September 1, 2018

Dear Gordon-Conwell Community,

The Committee has pared down the long list of candidates considerably. We will be meeting with a short list in September in Boston. Please continue in prayer that the person of God's choosing will emerge from this process and that that one will be drawn to Gordon-Conwell and the Committee to that one. Only prayer for wisdom and discernment will ensure that we do His will.

The Presidential Search Committee


May 16, 2018

Dear Gordon-Conwell community,

The search committee would like to thank you for partnering with us through prayer and by offering valuable input when we met last week at various venues. We have compiled a list of 27 potential candidates and are discerning those that we should contact.

We are mindful of the urgency of the task, yet also aware that we are waiting on the Lord’s timing and depending on his guidance. In this regard we cannot offer a strict timetable, and so we ask that prayers continue daily and weekly as we all seek the Lord together and the welfare of God’s kingdom.


The Presidential Search Committee