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Contact Directory


Joseph A. Bessler, PhD

  • Robert Travis Peake Professor of Theology
  • Associate Dean for Faculty Development & Assessment
phone(918) 270-6448


  • Religion & Politics
  • Theology & Leadership
  • How to do Theology
  • Church & State


  • BS, Northwestern University, 1979
  • MA, Harvard University, 1984
  • PhD, University of Chicago, 1996

Key Facts

  • Joined Phillips in 1992
  • Coordinator for DMin track Pastoral Leadership in Church & Society: Collaborating for Change
  • Contributed to projects sponsored by the Westar Institute
  • Participant in the Lexington Seminar Mentoring Project 2006-2008
  • Keynote presenter at the Common Dreams Conference in Sydney, Australia in 2009
  • Keynote presenter at ATS Workshop for Mid-Career Faculty, 2009 and 2011
  • Member of the American Academy of Religion and the Association of Disciples for Theological Discussion

Recent Pubs

  • A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better (Polebridge, 2013)
  • Law and Theology: Cases and Readings, co-edited with Martin Belsky (Carolina Academic Press, 2005)
  • “Does Constructive Theology Matter? What Political Candidates Can Teach Seminary Students About Theology and Pastoral Leadership, in A Passion for Christian Unity, edited by John Imbler (Chalice Press, 2009) 
  • “Seminaries as Endangered Habitats in a Fragile Ecosystem,” in Revitalizing Practice: Collaborative Models for Theological Faculties edited by Malcolm Warford (Peter Lang, 2008)
  • "Theological Leadership: A Rhetorical Defense of Constructive Theology“ (ADTD presentation, 2008)
  • “Langdon Talking: A Conversation with Langdon Gilkey about the Writing of Shantung Compound” (American Journal of Theology and Philosophy January 2007)
  • “Facing Up to Hard Questions: Christian Faith for a New Age,” in The Future of the Christian Tradition, edited by Robert J. Miller (Polebridge, 2007) 

Main Duties at PTS

  • The mission of Admissions and Student Services is to create and sustain an attentive, responsible student services program that offers support as students seek to fulfill their educational and vocational goals from the time of initial application to a degree program, through admission procedures, matriculation, coursework, and graduation.
  • The Office of Admissions and Student Services strives to assist students in the identification of financial resources, and the development of skills necessary for a successful graduate theological education experience, through individualized counseling services.
  • Phillips Theological Seminary is intentional in the development of vital communities and creating an environment of diversity to support vital conversations.  The Student Senate of Phillips Theological Seminary partners with the Office of Admissions and Student Services to engage in opportunities to contribute to community growth at the seminary. 

Background & Personal Interests

  • Joined Phillips in 2014
  • 14 years secular experience in health care management
  • 9 years serving as part-time pastor with the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • Tulsa Indian United Methodist Church of the OIMC
  • Previously served on National Council of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation & other Tribal Community Boards; interest in Tribal Community development
  • Member of the Indian Education Committee of Morris Public Schools

Personal Message

The opportunity to be a part of the community at Phillips Theological Seminary offers me the chance to engage in the stories of the students as they journey through the spiritual discerning which occurs as they begin a conversation with Graduate Theological study.  I enjoy the opportunity to contribute to an environment of learning through caring Student Services, and contributing to the success of each student through personal engagement.


Phillips offers Christian graduate theological education in service of intelligent, just, and
compassionate religious and civic communities. We welcome students to a safe space for truth-seeking conversations about the Bible, Jesus, and faithful living. Courses are available on campus and online for certificate, diploma, MDiv, MAMC, and MTS programs, and on campus for the DMin program.

Phillips Theological Seminary

901 N. Mingo Road
Tulsa, OK 74116

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f 918-610-8404

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