Phillips Seminary Announces New Vice President, Dean

Phillips Theological Seminary welcomes the Rev. Dr. Lee H. Butler, Jr. as the seminary’s new Vice President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean. Butler will also hold an endowed academic chair and serve as the William Tabbernee Professor of the History of Religions and Africana Pastoral Theology at Phillips. He was a mentee of the late Dr. Charles H. Long, a pre-eminent scholar in the History of Religions.

The Rev. Dr. Lee H. Butler, Jr.

Butler received his PhD in 1994 from Drew University in Psychology and Religion and a MPhil in 1992. He also holds graduate degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Theological Seminary) with a bachelor’s degree in Religion from Bucknell University.

Butler comes to Phillips from Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) where he was the Distinguished Service Professor of Theology and Psychology. He was the first African American to achieve the rank of tenured full professor at CTS. He was also the founding director of the Center for the Study of Black Faith and Life at CTS. Through the work of the Center, he established the C. Shelby Rooks Lectureship as a tribute to the first African American to become president of a predominantly European American seminary and hosted the first Womanists-Womanist Collaborators Conference in theological education at CTS.

“Dr. Butler brings to Phillips considerable experience in theological teaching and research and administrative leadership,” said the Rev. Dr. Nancy Claire Pittman, president of Phillips. “I’m certain he will help lead us to become the more diverse, equitable and inclusive institution we strive to be, while also supporting our efforts to continue to uphold academic excellence in service to church and community.”

“There are so many challenges for theological education, our churches and our communities at this particular moment in history,” Butler said. “In these times of crises, there are increased vulnerabilities but also the opportunity of heightened possibilities.”

Through his vision, he received grants to support faculty development, academic program restructuring and curriculum revision. He is known for his commitments to diversity and interculturality as a theological educator who engages in Africana religious studies, Native American studies and Korean pastoral theology. Committed to domestic and international study tours, he has led and facilitated study tours to Ghana, Brazil and South Africa.

Butler is a recognized mentor of emerging scholars in collaboration with the Forum for Theological Exploration and the Hispanic Theological Initiative. As the chair of the Association of Theological Schools Committee on Race and Ethnicity in Theological Education (CORE), he worked to address the disenfranchisement experienced by scholars of color teaching within predominantly European American theological institutions.

He is an active scholar and member of multiple professional organizations. He is a past president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion, a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Pastoral Theology, the Institute for Signifying Scriptures, Society for Process Consulting and the Association of Black Psychologists. He is an ordained minister of the American Baptist Churches/USA and active in his local congregation as preacher and teacher.

“In an increasingly complex world, the ability to draw on a wide range of viewpoints, backgrounds, skills, experience and expertise internally increases the likelihood of making the right decisions as Dean,” Butler said. “I look forward to helping Phillips embrace its journey to increased diversity as a gift that promotes and supports institutional health and wholeness.”

Butler will begin his service to Phillips on July 1 as the sixth Dean for the seminary. An installation service will be scheduled after his arrival.