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Rev. Dr. Timothy R. Eberhart Appointed to the Murray H. Leiffer Chair of Public Theology and Ministry

December 10, 2020
Rev. Dr. Timothy Eberhart

Rev. Dr. Timothy R. Eberhart, associate professor of theology and ecology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, has been appointed to the Murray H. Leiffer Chair of Public Theology and Ministry, effective immediately. Formerly held by Rev. Dr. Richard D. Tholin (1985-1993) and Rev. Dr. Mark A. Fowler (2000-2016), Eberhart is the third person to be appointed to this chair since its establishment in 1984.

Eberhart joined the faculty of Garrett-Evangelical in 2010 and was promoted to associate professor in the spring of 2020. In 2017, he was named director of the master of arts in public ministry program that he helped design and implement, as well as advisor for a new concentration in Ecological Regeneration.

“I am delighted that Rev. Dr. Timothy Eberhart will become the new inhabitant of our Murray H. Leiffer Chair of Public Theology and Ministry,” said Dr. Lallene J. Rector, president of Garrett-Evangelical. “Dr. Eberhart’s personal history with close ties to the Evangelical United Brethren, his experience and commitment to rural contexts with their unique gifts and challenges, and his vision for a new MA in Public Ministry all point to a deep resonance with Dr. Leiffer’s theological and scholarly commitments. We are indebted to former President Neal F. Fisher for establishing the chair in 1984 whose purpose remains more relevant than ever!”   

Eberhart is the youngest child of two alums of Evangelical Theological Seminary – a predecessor institution of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary – Rev. Emil Eberhart (ETS 1968) and Rev. Penny Eberhart (ETS 1970) of South and North Dakota. While at ETS, Emil and Penny were students of Tholin. Eberhart’s mother later served as a founding member on the first board of trustees for the newly merged Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

“I grew up hearing stories about Dr. Tholin and the moral and theological impact he had on my parents,” Eberhart says. “After moving to Evanston in 2010, Dick and Phyllis were some of the first to reach out to welcome us, and many of his books in social ethics and community organizing are now on my bookshelves. To be named to the Leiffer Chair, which he first held, is so deeply meaningful to me.”

Eberhart continued, “Dr. Leiffer’s legacy of training religious leaders for both urban and rural ministries, his commitment to rigorous research and practical application for the church and world, and his love of both teaching and service to The Methodist Church, is one that Dick followed through his teaching, writing, denominational work, and public engagement around issues of racial and economic justice, fair housing, rural development, anti-war peace advocacy, LGBTQ rights and inclusion, and ecological renewal. The same is true of Dr. Mark Fowler, whom I consider a friend. I am incredibly humbled by this appointment and inspired to build on this rich legacy at Garrett-Evangelical in a time of so many profound denominational, theological, and social crises.”

Eberhart, who grew up in South Dakota, earned a bachelor of arts in religion from St. Olaf College, master of divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and doctor of philosophy from the Graduate School at Vanderbilt University. He has taught courses in theology, Christian ethics, and practical ministry at Dakota Wesleyan University, Vanderbilt University, the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and Garrett-Evangelical.

A sought-out speaker, Eberhart has lectured and led workshops at institutions and churches throughout the nation in the areas of ecological, economic, agricultural, and racial justice. His publications include Rooted and Grounded in Love: Holy Communion for the Whole Creation (Wipf and Stock, 2017), The Economy of Salvation: Essays in Honor of M. Douglas Meeks (Wipf and Stock, 2015), and chapters on mission, ecclesiology, theological education, and ecotheology.

After coming to Garrett-Evangelical, Eberhart directed the seminary’s Course of Study School from 2012-2015, during which he oversaw the implementation of a new residential/online hybrid model of education. He has led numerous environmental initiatives at the seminary, including Garrett-Evangelical’s founding role in the Seminary Stewardship Alliance and the completion of a three-year Green Seminary Initiative certification as a Green Seminary. He has also participated with students in a variety of protest movements in Chicagoland and beyond, including Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and Fridays for Future Climate Strikes.      

Eberhart is an ordained elder in the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church and has served in youth, campus, young adult, and congregational ministries and on numerous boards and committees for the denomination. He is the current North American Secretary for the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies, a co-founder and co-chair of The Institute for Christian Socialism, and a co-founder and Advisory Team member of the UMC Creation Justice Movement. At the local level, Eberhart has served on the steering committee for Leadership Evanston, the board of Citizens Greener Evanston, where he was active with the Environmental Justice Evanston Committee, and the city of Evanston’s Equity and Empowerment Commission.

He, his spouse Rev. Becky Eberhart, and their three children, Henry, Frederick, and Audrey, live in West Evanston, where they enjoy working on home renovations, permaculture gardening, and tending to their six hens. They are active members of First United Methodist Church Evanston and the Abide Sunday School class.

A 1925 graduate of Garrett Biblical Institute (GBI), Dr. Murray H. Leiffer joined the faculty of the Chicago Training School for Home and Missions (CTS) in 1927. Upon the merger for CTS and GBI, Leiffer joined the faculty of Garrett in 1929, specializing in urban ministry, sociology of religion, and Christian social ethics. Leiffer retired in 1970 and was named professor emeritus. The chair in his name was established in 1984 by Dr. Neal F. Fisher, president emeritus of Garrett-Evangelical.