Emory University is searching for a new chaplain and dean of spiritual and religious life. A search advisory committee, created in November 2018, plans to form a three-candidate shortlist for University President Claire E. Sterk by April 2019.
Former Dean of the Chapel and Spiritual Life Bridgette Young Ross went on medical leave in March 2018 and announced in October 2018 that she was leaving Emory, according to Assistant Chaplain Kevin Crawford.
The 14-member search advisory committee includes administrators, faculty members and a student representative. Committee Chair and Senior Adviser to the President Robert F. Franklin said Sterk will make the final decision.
The University chaplain reports directly to Sterk and serves on the Administrative Council. The University chaplain is responsible for promoting “the understanding of spiritual and religious practices and traditions” and providing “holistic support” to Emory students, faculty and staff, according to a job description posted on the University’s candidate search website. In addition, the University chaplain oversees services at Cannon Chapel; works with Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church and the Graduate Division of Religion; and serves as vigils or other ceremonies requiring spiritual leadership.
Franklin said the next chaplain should have prior experience working in higher education. The job listing specifies seven years of experience in “chaplaincy, higher education, or related field.”
“A chaplain really does have to be open, respectful of diversity and ensuring that each tradition has what it needs to thrive in the Emory community,” Franklin said. “They also have to be thoughtful about the dialogue between religion and faith and the larger world of knowledge.”
Acting Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life Lisa Garvin said the role of a university chaplain has evolved as religious diversity on college campuses increased.
“Over the course of time, the institutions’ relationship to its founding [religious] institution has changed,” Garvin said. “The needs of the community for what it means to be faithful has changed dramatically.”
Garvin added that the next chaplain should be a “visionary leader” who is dedicated to working with the increased religious diversity in the Emory community.
Assistant Chaplain Kevin Crawford called the role of chaplain distinctive in its work between various faiths.
“It is very nuanced work that recognizes the solidarity of the individual traditions and also cultivates connections between them without asking anyone to sacrifice who they are religiously,” Crawford said.
The search committee held a listening session to identify preferences with Candler School of Theology faculty and planned to hold two more sessions with Sterk’s leadership team and other religious scholars in December. Other stakeholders include religious life chaplains, campus ministers, student religious organizations, leadership at Glenn Memorial Methodist Church and Office of Spiritual and Religious Life staff, according to Franklin.
The Hindu Student Association, Emory Hillel and the Muslim Student Association have been contacted to participate in listening sessions with the search committee at the end of January in separate sessions, students in those organizations told the Wheel. Chabad and Meor will also be participating in the listening session held with Hillel.
Open sessions for all Emory community members to provide input will be held in Spring 2019, according to Franklin.
Franklin said he hoped the importance and influence of the chaplain will extend beyond Emory’s campus.
“I would love to see our chapel as a place where people all over the city of Atlanta want to rush to because the Emory chaplain is going to speak today,” Franklin said. “This is a person of great intellectual consequence, who says important things and says them well.”
Garvin, the acting chaplain, said she admired her predecessor’s “deep commitment to students.”
Emory Human Resources Interim Vice President Theresa Milazzo will aid the committee as a candidate search consultant. Emory plans to publicize the job position opening in forums such as the American Academy of Religion and the National Association of College and University Chaplains, Franklin said.