ATLANTA – Dr. Jeffrey G. Willetts, professor of divinity, founding dean and former vice president at the John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Virginia, has been appointed dean of Mercer University’s James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology, effective July 1, 2016.
Dr. Willetts succeeds McAfee’s founding dean, Dr. Alan Culpepper, who last summer stepped down after 20 years in the leadership position to return to full-time teaching. Dr. Robert N. Nash Jr., the Arnall-Mann-Thomasson Professor of Missions and World Religions at McAfee, has been serving as interim dean of the School of Theology since July 1.
“Jeff Willetts assumes leadership of Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology at a time when theological education in this country faces great opportunities,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “The search committee, chaired by Chancellor Kirby Godsey, has done tremendous work in identifying a new leader for McAfee who brings a depth of experience and a vision for theological education that will seize those opportunities. I appreciate the diligence of the search committee in vetting a number of well-qualified candidates.”
“I am very pleased that Dr. Willetts will become the next dean of the McAfee School of Theology,” said Mercer Provost Dr. D. Scott Davis. “Dr. Willetts has been very innovative in delivering theological education to a broad audience during his time at Leland, and I look forward to working with him as he builds on the solid foundation established by founding dean Alan Culpepper. I also want to thank Dr. Rob Nash for his excellent leadership of the School this year as we have conducted our search.”
Dr. Willetts has spent most of his professional career at The John Leland Center – also known as Leland Seminary – joining the institution during its first academic year in 1998 as academic director and associate professor. The seminary, accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, was founded by Baptist leaders in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia and also offers programs at several Virginia sites in addition to its main campus in Arlington. In addition to his appointment at Leland, Dr. Willetts since 1998 has served as part-time pastor of Calvary Hill Baptist Church in Fairfax, Virginia. From 1991 to 1997, he served as pastor and church planter at Fair Oaks Baptist Church in Fairfax.
“On behalf of members of the search committee, we heartily support the president’s selection of Dr. Jeff Willetts to serve as the next dean of the McAfee School of Theology,” Dr. Godsey said. “The Committee was very impressed with Jeff’s experience and his forward-looking approach to theological education. We believe that he is an outstanding choice for leading the School into a new era.”
“I am deeply honored to follow Dr. Alan Culpepper as dean of McAfee School of Theology,” said Dr. Willetts. “Through Dr. Culpepper’s leadership, McAfee has always been at the forefront of theological education among Baptists, and I am deeply humbled to be included as a part of its innovating and forward-leaning future.”
Dr. Willetts earned a B.A. in religion and philosophy, magna cum laude, from Campbell University in 1985. He went on to earn a Master of Arts in religion from Yale University and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wales, Swansea.
He has served as editor of several theological journals and philosophical publications, is the author of numerous academic papers and presentations, and is active in the Baptist World Alliance, the Society for Philosophy of Religion and the American Academy of Religion.
Dr. Willetts and his wife, the Rev. Elizabeth E. Willetts, are the parents of three adult children.
About the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology
The James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology was established in 1996. Located in Atlanta, on Mercer University’s Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus, the School of Theology offers degree programs leading to a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. The School of Theology also offers several joint programs: an M.Div.-Master of Business Administration, M.Div.-Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and M.Div.-Master of Science in Organizational Leadership with a Concentration in Non-Profit. For more information, visit theology.mercer.edu.