Central Baptist Theological Seminary inaugurated Pamela Durso as its 11th president in a virtual ceremony Jan. 7.
Held on Zoom and Facebook Live platforms, the service included greetings from denominational and theological education organizations, charges from the various Central constituencies, musical presentations, and an inaugural address from Courtney Allen Crump, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.
Presenters represented the seminary’s commitment to global, ethnic, racial and gender diversity. More than 250 virtual attendees participated in the inauguration.
“On this day of inauguration, my commitment, my pledge to this community and to all who love Central is to lead in such a way that the seminary always be open to the Spirit-inspired possibilities that come our way, that together we might respond faithfully to opportunities that we as a community envision together, and that we will be ready for the unfolding work of God among us here at Central,” Durso told the group.
Other events during the inaugural week included a lecture from Frank Yamada, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, and a panel discussion with Ryan Bolger, associate professor of church in contemporary culture at Fuller Theological Seminary; Cherise Gillette, president of Lexington Theological Seminary; and Nora Lozano, associate professor of theological studies and director of the Latina Leadership Institute at Baptist University of the Americas.
Durso succeeds Molly Marshall, who served the seminary from 2004 to 2020 and was the first woman to lead a Baptist seminary accredited by ATS. Marshall was credited with bringing the seminary out of low enrollment and financial challenges through her fundraising, administrative leadership and teaching.
Durso also has been an educator and promoter of women in ministry in Baptist life. She earned the master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate in church history from Baylor University. She previously worked with the Baptist History and Heritage Society and taught church history and Baptist heritage at the Campbell University Divinity School. In 2009, she became executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry.
Central Seminary, located in suburban Kansas City, Kan., was founded in 1901. In the 1950s, the school affiliated with the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. As the Southern Baptist Convention endured its schism near the turn of the 21st century, moderate and progressive Baptists disaffected by the SBC’s rightward shift found new relationships with Central and other seminaries outside the SBC orbit.
Thomas Clifton, who preceded Marshall as president, offered a welcome to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship clergy and churches who had separated from the SBC. In 1994, Clifton led the seminary’s board to affirm its commitment to the ABC while also expressing “full support” of CBF.