(CHICAGO) September 4, 2020—North Park Theological Seminary recently announced the appointment of Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom as the dean of the faculty.
Clifton-Soderstrom has served on the faculty at the seminary since 2002 and has been serving as interim dean of faculty since January.
“Michelle has all of the requisite gifts for academic leadership at NPTS in this time and season,” said Dave Kersten, dean of the seminary and vice president for church relations for North Park University. “She is a gifted scholar/ethicist, classroom teacher, program innovator, and collaborative administrator. Her focused work in transformative justice through the education of incarcerated people is opening many new doors for the seminary, the university, and the Covenant Church.”
Clifton-Soderstrom will continue her responsibilities as the director of the School of Restorative Arts and as professor of theology and ethics.
“We are blessed to have Michelle as our new dean to the faculty. She models full gospel living in her pursuit of God, love of his Word, compassion for the suffering and marginalized, constant encouragement of others, and posture as a humble learner,” said Paul Wilson, superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference.
The chief academic officer of the seminary is appointed by the dean of the seminary in consultation with the faculty. The appointment is approved by the president of the university and the Board of Trustees. As a tenured member of the faculty, Clifton-Soderstrom has previously been approved by the Evangelical Covenant Church Executive Board, Board of Ordered Ministry, and vote by the Annual Meeting.
The discernment process involved the forming of an interview committee that included seminary faculty and administration, Evangelical Covenant Church leaders, and Board of Trustee representation. After interviewing Clifton-Soderstrom, the committee’s vote in support of her hire was unanimous.
“I am excited to see Dr. Clifton-Soderstrom move into this new role,” said Paul Lessard, executive minister of Start & Strengthen Churches, who served on the committee. “Her heart for relevant and practical education, as seen in her work at Stateville Correctional Center, is a good match for us as we partner in training leaders to strengthen, as well as plant, healthy missional churches.”
Several other Covenant leaders expressed their support:
“As an ordained Covenant minister, Dr. Clifton-Soderstrom’s longstanding work as a Christian ethicist and her devotion as a pietist theologian will continue to serve the church and the academy well. Her scholarly and personal pursuit of biblical justice is convicting and compassionate. Her ground-breaking work of advocacy in directing our Stateville campus program with students studying in prison is innovative and exemplary. Michelle has demonstrated a long and unwavering commitment to the kingdom of God and to the mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church.” —Howard Burgoyne, superintendent of the East Coast Conference
“When one interacts with Michelle, it does not take one long to recognize that she is a gifted thinker, teacher, communicator, and leader. She demonstrates courageous and innovative leadership motivated by her commitment to her faith, compassion, and justice while maintaining a humble and pastoral heart for all. Blessings on you serve the kingdom through this role!” —Mary Chung March, president of the Covenant Asian Pastors Association
“Dr. Michelle is an educator and a scholar who is well prepared to lead the institution into the third decade of the 21st century. She has proven to be a steadfast advocate for the marginalized and disenfranchised. This Christlike attribute of her character will serve North Park Theological Seminary especially well at this point in our nation’s history.” —Lance Davis, executive minister of Develop Leaders
“As we look to the future of theological education, we know it will require leaders like Dr. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom, who think critically about the intersectionality of discipleship formation and activism. From the School of Restorative Arts, to her leadership on co-developing the Antiracism Pathways for clergy, Michelle has given creative guidance to students by merging experiential learning with intercultural core values.” —Catherine Gilliard, superintendent of the Southeast Conference
“Having the opportunity to see firsthand the work and ministry at Stateville under Dr. Michelle Clifton Soderstrom’s leadership, where heartfelt partnership and learning is taking place, was a powerful experience. She is a champion for guiding learning that is faithful to the gospel of Jesus, learning that is transformative and shaped by the living Word.” —Curtis Ivanoff, superintendent of the Alaska Conference
“The Central Conference rejoices with our new dean of faculty, Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom. We look forward to continuing our close relationship in supporting our students and our pastors.” —Danny Martinez, superintendent of the Central Conference
“I join with many others in affirming and congratulating Rev. Dr. Clifton-Soderstrom in this appointment; working with her on various theological and practical ministry projects has been encouraging as I see her bring depth, faithfulness, tenacity, and courage that serves our wider Ministerium. Her work on the 2019 Antiracism Resolution that the Evangelical Covenant Church Ministerium passed has already been especially fruitful and is one of many ways that I see her work of equipping, advocating, and learning alongside our diverse clergy as such a gift to the church.” —Liz Mosbo VerHage, president of the Ministerium
“What a blessing to the seminary, the students, and our denomination. Thank you for answering the call to act justly, love mercy as you humbly walk with God in all that you do! Bendiciones Hermana!” —Juana Nesta, president of the Associación Latina de la Iglesia del Pacto Evangélico
“Not only does the appointment of Michelle Clifton Soderstrom sustain our commitment to academic and theological rigor in the pietist tradition, she adds to it a heart for biblical justice and racial rightness in a season where we are hungry for the same. I take comfort in knowing that Love Mercy Do Justice has in Dr. Clifton-Soderstrom a companion on the long and arduous journey toward the ‘beloved community.’” —Paul Robinson, executive minister of Love Mercy Do Justice
“I have been honored to work with Dr. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom over the last year in the Antiracism Cohort. Her passion for all people to reflect the Creator and give a voice to those who have little to no voice is evident. I am excited to see how the Creator continues to use her gifts to serve us as the church and the staff and students at NPTS in the implementation of the Six-Fold Test. I am honored to walk with you as you walk the path the Creator has for you.” —TJ Smith, president of the Indigenous Ministers Association
“It was a joy to be part of the interview team for Rev. Dr. Clifton-Soderstrom. She is accomplished, innovative, collaborative, and the right leader for this season. I have watched her align her goals and vision with the heart of the Covenant Church across the spectrum. Having worked with Dr. Clifton-Soderstrom in several areas, I have been impressed with the combination of her administrative ability and pastor’s heart.” —Tammy Swanson-Draheim, superintendent of the Midwest Conference, chair of the Council of Superintendents
“My adrenalin levels went way up when I heard of Michell’s appointment! I look forward to seeing how church and academy will work together for God’s glory and our neighbors’ good.” — Al Tizon, executive minister of Serve Globally
“The Pacific Northwest Conference is excited for the appointment of Dr. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom and the leadership and passion she brings for preparing seminarians for the whole work of the church. We are especially proud of her vital work in education and restoration at Statesville prison and her strong commitment toward racial righteousness.” — Greg Yee, superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference