Written by Bennett Guess
The Rev. Mary E. McNamara has begun her term as the seventh president of UCC-related United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, an ecumenical Protestant seminary in New Brighton, Minnesota. For the last decade, McNamara served as the executive vice president of Union Theological Seminary in New York, located near ColumbiaUniversity, which offers a joint doctoral program with the university.
“Mary brings a deep understanding of theological education and is known as something of an organizational genius,” said Sharon Ryan, chair of United’s board of trustees. “She played a key role in a strategic planning process that brought Union back from the financial brink.”
Prior to joining Union in 1998, McNamara headed the InterchurchCenter, an interdenominational center in New York that houses the National Council of Churches; served as director for the nonprofit sector for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Business Development; and staffed the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). An ordained Presbyterian minister, she grew up in Cambridge, Minnesota, and graduated from CarletonCollege and HarvardDivinitySchool.
United Theological Seminary was founded in 1960 by the United Church of Christ to offer an ecumenical, inclusive approach to theological education. It attracts students from many Protestant denominations and from the Catholic Church and other faiths. United is known nationally for providing fine theological education, fostering the role of arts in religion, its exceptional preparation of students for pastoral leadership, and its commitment to reconciliation and justice.
McNamara said, “What attracted me to United was the opportunity to work with a fine seminary with an established reputation for academic excellence, highly responsive to the many changes occurring in the church, and a commitment to progressive values within the tradition of the United Church of Christ. It is a school with a big heart, responsive to the joys and pain of many kinds of people and to both personal and societal needs. It also has a profound sense of the beautiful, which is incorporated into its curriculum and facilities, especially its award-winning new Bigelow Chapel. It is rare to find such a highly developed commitment to both spiritual growth and social justice in a single institution.”
The seminary’s Academy for Vital Christianity offers weekend and evening classes to lay people and clergy outside the usual schedule of seminary courses, which are also open to non-degree students. “The academy is an example of United’s commitment to the preparation of all who find inspiration through their Christian faith and seek to live that out as fully as possible,” McNamara said. “This is just one of several new initiatives that United will offer to people in the Upper Midwest. We are in the process of reaching out through flexible, convenient educational programming, through distance education, through the arts, and through media. Our commitment is to come to people wherever and however possible.”