Bridgewater Grad to Lead Bethany Theological Seminary
For Jeff Carter, the leap from a 20-year career as a pastor to his new role as president of Bethany Theological Seminary is a natural progression of a lifelong passion for education. As head pastor at Manassas Church of the Brethren since 2003, Carter already has worked extensively with young adults, mentoring college students as well as students from Bethany.
“I see my new role as a natural connection to what I’ve already been doing as pastor,” said Carter, a 1992 graduate of Bridgewater who came to Manassas in 1995 as the congregation’s associate pastor. “It will be a much different role, but there’s that ongoing commitment to education, which I hope is true for students at Bethany, those in the pastorate and those in the congregations.”
Carter, who graduated from Bethany in 1998 and earned a doctorate in ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2006, takes the helm of the Church of the Brethren seminary in Richmond, Ind., on July 1. In his new role, he hopes to promote the value of a theological education for all people, regardless of profession.
“Having some spiritual formation allows people to reflect on who they are, how they understand their world and how they understand God in the world, and then to put those pieces together,” Carter said. “I think that’s an important part of theological education. It’s not just to produce pastors; it’s really about a holistic understanding of who we are.”
Carter believes his education at Bridgewater, as well as his study abroad experience in Cheltenham, England, through Brethren Colleges Abroad, contributed to his own personal and spiritual growth. Though he enrolled as an undecided major, Carter took an early interest in international studies and politics, as well as philosophy and religion.
“As a liberal arts college, Bridgewater provided an opportunity to explore a number of different interests – both known to me as I started my undergraduate education, and those that developed along the way,” said Carter. “I believe that the interest that some of my professors took in me called forth different gifts and led to opportunities to pursue new opportunities.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Bridgewater, Carter was a legislative aide with the Church of the Brethren Washington Office through Brethren Volunteer Service, where he represented the denomination’s positions through collaboration with government officials and organizations. A member of the denomination’s Standing Committee of district delegates to Annual Conference, Carter also has served on the Brethren Housing Corporation Board of Directors, on the Mid-Atlantic District Board and as district moderator.
Carter has shared his gifts and leadership beyond the denomination. From 2003 to 2010, he was the Church of the Brethren representative to the World Council of Churches and served on the Conference of the world Council of Churches Board of Directors. He currently serves as lead chaplain for the Department of Fire and Rescue of Prince William County in Virginia. He and his wife, Kim Flora Carter, ’94, have three daughters: Anna, Grace and Julie.
Carter is looking forward to the challenges his new role will bring, particularly the experience of working with a faculty for the first time. As he begins, he expects to do a lot of listening, and eventually hopes to raise the profile of the seminary as a vital place of “learning, engagement and exploration” for Brethren and in the broader ecumenical community.
“My hope is that we as a denomination will not be afraid of diversity and change, but will find ways in which we can embrace it,” Carter said. “I also hope to get out to the Brethren colleges and universities and to really engage with students. I want to talk to them about calling and how they see themselves making a difference in the world—and how Bethany can equip and empower them to do that.”