William Carl to retire as president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

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The Rev. William J. Carl III, who has led Pittsburgh Theological Seminary since 2005, has announced plans to retire next year after a decade on the job.

Rev. Carl, 65, the fifth president at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)-affiliated seminary, said he had seen several goals accomplished during his tenure and this was a "good time for change."

"We've got a lot of very exciting things going on. It's a time of transition, and I'm looking forward to new leadership," he said.

He said he was pleased with such recent accomplishments as a capital campaign that netted a school record of $20 million, the creation of a new program on theology and science, and the establishment of another program on church planting.

The church-planting program, he said, reflects efforts to reverse declines in Protestant denominations at a time when there are more seminary graduates than full-time pulpit positions.

"The real focus of my 10 years should be on our students as they've graduated and moved into exciting, entrepreneurial opportunities here and around the world," he said. "Many have started cutting-edge ministries like Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, Open Door, House of Manna, the Upper Room and Open Hand Ministries -- new church plants and social justice programs in Pittsburgh that take seriously the context in which they sprouted."

Rev. Carl said he has no immediate plans after he leaves.

"I've got to see what God has in mind," he said.

John S. Isherwood, chairman of the seminary board, said in a statement that Rev. Carl "led the Seminary into a successful capital campaign and reaccreditation, positioning PTS to thrive in a volatile economic environment." The seminary has created a search committee to find its next president, according to the statement.

The seminary was formed in 1959 by a merger of two institutions dating back to 1794. It had an enrollment of 246 full- and part-time students this academic year. About half are Presbyterian, the rest are from other denominations.

Rev. Carl previously served as pastor of the 1,700-member First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, for 22 years and was associate professor of homiletics and worship at Union Seminary (Va.) for seven years before that.

He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Tulsa, a master's in divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and a doctorate in rhetoric and communication at the University of Pittsburgh, where he also taught. He was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1973.

The Rev. Byron Jackson, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at the seminary, said Rev. Carl made good on his pledge at the start of his tenure to build on the seminary's strengths in both large and small ways -- hiring strong professors, teaching preaching skills to students and adding an entrance off Highland Avenue that has made the campus a "more hospitable part" of its neighborhood straddling Highland Park and East Liberty.

Rev. Jackson said a recent chapel renovation included the donation of a pulpit, baptismal font and communion table custom-made by one of Rev. Carl's former students and donated by Rev. Carl and his wife, Jane Carl.

A chapel renovation is "not just fixing up a room," Rev. Jackson said. "It's revitalized worship on the campus."

Peter Smith: petersmith@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1416 or on Twitter @PG_PeterSmith. First Published May 16, 2014 4:55 PM

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