David L. Rowe, a Centerville resident and associate professor of Christian formation and ministry, said the faculty and staff are anticipating with excitement Silliman's beginning as president. "He will bring to the school some real connectiveness to the community." Silliman's philosophy is in line with what the seminary wants to be, Rowe said.
Rowe added that under Silliman's guidance, the seminary will be a continuing presence in Salt Lake City and the state.
Silliman, a native Utahn who moved back to Utah from southern California to fill the call, is no stranger to Utah's religious community, having served as pastor of Mt. Olympus Presbyterian Church for 26 years before taking the position of executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Riverside in southern California in 2002.
Noting Silliman's familiarity with Utah, Rowe said Silliman's call will enhance the seminary's relationship to the community, including the traditional Christian community as well as the community at large.
After a six-year tenure as chairman of the seminary's board, Silliman is well acquainted with the challenges and opportunities Salt Lake Theological Seminary faces at this time. "I am eagerly looking forward to beginning work as president of the seminary at this crucial time in the school's history", Silliman said.
"Excellent gift income during the month of May coupled with the virtual elimination of long- and short-term debt through the recent sale of our building have opened the door to a wonderful new chapter in the life of the school. The seminary has a very fine faculty and staff and has been blessed with many capable and committed students over the years. We are looking forward to expanding our student body to include more such people."
Other board members also expressed appreciation for Silliman's willingness to take on the role, which has not always been an easy one.
"The board is delighted to have such a highly qualified person take the position of president of the seminary at this time," said Vice-Chairman Dr. James Munter. "Jeff knows and is known by many in the community and has excellent relations with numerous churches along the Wasatch Front. As chairman of the board for the past six years, he has developed the trust of the seminary's leadership and key supporters. Jeff understands the needs of the seminary at this time in its history and has a strong vision for the future as we prepare spiritual leaders for ministry in Utah and the Intermountain West. He has the unanimous support of the board as he moves into this new role."
A graduate of the University of Utah and Fuller Theological Seminary with a doctor of ministry from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Silliman is an ordained minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
During his tenure, the presbytery slowed the rate of its 40-year decline in active membership in its congregations by 33 percent and began aggressively working to plant a new congregation in a fast-growing area of Riverside County.
This is not only a crucial time in the life of Salt Lake Theological Seminary, it is also a challenging time for graduate theological education across North America. Silliman recognizes this challenge. "The seminary is currently exploring new and expanded ways it can support the ongoing ministries of congregations through creative educational partnerships. I am excited to join these efforts," he said.
Academic Dean Tom McClenahan said "We appreciate Jeff's commitment to building and strengthening the whole body of Christ in Utah. The faculty is excited to work with a leader who knows first-hand the culture and the dynamics of doing ministry in this part of the world."
The seminary is the only graduate school of theology in the Intermountain West. The school is widely recognized as an asset to Salt Lake City and the local area, having received statements of support from prominent religious and civic leaders of diverse backgrounds. Seminary graduates are now serving in church leadership positions as well as hospital and police chaplaincy positions and other ministry and leadership roles in various communities along the Wasatch Front and beyond.