Story by Jennifer Johnson Gilnett

Photo by Kelly Stokes


Besides his affinity to the University's mission, Dearborn has another reason for being drawn to Seattle Pacific. His wife, Kerry, is an assistant professor in the Department of Theology. The couple has three daughters: Alison, 22; Andrea, 19; and Bethany, 17.


"Tim thinks outside the box, in creative and strategic ways, with one of the finest, most fertile minds I've known."

Robert Seiple
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Former President of World Vision


Tim Dearborn does not suffer from a lack of ideas. "I have to reign myself in," laughs Seattle Pacĩc University's ̃rst dean of the chapel.

When the nationally recognized scholar-pastor-author began his new role at SPU last July, he didn't just "hit the ground running." He hit the ground at record pace. He's already coordinated a team of ̃ve professionals and 125 student leaders, launched a thorough review of Seattle Pacĩc's chapel program, attracted such Christian intellectuals as Dallas Willard to speak on campus, created an innovative series of pastoral leadership forums, and guided University leaders in an in-depth exploration of "Sabbath culture."

"We were looking for someone who had academic credibility, rapport with students, and a deep engagement with the world," says SPU President Philip Eaton, who helped design the new position to intentionally link the spiritual and academic dimensions of campus life. "Tim is exactly the right person. He is a high-level leader who brings vision and vitality to Christian formation at SPU ‹ and who will help us engage the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Described by Bruce Larson, pastor emeritus at Seattle's University Presbyterian Church, as "a 21st century missionary-prophet," Dearborn has followed a rich path of personal and professional discovery. After graduation from Whitman College in 1972, he entered Harvard University Divinity School as a "closet universalist." "I was uncomfortable with what I considered a too narrow-minded view of God. I wanted to prove that all religions were equally valid. Instead, much to my surprise, I concluded that God had done something unique through Jesus Christ that was good news for all people."

He went on to earn master's degrees from Harvard and Fuller Seminary School of World Mission, and a doctorate in systematic theology from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He has served as chaplain at Sheldon Jackson College in Alaska, pastor of mission at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, and professor of missiology and practical theology in France and Scotland.

As founding director of the Seattle Association for Theological Education (SATE) ‹ a consortium of 60 area churches, Fuller Seminary, SPU and Regent College ‹ Dearborn helped develop the ̃rst fully accredited master of divinity degree program in Seattle. Most recently, he directed the Institute for Global Engagement at World Vision.

"My vocation has always been the same, just in different settings," says Dearborn, whose responsibilities have taken him to 15 countries in 23 years. "My calling is to help people grow in their love for Christ and to enable them to participate in God's work in the world."

That is why Seattle Pacĩc's vision for "engaging the culture and changing the world" resonates so well with Dearborn. "I've never seen a university with as compelling a vision as SPU's. That vision draws me here.

"As a Christian university, Seattle Pacĩc can impact the whole of a student's life. And with the breadth of SPU's academic programs and its location in a major urban center, we can participate in God's work in the world on countless different levels."

Dearborn's role at the University is tailored to his gifts, which is to say it touches on almost all aspects of University life. He oversees the extensive campus ministries program, including worship, discipleship and service opportunities for students, faculty and staff. He teaches a freshman Common Curriculum course on Christian formation. And he "champions" the University vision wherever he goes.

It's a good thing he's wired for "multi-tasking." "I get restless just doing one thing," he admits. "I like to think entrepreneurially."

After a recent trip to visit four U.S. Christian colleges, Dearborn returned to SPU "overcome by the wonder of what God is doing on our campus. Christian formation is not just an addendum here; it is an extension of our life as a community. It is cohesively integrated into an overall vision for why we exist."

There is room for growth, however. To be part of what God is doing in the world, says Dearborn, SPU "must become more a leader than a follower, more a role model and initiator of justice and mercy, and less a bystander to world events."

It's an idea whose time has come.

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