This year, Whitworth welcomed a new faculty member. Whitworth University hired Forrest Buckner at the end of the last calendar year as the new dean of spiritual life. Buckner filled the position of Terry McGonigal, beginning his first full year in July.
Buckner’s full title is Dean of Spiritual Life and Campus Pastor.
“This position encompasses three main categories: campus ministry, administration, and teaching,” Buckner said.
The first category is the overseeing and leading of staff, pastors and students in the chapel. The other staff members have welcomed him with open arms, which makes this part of the job a lot easier, Buckner said.
The second part of his job means he sits on President Beck Taylor’s Cabinet and helps make adjustments in regard to the big picture of campus. Specifically, the dean of spiritual life holds the position because there is a want for someone with a lens dedicated to how Whitworth is fulfilling their Christian mission, Buckner said of his administrative position.
The third and final part of his job is to teach one class a year. He is currently co-teaching Foundations of Christian Theology with Jerry Sittser. That may increase to more than one class a year as he grows into his position, Buckner said.
“I want everyone who comes to Whitworth, wherever they are on the spectrum of faith to have the chance to know the truth and reality of Jesus,” Buckner said with regard to his goals for the future.
Bucker wants to help by opening doors that can help this happen. He desires to get to know everyone and walk with them toward Jesus, Buckner said.
Beyond that, Buckner wants the campus to continue to bring a new energy and atmosphere to Tuesday and Thursday chapel. His hope is that people will tell him what to change and what will make the process better. Through them, he will be able to help allow people to enjoy the influence of Jesus on campus, Buckner said.
Buckner joins Whitworth faculty after spending three years in Scotland where he received his Ph.D. in systematic theology at St. Andrews. He began his schooling with a degree in engineering at Colorado School of Mines, where he also played football. Buckner continued his education at Fuller Seminary where he received a masters in divinity in 2012.
“Two friends, not connected at all, both told me about this job and said it would fit me within two days of one another,” Buckner said when asked how he heard about the position. He decided to apply as he found himself interested and excited.
Some of the aspects that stood out most to him were Whitworth’s commitment to provide an education of mind and heart, and the decisions of students and faculty to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity, Buckner said.
Finally, Buckner said he felt, “this was written for me,” as he read the job description.
It combined both of his desires when it came to ministry, pastoring and theological study, Buckner said. For 10 years, both before and during his time at Fuller, Buckner worked as a youth pastor in Colorado. He was at the position because First Presbyterian Church of Boulder was part of what had given rise to his faith in the first place, Buckner said. The former pastor had told him to apply, and his acceptance gave him a new passion as a pastor.
As he spent time at Fuller, he realized he also had a passion for learning. The job offered him the ability to spend time getting to know more about theology, Buckner said. He loves reading about the topic and using it to reach more people accurately.
Buckner brings with him his wife Janelle, his two daughters Esther, eight, and Bella, six, and his son River, three. As he approaches this job, his personal priority is to make sure his family knows they are loved and he spends time giving his heart fully to them and to Whitworth, Buckner said. Managing this has been made easier because he is “already surrounded by students and faculty who already have shown love to his family,” Buckner said.
“I am very thankful for the open arms and people on this campus and I want to get to know the students,” Buckner said.
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Feature image courtesy of Forrest Buckner