FRESNO, Calif. — Valerie Rempel was installed as dean of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and vice president of Fresno Pacific University in a Sept. 10 convocation ceremony in Seminary Chapel.
The appointment to the seminary’s top leadership position began July 1, after she spent the 2018-19 year as interim dean and vice president.
“I love the seminary,” Rempel said. “Not only is it work that is deeply meaningful, it has provided a wealth of opportunity to serve the wider church. That, in turn, has enhanced my work here as part of a faculty whose mission is to equip people for leadership and service in the church and world.”
The ceremony served as an affirmation of her interim appointment. In her address, Rempel reflected on the Old Testament story of 12 spies sent to scout out the land God had promised the people. She encouraged the community to face the “giants” in their lives confident that God would go with them.
Rempel follows former President Terry Brensinger, who led the seminary as dean and vice president beginning in 2013. The title was changed to president in 2017 to better recognize the position’s executive duties not generally handled by a dean. One year later, the “president” title ended as part of a university reorganization that included Rempel’s appointment as interim dean.
On Aug. 17, 2018, in response to concerns from Mennonite Brethren constituents, FPU President Joseph Jones announced a series of reorganizational steps to strengthen the relationships between the seminary, FPU and the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. At that point, Brensinger was demoted and took a semester-long sabbatical before returning to the faculty, and ties were severed with high-profile pastors Greg Boyd, Bruxy Cavey and Brian Zahnd, who had recently begun positions as visiting lecturers.
FPU clarified to MWR that the title of dean, rather than president, is based on the university reorganization and not Rempel’s gender. The USMB conference does not allow women as lead pastors.
Academic dean since 2014, Rempel’s history with the seminary began in 1984 when she was director of admissions and later assistant to the academic dean. She joined the faculty in 1996 to teach church history and theology and now holds the J.B. Toews Chair of History and Theology.
Her work in the larger church includes serving on MB district and international boards of faith and life, the Faith and Life Commission of Mennonite World Conference, the Executive Committee of the California Mennonite Historical Society and the binational Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission. She chairs the board of directors of Mennonite Health Services.
Rempel has a doctorate from Vanderbilt University, master’s degrees from Vanderbilt and Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary (now FPBS) and a bachelor’s degree from Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan.
The installation convocation included a welcome from Lynn Jost, Old Testament faculty and former MBBS president; worship music led by student Dan Macloskie; greetings from FPU President Jones; a faculty response from New Testament faculty Tim Geddert; and prayers of blessing from former MBBS President Larry Martens, student Vera Castillo, and Dennis Fast, interim minister of the Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.