A title and position may mean a lot to some, but to Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Peters, a prestigious appointment merely gives him the right to make challenging inroads on a larger scale; thereby impacting a world where God is always in control. The man who leaves an indelible mark on Pittsburgh’s theological community is moving his knowledge and expertise to the city of Atlanta as the eighth president of The Interdenominational Theological Center.
Since 1958, the ITC has been training men and women for Christian leadership and service, both within the church and the surrounding global community. Located adjacent to the Atlanta University complex, the ecumenical consortium encompasses six various denominational seminaries, including the Baptist, United Methodist, African Methodist Episcopal, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian USA and the Church of God in Christ. The ITC, providing theological education, also includes a Lutheran center and is the country’s largest joint cooperative of African-Americans in higher education.
REV. RON PETERS
The ITC board is inspired by the excitement currently lingering in the campus air as the new president “prepares to lead the world’s premier academy for ecumenical, Afro-centric theological education.” Humbled by the appointment, Rev. Peters looks “forward, with great joy, to working with the ITC board, faculty, staff and students as we move together toward the long, bright and glorious future of this exceptional institution of theological learning and leadership.”
Ordained in the Presbyterian Church, the well-known theologian’s impressive educational background includes a bachelor of arts degree from Southern University (Baton Rouge, La.), a master of divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Hamilton, Mass.) and a doctor of education degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
After 18 years of pastoral leadership in the state of Florida, he joined the faculty of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary over two decades ago. During his tenure as the Henry L. Hillman Associate Professor of Urban Ministry, the visionary with a desire to address community issues outside the church, founded the Metro-Urban Institute, an interdisciplinary program of religious leadership development for urban society. With a passion for the “parish outside the wall of the church,” the primary focus of the progressive organization is to serve the needs of the predominantly Black churches, address community concerns, and provide pastoral training.
The dossier of this internationally respected preacher, author and adviser on social witness policies, racial/ethnic ministry and urban theological education, lists a host of distinctive and remarkable achievements. The ecumenical pioneer has taught courses in the areas of church and ministry, education and ethics, and has also served as an adviser on social witness policy and urban theological education for the Presbyterian Church (USA).
He has been described as a man who “has certainly made his mark on the Pittsburgh seminary, the city of Pittsburgh and the world, both in the classroom and on the street.” Those accolades were expressed by Rev. William J. Carl, III, president of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
“Although we will miss his effective bridging of the Word and the world, we celebrate with Dr. Peters this new appointment to lead an outstanding institution such as ITC.”
To name a few of his areas of dedication to the city of Pittsburgh, Rev. Peters was appointed chair of the Allegheny County Human Services Faith-Based Advisory Committee, served with the Urban League of Pittsburgh and the Urban League Charter School, and was on the board of directors for the United Way of Allegheny County. His commitment also included his position as a member of the Advisory Committee for WQED and the Mayor’s Commission on Public Education. J. LaVon Kincaid, Ph.D, chairman of the Metro-Urban Institute Advisory Committee, states that “Dr. Peters has been an outstanding and prophetic educator at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.”
Raised in New Orleans, Rev. Peters says there is “much about my adopted city of Pittsburgh that reminds me of my native city. He leaves his “adopted city with a realistic application of faith in God. Whether in the classroom teaching at the seminary, in churches, or in community involvements,” he emphasizes “a practical approach to faith in God that stresses divine ability to empower people and communities for the better rather than allowing people and communities to drift into depression, self-pity, anger or apathy that ignores injustice and leads to self-destructive behavior.”
In addressing the changing tide of the African-American neighborhood, the pensive leader states, “Regardless of all the depressing realities before us every day, I am excited by strong leaders I see stepping up to take their lead in addressing today’s challenges.” Uniting with a “huge list of people who stepped up to the plate,” the spiritual realist considers it an honor to be a part of the “great men and women who have carved paths of justice…”
A noted author, he has lectured extensively on the role of the church within community ministry. His passion is at the forefront of a faith-based community ministry, men’s ministry issues, reconciliation as public policy, at-risk youth, family ministry and African spirituality. Dedicated and sensitive to the concerns and needs of society, his active voice for justice travels far beyond the boundaries of the greater Pittsburgh community.
The contemplative professor of religious teachings has conducted urban ministry workshops and has served internationally in Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia. He has also observed urban theological education programs in Switzerland, Singapore, Thailand and the Republic of China.
He is quick to deny his own credit for his success and attributes his accomplishments to his God and his faith. “No one can exist alone. I am because we are. God is always moving forward and pushing people forward, challenging us to positive change.” With pride, he acknowledges the love, support and encouragement of his wife and best friend, Mary Smith Peters. The proud husband, father and grandfather credits his wife and family for being the “God-given emotional and spiritual anchors of my life.”
The footsteps of the Rev. Peters are leaving positive imprints in the city of Pittsburgh. The Christian leader reminds others that “I am ultimately responsible to God for whatever I do, positive or negative. Therefore, I try to stay on the positive side as much as possible because I feel responsible to God for how I treat other people God has anointed into existence.”
The steps of the people of Pittsburgh, Atlanta and the world will continue to be positively impacted by the steps of this anointed man of God.