Dr. Javier Viera Takes the Reins at the Theological School
A minister and a scholar.
When the Rev. Dr. Javier A. Viera got up to speak at his installation ceremony, he set a high bar for the future clergy graduating from Drew’s Theological School.
He called on them to blend scholarship, compassion, a life of faith that includes deeds—not just talk— and a desire to live spiritually.
“We need to recover the desire to share the faith, not to impose it; to welcome others in to the community, not to demand it; to call others to a deeper experience in God in Christ, not to dictate it,” he said. “We will be at our best when we continue to inspire our students and one another in ways that help enable us to respond faithfully in preaching, in scholarship, in justice, and in service to God.”
Viera, who started at Drew in July, was installed as the 15th dean of the Theological School. The Theological School dates back to 1867, when it was established as the nation’s third seminary for Methodist clergy, before becoming Drew University. It currently has 23 full-time faculty and 461 students.
“I believe we have a new dynamic future with Dean Viera,” said Dr. MaryAnn Baenninger, Drew’s president. “He is a passionate and talented leader, whose heartfelt commitment and intellectual prowess will nurture the next generation of seminarians.”
The installation ceremony was attended by clergy and representatives from Yale, Boston, Duke, Union Theological Seminary, and Christ Church in Manhattan, where Viera most recently worked as executive minister. Bishop Juan Alberto Cardona from Cartagena, Colombia, was a special guest.
The ceremony featured African drumming, a soloist singing in Spanish, a Bible passage read in Korean, classical music, and welcome gifts that reflected the Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist traditions.
“My vision for Drew Theological School is that it will be the most thriving, spiritually-dynamic, intellectually-inventive, risk-taking theological school in the world,” Viera said to applause and cheers.
Before working at Christ Church, Dean Viera served as senior minister at Mamaroneck (N.Y.) United Methodist Church. A graduate of Florida Southern College, Viera has advanced degrees from Duke, Yale, and Columbia universities.
Professor J. Terry Todd, who led the search committee to find a new Theological School dean, called Viera “a leader and a builder who has spent his career at the intersection of the church and the academy, building bridges between them.”
View an image gallery of Viera’s installation.