Westar Institute is a non-profit organization, and depends on the volunteer efforts of our Board of Directors to guide our mission of advancing religious literacy. Dialogue between members of the public and religious studies scholars is vital to this mission, and is reflected in our Westar Board of Directors. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our leadership!

Board Officers

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Jeffrey W. Robbins, Chair

Jeffrey W. Robbins is Chair and Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Lebanon Valley College, where he also serves as the director of the American Studies program and the Undergraduate Research Symposium. He received his Ph.D. from Syracuse University and an M.Div. from Texas Christian University. He currently serves as the Chair of Westar's Seminar on God and the Human Future. Awarded the Thomas Rhys Vickroy Award for Outstanding Teaching at LVC in 2005, Robbins is the author or editor of eight books, most recently Radical Theology: A Theological Method for Change.

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Deborah Niederer Saxon, Vice-Chair

Deborah Niederer Saxon, who teaches religion at Butler University, is the author of The Care of the Self in Early Christian Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, Oct 2017). Her research re-conceptualizes early Christian history not as a matter of heresies or “gnosticism” splitting off from some supposed orthodoxy but rather by highlighting differing perspectives and practices regarding the care of the self in early Jesus scriptures of the first to third centuries (particularly those that have resurfaced in the last century at Nag Hammadi, Egypt). By comparing texts from the Greek philosophical schools with those of the so-called “apostolic fathers” and those newly-discovered in Egypt, Saxon explores how early Jesus followers practiced the care of the self in innovative ways. She also focuses on women’s roles in these texts and the positive models that emerge for women’s leadership in these early times. Finally, Saxon explores the potential that newly-discovered early Jesus scriptures provide for contemporary ecumenical and interfaith partnerships.

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Jarmo Tarkki, Treasurer

Jarmo Tarkki is Finnish Minister of California and Texas Finns, an office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Previously, he served as Senior Pastor at Bethania Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Solvang, California. He is Adjunct Professor of Theology at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks; a Teaching Fellow in Philosophical Theology at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley; and the author of numerous books and articles on the philosophy of authority in religion, bioethics and social theory, published in journals and newspapers in Finland, Canada, and the United States. In addition to several academic as well as clerical positions, he has wide experiences in other areas of life, having been a sailor, prison chaplain, political campaign manager, editor-in-chief, columnist and a TV-host in Finland, among other things.

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Christine Shea, Secretary

Chris Shea is Professor of Classics at Ball State University where she served as Chair of the University Senate and Chair of the Honors Committee. She received her Ph.D. and A.M. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is an expert in the culture of the Roman Empire in the first century and has published widely on Homer, The Arthurian saga, Latin love poetry, and American popular religion. A member of many Westar Seminars over the years, including the Acts Seminar and the ongoing Christianity Seminar, she was a contributor to the Acts Seminar report, Acts and Christian Beginnings.

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Board Members

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Jason BeDuhn

Jason BeDuhn is Professor of the Comparative Study of Religions at Northern Arizona University, a Guggenheim and National Humanities Center Fellow, and the author of numerous articles and books including The Manichaean Body (2000, winner of the American Academy of Religion Best First Book Award), Truth in Translation (2003), Augustine’s Manichaean Dilemma (vol. 1 2010, vol. 2 2013), and The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon (2013).

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Sarah Morice Brubaker

Sarah Morice Brubaker is Associate Professor of Theology at Philips Theological Seminar in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She writes for Religion Dispatches, and is a contributor to Placing Nature on the Borders of Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics (Ashgate). Sarah is on Westar's Theological Credentials Committee and is an active scholar in the Seminar on God and the Human Future.

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Clayton Crockett

Clayton Crockett

Clayton Crockett is Associate Professor and Director of Religious Studies at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the Chair of Westar's Academic Program Committee. Clayton specializes in Radical Theology and Contemporary Continental Philosophy of Religion. He is the author or editor of a number of books, including Radical Political Theology: Religion and Politics After LiberalismReligion, Politics, and the Earth: The New Materialism (with Jeffrey W. Robbins), and Doing Theology in the Age of Trump: A Critical Report on Christian Nationalism (edited with Jeffrey W. Robbins).

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Glenn Downing

Glenn Downing serves on the Finance Committee of the Westar Board. Previously, he was the Executive Vice President of the economic consulting firm of L.E. Peabody & Associates, Inc., where he directed studies in which the firm collected and analyzed operations and financial data. An economist with an M.A. from the University of Michigan, his interest in the foundations of religions led him to archaeological digs in Israel where he spent eight sessions, rising from a “gufa hauler” (a carrier of baskets of dirt) to become a member of the University of South Florida dig staff. Read more about

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Ally Kateusz

Ally Kateusz is Research Associate at the Wijngaards Institute of Catholic Research in London, where she specializes in the intersection of gender and religion in early Christian art and texts. She has published articles in the Journal of Early Christian Studies, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and other venues, and is author of Mary and Early Christian Women (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019), as well as co-editor of Rediscovering the Marys: Maria, Mariamne, Miriam (Bloomsbury, 2020). Ally is a member of Westar's Finance Committee.

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Celene Lillie

Celene Lillie received her Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary and is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, and the University of Oklahoma. She is also Dean of the new Westar Academy. Celene is the author of The Rape of Eve: The Transformation of Roman Ideology in Three Early Christian Retellings of Genesis, the director of translations for A New New Testament, and a co-author of The Thunder Perfect Mind: A New Translation and Introduction. She has been an active scholar at Westar Institute since 2015.

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Dennis Maher

Dennis Maher is the Chair of the Westar Development Committee. He is a retired Presbyterian minister. He received an M.Div. and a D.Min. from McCormick Seminary in Chicago. Dennis was pastor in Minnesota and New Jersey, did fundraising and communications for Chicago Presbytery, and was Associate for Professional Development for the PCUSA in Louisville. He served as Executive and Stated Clerk for Great Rivers Presbytery in west-central Illinois before becoming Assistant Director of Westar Institute in 2002. He worked as interim pastor in Wisconsin, on Long Island, and in Albany, New York.

Lane C. McGaughy

Lane C. McGaughy is the Geo. H. Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies emeritus at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. He is the author of two books on New Testament Greek and numerous scholarly articles in academic journals and anthologies. Along with colleagues Arthur Dewey, Roy Hoover, and Daryl Schmidt, he published The Authentic Letters of Paul (Polebridge, 2010). With his mentor, Robert W. Funk, he worked on numerous projects including a four-volume Greek grammar, the establishment of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Montana, the founding of Scholars Press, the development of Polebridge Press and Westar Institute, and the reorganization of the Society of Biblical Literature. Lane is Executive Director Emeritus of the Westar Institute.

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Hal Taussig, author of A New New Testament

Hal Taussig

Hal Taussig was the Visiting Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he has taught masters and doctoral level studies from 1998 until his retirement. Hal was also a Professor of Early Christianity at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia and a United Methodist minister assigned by his bishop as a consultant to local congregations. Among his 14 authored books is the A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts. His mediography includes the New York Times on-line edition, the Daily Show, Time Magazine and Newsweek opinion pages, the New York Times op-ed page, People Magazine, and Paul Zahn Now.

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John A. Rowley

John A. Rowley is a former national fleet sales manager for the Lincoln Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company. He has held numerous leadership positions in a wide array of organizations, including the Sun City golf clubs in Roseville, California; Twin Beach Country Club in West Bloomfield, Michigan; and Commodore North Star Sail Club in Mt Pleasant, Michigan. At All Saints Episcopal Church in South Carolina he founded the Friends With Wheels medical transportation program, still in operation today.

Stephen Tickner

Stephen Tickner is the Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church in Danbury, CT. In addition to his pastorate, he also serves as the chaplain at Wooster School - an independent K-12 school in Danbury. He is a founding member of the Westar Institute’s Praxis Forum, currently serving as vice-chair. Originally from Oklahoma, he now resides in New York City. He has his Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and is ordained into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Ex Officio Members

Photo courtesy of Brock University

David Galston

David is Westar Institute's Executive Director. He is the author of several articles and books. Two books are with Polebridge Press, Embracing the Human Jesus (2012) and God's Human Future (2016). David holds a PhD in the Philosophy of Religion from McGill University, Montreal. David was a key organizer, co-founder, President, and Academic Advisor of the SnowStar Institute in Canada. He was a founding scholar, with Joseph Bessler, Jarmo Tarkki, and Jack Kelly, of Westar's Seminar on God and the Human Future.

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Linda Hodges

Linda Hodges is Westar's Executive Assistant and Communications Director. Prior to working as a staff member, Linda was a Westar associate member. She earned a Master of Theological Studies degree from Pacific School of Religion and served as Scouting for All’s national religions outreach coordinator. She worked at the Rockridge Institute under the direction of Dr. George Lakoff where she coordinated the national online conference, Spiritual Progressives: A Dialogue on Values and Building a Movement. Linda helped helm PSR’s academic journal Progressive Christian Witness and worked with Westar Fellow Sakari Hakkinen as a research assistant on several book projects.

Bill Lehto

Bill Lehto is the Chief Operating Officer of the Westar Institute. Bill manages the finances and day-to-day operations of Westar Institute and works closely with the Westar Finance Committee and the Development Committee. He has a master’s degree in nonprofit administration from Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Arthur J. Dewey

Arthur J. Dewey is the Westar Publisher. He is Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati. A distinguished teacher, writer, translator and commentator, he is the author of Inventing the Passion: How the Death of Jesus was Remembered (forthcoming 2017) and co-author of The Complete Gospel Parallels (with Robert J. Miller, 2011) and The Authentic Letters of Paul (with Roy W. Hoover, Lane C. McGaughy, and Daryl D. Schmidt, 2010). Dewey’s poetry has appeared in Christian Century and his poetic perspective aired on the Saturday Morning Edition on Public Radio Station WVXU (91.7) in Cincinnati for more than a dozen years.

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