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!

Meet the Board of Directors

Perry Kea, Chair

Perry V. Kea serves as the Chair of the Westar Board. He is the Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and the chairperson of the Philosophy and Religion Department at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana. He has been a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar since 1987, in the course of which he has contributed several papers. He has also written for The Fourth R. In addition to his academic interests and responsibilities, Kea is an active United Methodist layperson and has made numerous presentations about the Bible for clergy and lay groups.
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Jeffrey W. Robbins, Vice 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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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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Glenn Downing

Glenn Downing serves as Treasurer 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 has 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.

Arthur J. Dewey

Arthur J. Dewey serves as Vice Chair of the Westar Board. 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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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). Read more about Jason here.

Photo courtesy of Brock University

David Galston

Westar Institute's Executive Director David Galston is the Ecumenical Chaplain at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he is also an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy. A co-founder and Academic Advisor of the SnowStar Institute of Religion, a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar, and a United Church minister, David has written several articles and led many workshops on the question of the historical Jesus, the future of Christianity, and the problems of Christian theology in light of the historical Jesus. He is the author of Embracing the Human Jesus (Polebridge Press) and Archives and the Event of God (McGill-Queens Press). David holds a PhD in the Philosophy of Religion from McGill University.
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Linda Hodges

Linda Hodges has been a Westar associate member since 1993. Prior to earning a Master of Theological Studies degree from Pacific School of Religion, Linda 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. She currently serves as the administrator at First Unitarian Church of Oakland.

James Kasper

James Kasper is Artist and President of Praire Dog Pottery, Inc. He did his undergraduate work at Coe College and graduate work in physics at The University of Iowa, where he was not so incidentally corrupted by the powerful influence of that institution’s pioneering work in wood-fired ceramics. Jim has been a full-time working artist since 1993, when he established his own studio, Prairie Dog Pottery. His award-winning work has been featured in Ceramics Monthly as well as exhibitions such as the International Orton Cone Box Show. Since 2002, he has helped to bring about five month-long international woodfire ceramic workshops featuring 18–25 international artists. His other, varied interests include the restoration of natural habitat in his local community, ballistics studies, and his hobby car—a restored 1972 MGB GT about which he authored an article in the May 2015 issue of MG Enthusiast.
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Julia Khan

Julia Khan is a graduate of the University of Southern California where she studied sociology and religion. It was there, in the classroom of Ronald Hock, that her love for the history and formation of the Christian scriptures began. In 2016, Julia graduated from Union Theological Seminary with an MDiv in Pastoral Ministry and Theology. Since graduation she has served as a Chaplain at Soldier On, a non-profit that provides housing and services to homeless and struggling veterans. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing and teaching martial arts, a passion of hers for thirty years.

Char Matejovsky

Char Matejovsky is Managing Editor for books and journals at Polebridge Press and Westar Institute. A veteran editor, typesetter, and book designer, she has done projects for the University of Wisconsin Press, John Knox, Fortress, the Jewish Publication Society, Macmillan, and the University of California Press. In 1981, she founded Polebridge Press with Robert W. Funk and in 1986, she assisted with the creation of Westar Institute. She has served as Vice-President, Treasurer and Interim Executive Director for Westar Institute, and Chief Operating Officer of Polebridge Press.

She is the author of two children's books, Shadow on the Moon: A Child's Guide to the Discovery of the Solar System (2014) and Stones & Bones: A Child's Guide to Evolution (2007). She holds a B.A. with honors from the University of Montana and a French Language Certificate from the University of Paris, Sorbonne.

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. His latest publication is The Authentic Letters of Paul (with Arthur Dewey, Roy Hoover, and Daryl Schmidt; Polebridge, 2010). He has served as President and Executive Secretary of the Pacific Northwest Region of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature. 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. He is the former Chairman of the Boards of Directors of Westar Institute and Polebridge Press, and is also an ordained United Methodist minister. He holds an A.B. from Ohio Wesleyan University, a B.D. from Drew Theological Seminary, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
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Natalie Renee Perkins

Natalie Renee Perkins

Natalie Renee Perkins received her M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, where she was awarded the Karen Ziegler Feminist Preaching Prize. As a writer, lecturer, preacher, chaplain and composer, she now intertwines early Christian material with contemporary society through a social justice lens. She is also a co-founder of the Tanho Center. Her involvement with Westar began in 2014 through the Young Leaders in Religion Forum. Natalie has performed professionally with cruise lines, national tours, symphony orchestras, and the USO. In her spare time she manages to keep her plant, Otis, alive.

Facebook: Diva Does Divinity
Twitter: @DivaDoesDiviniT
Podcast: Better Not Mention It

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.

Deborah Niederer Saxon

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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Bernard Brandon Scott

Bernard Brandon Scott, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, is the Darbeth Distinguished Professor Emeritus of New Testament at the Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa, Oklahoma. A charter member of the Jesus Seminar, he is chair of Westar’s newly established Christianity Seminar. He served as chair of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as a member of several SBL Seminars including the Parable Seminar and Historical Jesus Seminar. He holds an A.B. from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, an M.A. from Miami University, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. He is the author of several books including The Real Paul (2015),  and The Trouble with Resurrection (2010).
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Mike Short

Mike Short is a former science educator who taught chemistry and physics at the high school level and physics at the undergraduate and graduate levels at university. He was a minister in the United Methodist and United Church of Christ denominations and has served Unitarian Universalist fellowships. Currently, he is a speaker and writer who addresses the issues of the philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the sometimes contentious intersection of science and religion. He co-chaired, with Bob Funk, the Literacy and Liturgy Seminar and was the moderator of Westar’s email groups and social media presence for ten years. He has written for The Fourth R and other publications. He and his wife, Linda, have enjoyed volunteering for many Westar projects including the planning and preparation of semi-annual meetings. More about Mike

Hal Taussig, author of A New New Testament

Hal Taussig

Hal Taussig is Visiting Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he has taught masters and doctoral level studies since 1998. He also is Professor of Early Christianity at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. He has retired from 30+ years as a United Methodist pastor, and now is specially assigned by his bishop as a consultant to local congregations. Taussig is co-chair of the national Society of Biblical Literature's Consultation on Greco-Roman Meals, and on the steering committees of the SBL's Seminar on Modern Theories and Ancient Myths of Christian Origins and the Greco-Roman Meals Consultation. Among his 14 authored books is the recent 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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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).