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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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 Christian Systematic Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary and the author of The Place of the Spirit (Wipf and Stock). Her writing has appeared in Doing Theology in the Age of Trump (Cascade), Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (DeGruyter), The Faith Reader (This Land Press), Feasting on the Gospels (Westminster John Knox), Religion, Ethics, and Nature: An Essential Convergence (Ashgate), Reading Theologically (Fortress), Syndicate Theology, This Land, The Christian Century, Geez Magazine, and Religion Dispatches.

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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Shirley Paulson

Founder of Early Christian Texts: The Bible and Beyond

Shirley Paulson’s academic pursuits arose out of her many years of practical experience in Christian Science healing. She received an M.T.S. from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2005 with a focus on Christian history and theology. Her Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, UK in 2017 brought her into the academic field of Practical Theology, where she studied the means of communicating the relevance of healing ideas from early Christianity.

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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.

Visit Hal’s website.
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Lillian Larsen
Professor of Religious Studies, University of Redlands

Lillian I. Larsen serves as Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Redlands in Southern California. With formal training as a scholar of the New Testament and Christian Origins (Columbia University/Union Theological Seminary), her research focuses on the emergence of a Christian curriculum within monastic classroom settings. Read more here…

Nina E. Livesey

Nina E. Livesey is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Her scholarly work focuses largely on Paul and his letters, with a more recent turn to Christian origins from a rhetorical perspective.  Her scholarship includes Galatians and the Rhetoric of Crisis: Demosthenes-Cicero-Paul (Polebridge 2016), Circumcision as a Malleable Symbol (Mohr Siebeck 2011) as well as several articles. At present, she is working on a third monograph that pertains to Paul and his interpreters. Livesey serves on the steering committee of Westar’s Christianity Seminar and will serve along with Lillian Larsen and Jason BeDuhn as co-chair of the second phase of this project.  Along with Clayton Jefford, she co-edits Westar’s journal Forum.

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Ex Officio Members

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.

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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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).

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Susan M. (Elli) Elliott

Susan M. (Elli) Elliott began her doctoral work after years in urban ministry in Chicago where she worked in grassroots economic development, and organized direct actions on local and international justice issues. She earned her PhD from Loyola University in Chicago.

Elli’s scholarship focuses on the pagan and Roman Imperial backgrounds of early Christianity. She is the author of Cutting Too Close for Comfort: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in its Anatolian Cultic Context (Bloomsbury, 2008) and Family Empires: The Roman Family Empire and Early Christian Responses (Polebridge, 2018). 

Elli is the Coordinator of the Westar Think Tank.

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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 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.

Celene is the Dean of the Westar Academy.

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