Princeton Theological Seminary is pleased to announce that the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Lee Walton has been elected by the Board of Trustees to serve as the Seminary’s eighth president, effective January 1, 2023. Dr. Walton will succeed President M. Craig Barnes, who has served as Princeton Seminary’s president since January 2013.
Dr. Walton comes to Princeton Seminary from Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he has served as the dean since 2019 and holds the Presidential Chair in Religion and Society. Prior to joining Wake Forest University, he served on the faculty at Harvard Divinity School and was the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church of Harvard University.
“Theological education is at an inflection point,” says Dr. Walton. “The church is changing. Society is changing. So we need clear-minded, faith-informed professionals who can speak hope, equity, and healing in all fields of human endeavor.”
As Princeton Seminary continues to shape future church leaders and other theologically educated people of faith, Dr. Walton’s deep academic and administrative gifts drew the attention of those involved in the search process. “Dr. Walton’s profound commitment to scholarship and strong leadership experience perfectly position him to advance Princeton Seminary’s mission to serve as a vital and engaging hub for pastoral formation, Christian theology, and leadership generally,” says Michael Fisch, Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Dr. Walton is trained as a social ethicist whose scholarship focuses on the intersection of evangelical Christianity, mass media, and political culture. He is the author of two books: Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism (NYU Press, 2009) and A Lens of Love: Reading the Bible in Its World for Our World (Westminster John Knox Press, 2018). He has published widely across various academic journals, books, magazines, and newspapers. His insights have been featured in the New York Times, CNN, Time Magazine, and PBS.
The Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace, co-moderator of the 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and former member of Princeton Seminary’s Board of Trustees, shared high praise regarding Dr. Walton’s appointment. “I could not be more hopeful and encouraged about the future of Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Walton represents Princeton Seminary’s vision and willingness to lean into this moment in history — by forging a new road, a road that seeks to rise to the challenges of a time such as this,” says Santana-Grace.
Dr. Walton earned his PhD in 2006 and his MDiv in 2002 from Princeton Seminary, and his bachelor’s degree in political science from Morehouse College in 1996. He is an ordained Baptist minister and a gifted preacher who has continued to serve both his alma maters. He is a member of the Humanities Advancement Council at Morehouse College and has served on the Board of Trustees at Princeton Seminary.
“This feels like a glorious homecoming showered with grace. For over two decades, Princeton Seminary and the precious people that I’ve been blessed to know have enriched my intellectual and spiritual life,” shares Dr. Walton.
Princeton Seminary community members involved in the search speak of Dr. Walton’s appointment with great excitement. “Dr. Walton brings to Princeton Seminary indispensable experience in leading change at institutions that both value the gifts of tradition and also seek a future calling to serve as a resource to ever more diverse churches and communities. His scholarly acumen, his love of Princeton Seminary, his prophetic posture, and his powerful preaching will help us discern how best to build on the good Princeton Seminary has done thus far and to imagine what is next for this Seminary with so much to share in a changing world,” says Eric D. Barreto, Frederick and Margaret L. Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament and a member of the Presidential Search Committee.
Distinguished colleagues join in celebrating Dr. Walton’s appointment. Wake Forest University President Emeritus Nathan O. Hatch says, “Dr. Jonathan Lee Walton has been a compelling and effective religious leader at Wake Forest — in the Divinity School and the broader university. He has a most engaging presence and speaks with great insight about the most pressing issues of our day.”
Eddie S. Glaude, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University, adds, “I have had the blessing to witness the career of Dr. Walton. From his time as a graduate student to his leadership roles at Harvard and Wake Forest, I have marveled at his skill and grace. I know he will bring to Princeton Seminary visionary leadership for these complicated times. He will model excellence for the students and faculty, and he will help lead the way to revitalizing theological education in the 21st century. This is a historic appointment, and I can think of no one better suited for the tasks ahead.”