BETHANY, W.Va. – The Reverend Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, will be the featured speaker for the annual Bethany College Baccalaureate Service to be held Friday, May 19, at 5 p.m. at Bethany Memorial Church.
The service is part of Commencement Weekend at Bethany College. Commencement is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, in the Tilock Amphitheater at the Pennington Quadrangle.
“It is with great honor that we welcome the Reverend Dr. Sharon Watkins, a highly respected leader in the Church, to speak to Bethany’s class of 2017,” said Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg, President of the College. “Our strong ties to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) dates back to our founding father Alexander Campbell, so we are grateful and blessed to have her leadership inspire our fellow graduates.”
In 2005, Watkins was the first female head of a mainline denomination. At the 2011 General Assembly, she was re-elected to a second term, which extends through July 2017.
As General Minister, Watkins is the general pastor of the denomination and is responsible for representing the wholeness of the church, for reconciling differences, and for helping the church retain its clarity of mission. As General President, she is the chief executive officer for the denomination, responsible for overseeing the work of the church’s various structures.
Watkins has a worldwide background in service. She is a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, based in Geneva, where she serves as Chair of the WCC Program Committee. She also served a two-year term as a missionary in the Congo where she worked on adult literacy programs.
In 2009, Watkins preached at the National Prayer Service for then President-Elect Barack Obama. She also served a term on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and offered the call to worship at the President’s second National Prayer Service in 2013.
Prior to her appointment as General Minister and President, Watkins was a pastor at Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for eight years. In the academic world, she held positions as Director of Student Services at Phillips Theological Seminary in Oklahoma and Associate Vice President for University Relations at Phillips University.
She has been a member of the Church’s General Board Task Force on Reconciliation Mission, Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma, and part of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue Group. Watkins also has served as pastor of Boone Grove Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Boone Grove, Indiana, and Assistant Minister at Spring Glen Church (United Church of Christ) in Hamden, Connecticut.
Watkins holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Phillips Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from the Yale Divinity School and Bachelor degrees in French and Economics from Butler University. In 2009, Bethany College awarded Watkins with an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree.
Watkins is married to the Rev. Dr. Rick Lowery, an author and lecturer on the Hebrew Bible and Adjunct Professor of Hebrew Bible at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. They have two children; Bethany and Christopher.
Bethany College is located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.