AMBS board appoints Strait to teaching faculty

Published: April 30, 2018

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — The Board of Directors of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana, has appointed Drew J. Strait, Ph.D., of Washington, D.C., as assistant professor of New Testament and Christian origins, beginning July 1, 2018.

Strait is taking on this position as other Bible Department faculty are retiring: Mary Schertz, Ph.D., professor of New Testament, retired in June 2017; and Ben Ollenburger, Ph.D., professor of biblical theology, anticipates retiring in December 2018.

“Dr. Strait will bring a passion for teaching, ministry and scholarship to his work at AMBS,” said Rebecca Slough, Ph.D., vice president and academic dean and chair of the search committee for the position. “His formation in the United Methodist Church, Mennonite Church USA and in evangelical communities provides an ecumenical grounding for his Anabaptist commitments. Drew’s love for the Bible along with his personal mission to ‘detribalize’ the church will further the mission of AMBS.”

Strait earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, focusing on New Testament and Early Christian Literature; an A.M.R.S. in New Testament from the University of Chicago Divinity School; an M.A. in New Testament from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois; and a B.A. in Religion from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, with minors in Philosophy, Greek and Hebrew.

Strait currently teaches New Testament at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was recently named the Dunning Distinguished Faculty Lecturer for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship. He has also taught Catholic seminarians at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore; graduate courses in New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois, and at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago; and undergraduate courses in Bible at North Park University in Chicago. His teaching interests include Luke–Acts, resistance literature in early Judaism/Christianity, political theology, racial justice and the mission of God, early Christian preaching, and early Christian negotiation of the religions of the Roman Empire.

Strait said he’s long been fascinated by how the earliest Christians “wrote their way into history on the back of an alternative way of living — a community posture of worshiping a crucified Lord, a missional impulse funded by inclusive table fellowship, and an ethic of nonretaliation rooted in the refusal to lord one’s power over others.”

“What excites me most about teaching at AMBS is the freedom to explore this upside-down body politic in a world intoxicated with the wrong sorts of power,” he reflected. “At AMBS, I look forward to living out my Anabaptist identity as both scholar and practitioner amid colleagues and students who deeply value the church’s reconciling work in the world.”

Strait will also bring his experiences of ministering in various multicultural contexts to his teaching at AMBS. Since 2015, he has served as an elder at Peace Fellowship Church in Washington, D.C., a multiracial church that he said strives to embody a culture of radical Black hospitality. While living in Chicago, he worshiped at Living Water Community Church, a multicultural congregation that is part of Illinois Mennonite Conference, and also served the congregation on an interim pastoral team (2009–12). Also in Chicago, he volunteered for Exodus World Service’s New Neighbor Program, overseeing the arrival and resettlement of two refugee families over a five-year period. From 2004 to 2006, he was a full-time missionary in the Dominican Republic, working with Haitian refugees with Children of the Nations.

Ollenburger, a search committee member, affirmed Strait’s expertise in New Testament scholarship and knowledge of the Mediterranean world in which the biblical texts were written, as well as the ways in which his experience in intercultural urban settings has helped shape his passion for theological education.

“Dr. Strait combines an evangelical and ecumenical background with strong Mennonite identity in ways that will serve the seminary and the broader church well,” he noted.

Recent works by Strait include Hidden Criticism of the Angry Tyrant in Early Judaism and the Acts of the Apostles (Fortress Academic, 2018) and “The Wisdom of Solomon, Ruler Cults and Paul’s Polemic against Idols in the Areopagus Speech,” in the Journal of Biblical Literature (2017). He has been associate editor for New Testament for Currents in Biblical Research since 2015 and is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the New Testament Society of Southern Africa and the Anabaptist-Mennonite Scholars Network.

Strait was born and raised in Spokane, Washington, and holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada. His wife, Dana, is an auditory neuroscientist and strategy consultant in higher education; they have two young children.

Strait’s appointment took place during the AMBS board’s April 19–21 meeting in Elkhart. The board also approved another biblical studies faculty appointment, to be announced next year at this time.

In addition to Slough and Ollenburger, the search committee consisted of Janna Hunter-Bowman, Ph.D., assistant professor of peace studies and Christian social ethics; Rachel Miller Jacobs, D.Min., associate professor of congregational formation; Grant Miller, current MDiv student from Danvers, Illinois; and Sara Wenger Shenk, Ed.D., AMBS president.

Located in Elkhart, Indiana, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary is a learning community with an Anabaptist vision, offering theological education for learners both on campus and at a distance as well as a wide array of lifelong learning programs — all with the goal of educating followers of Jesus Christ to be leaders for God’s reconciling mission in the world.

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